Why it matters is that I just noticed that the Google Nest Hub controls the Apple HomeKit smart plug

Why it matters is that I just noticed that the Google Nest Hub controls the Apple HomeKit smart plug
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Matter, the upcoming standard that tries to give the smart home a unifying language, is almost here — and I just got an early demonstration of the kinds of cross-platform compatibility it should enable in the future. The demonstration was given by Eve, which makes a range of smart plugs, radiator valves, lighting and security devices.

Historically, Eve only worked with Apple HomeKit smart home platform. This is because it did not want to use cloud-to-cloud platforms, preferring to keep its devices on locally managed platforms for privacy and security. Eve had an iOS app, but no Android app, and it didn’t support Samsung’s SmartThings, Amazon’s Alexa, or Google Home. Approaching Eve’s stand at the IFA trade show in Berlin, it was striking to see that all four platforms were represented.

This is the reason for the change issue. It’s the most important event to date since the dawn of the smart home, and in theory we’re only months away from it. is open to the public. Eve also announced it launches an Android app similar to an existing iOS app, but the great thing with Matter is that you technically don’t need the device manufacturer’s software at all. You can simply set up and control your Matter-enabled devices with existing apps, whether it’s Apple HomeKit, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, or Samsung SmartThings.

That’s exactly what Eve showed off at IFA. The Matter specification hasn’t been finalized yet, so none of the devices were running the final Matter-enabled firmware, but it was enough to see the kinds of functionality we can expect when Eve’s devices are updated to support it.

The fourth-generation Amazon Echo that controls Eve Energy.

Amazon’s desk had a fourth-generation Echo speaker and a typical non-smart bulb connected to an Eve Energy smart plug. Currently, Echo speakers cannot control Eve products because the latter are not Alexa-enabled. But both products are compatible handle, runs on one of the Matter wireless protocols and can run natively. Eve was demonstrating how Matter would allow these two previously incompatible devices to talk to each other.

Eve’s cabin reps were quite adamant that no one but them use voice commands to control each of their smart plugs, so I relied on them to give me the commands to control Eve’s devices. “Alexa, turn off my Eve Power,” asked a representative of the fourth-generation Amazon Echo. After an (admittedly rather long) knock, the bulb connected to the Eve Energy smart plug went off.

Matter’s design makes it simple and seamless for users on different platforms to manage the same smart home products natively. The result is a more unified experience where the voice assistant you choose to use can control all of your Matter-enabled devices, and device configuration changes through one ecosystem are automatically reflected everywhere. Each of the four demo stations used the same Eve Energy smart plug-in model without the need for separate models for different ecosystems. Since the accessory already supports Thread, updating it to support Matter was a relatively seamless process, Lars Felber, Eve’s PR director, tells me.

Nest Hub (2nd generation) that turns off Eve Power with voice command.

Both were Thread enabled in Google Sheets the second generation Nest Hub and the Google Pixel 6 Pro running the Google Home app. First, Felber told the Nest Hub, “Ok Google, turn on my lights.” As the Google smart display instantly recognized the command, the Eve Energy smart plug behind it clicked on the attached bulb. Thanks to Matter, the smart display sent a signal to the smart chip on Thread to turn it on.

Using an Android phone running the Google Home app was less seamless in my demo. “There are no technical phones,” Felber explained to me. As a result, the phone had to communicate with the Nest Hub over the local Wi-Fi network in order for the smart display to send commands to the smart plug via Thread. Unfortunately, an attempt to control the smart plug directly from the phone did not work. The sign on the phone responded to my taps, but the light didn’t change.

It was a shame not to see Matter working flawlessly, but trade show floors are some of the worst places to showcase this kind of technology. Felber told me that the showroom we attended had about 50 overlapping Wi-Fi networks, and even the least congested Wi-Fi channel still had nine devices. The Thread protocol also uses the same 2.4Ghz frequency as Wi-Fi, resulting in more interference. The amount of noise also made it difficult to give voice commands without shouting from the various smart speakers on the stand, inches away. Moreover, the Matter standard is not yet final – so some errors are to be expected.

The SmartThings Hub was hidden under the desk.

The third chart showed Matter’s integration with SmartThings. Confusingly, there was only one Samsung phone (Galaxy S22) on this table, with no Thread border router in sight. But Felber confirmed to me that the company uses an Aeotec-manufactured SmartThings Hub to relay the signal to Eve Energy — somehow hidden inside the desk. Although completely misleading, the demo worked well. Using the SmartThings app to control the smart plug felt immediate.

Finally, there was the Apple desk, which was the least surprising of the four, as it featured a hardware setup that the HomeKit-exclusive Eve lineup already supports very well — though it’s now been updated to use Matter rather than just Apple HomeKit. Next to the smart plug and lamp on that table was an iPhone 13 and a HomePod Mini smart speaker that acted as a Thread border router. Controlling the smart plug through both was very responsive.

Eve Energy is powered by HomePod Mini and iPhone.
Photo by Jon Porter/The Verge

Although the launch of the Matter standard means Eve’s devices are about to get more functionality, existing owners shouldn’t need to buy new hardware to reap the benefits. Felber says it plans to send an OTA update to all Thread-enabled products (which make up 14 of its 18-strong product line) to use Eve Matter. Eve Energy will be the first, hopefully by the end of the year, along with other devices Home Door and Windowthe Home Weatherthe Home Motionand Home Thermo after.

Turning light bulbs on and off is a simple smart home party trick, and there are many other examples of smart devices that work in different ecosystems. Seeing a currently Apple-exclusive accessory (relatively) working across all these different ecosystems, with both voice and app control, has me excited about what the Matter can accomplish when it launches this fall.

Photography by Jon Porter/The Verge

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