The new smart home standard Matter is making a lot of grand promises, chief among them are fixing the interoperability mess the smart home is currently in and making Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon talk to each other. Big jobs. But it’s also tackling one of the other pain points in the connected home: TV control.
One part of the new connectivity protocol is a specification for televisions and streaming video players. This means that Matter could become yet another way to control content in our homes. But, with its promise of platform agnosticism, Matter’s TV spec has the potential to replace proprietary casting systems, like Apple’s AirPlay or Google’s Cast, and finally free our TVs.
Matter TV, as we’ll call it for wont of an official name, will allow control of a television’s core functions — volume up / down, changing the channel, controlling inputs and outputs, and switching between HDMI ports. “But importantly, you can also do casting,” Chris DeCenzo, Principal Software Development Engineer at Amazon Lab126, told The Verge.
“This is an area with at least five proprietary protocols today,” he says. “The result is a complete opportunity loss for everyone.” Not to mention major headaches for users as they grapple with which voice assistant can get this content and which remote will control that streaming stick. Amazon is leading the effort to define the specification for Matter — unsurprising, as it is currently the only large player without a proprietary way to cast content from a smartphone to a TV.
Controlling our smart TVs can feel anything but smart.
Photo by James Bareham / The Verge
“Control of media is one of the most popular use cases for Alexa,” says DeCenzo, who told me Amazon is working with the different industry leaders in the fields of smart TVs, streaming video players, and content providers to help them adopt Matter. The goal is so that “customers can have a consistent way to use voice control and to launch their favorite content on those screens,” he says.
While the Matter TV specification doesn’t explicitly call out voice control, the idea here is standardization. One protocol for all device communication, everything will talk to everything else using the same language, no matter who made it. Ultimately, this means you will be able to use your control interface of choice (a voice assistant, remote control, or smartphone / tablet app) with all your streaming content devices and apps.
With its promise of platform agnosticism, Matter could finally free our TVs
When Matter arrives in 2022, the Matter TV specification will use app-to-app communication, at least until the TVs and streaming video players become Matter enabled. The spec supports casting from a Matter client (e.g., a remote, a smart speaker, or a phone app) to an app running on a Matter-enabled TV or video player device, explains DeCenzo. It also supports URL-based casting, which means a Matter client can cast to a TV even when there’s no app for that client, if the TV supports Dynamic Adaptive Streaming (DASH, an international standard for streaming) or HLS DRM streams (…….