Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Starting next year, consumers will be able to buy smart home devices — like thermostats, lighting systems and kitchen appliances — that can talk to one another through a new connectivity standard called Matter.

Why it matters: Interoperability of home devices has long been a distant dream, but big boys like Amazon, Google and Apple have coalesced around Matter, hoping it will become a common brand name governing the Internet of Things (IoT).

How it works: Sometime in 2022, companies will start selling Matter-branded products that will (ideally) work together seamlessly and securely — integrating everything from Siri and Alexa to your TV controls, home alarm system and even your pet-tracking device.

  • A likely scenario is that a customer will buy a base unit as a hub for all Matter-connected devices, then control everything through a single app.
  • More than 200 companies have signed up to support Matter, which is overseen by a group called the Connectivity Standards Alliance.

😎 The cool part: Once you start adding devices to your Matter system, the system will start to recognize patterns, and "ambient computing" will kick in, enabling your stuff to make predictions and suggest ways to make your life easier:

  • Lighting that turns on while you're driving home: The lights in your driveway and living room will know that you usually get home at 6:30 — in part because they work with your smart door locks — and ask if you want them turned on automatically before you arrive.
  • More 411 from your household security system: "A customer is away from their home, their smoke detector goes off, and they’re able to see whether their pet is inside or outside the home," says Don Young, executive vice president and COO at ADT, the home security company.
  • Sensors in your plumbing can detect leaks or other problems: "Anomalies to normal behavior — like consistent [water] flow between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. when the owner is usually away from home — trigger an installed automatic shutoff valve to close," Young says.
  • The forgotten hot stovetop: Smart plugs and appliances, smoke and temperature detectors, etc., will all communicate. "The predictive protection aspect says: a stove is on, no one is home, no human movement detected in the house — let’s turn off that stove for the customer automatically," Young says.

Yes, but: This halcyon vision has long been an industry pipe dream, and who knows if it will come true — even this time.

  • The Connectivity Standards Alliance, or CSA, was known until May as the Zigbee Alliance, a longtime initiative to develop open, global standards for wireless technology. (And Matter — which had previously been scheduled for launch in 2020 and 2021 — was previously known as CHIP, or Project Connected Home over IP.)
  • Most consumers haven't caught IoT fever yet. "New research from Parks Associates indicates that just 36% of US broadband households have one smart home device, a percentage that decreases if all households are tallied," CNET reports.
  • "Among those with smart home technology, most have only a few devices, not the utopian array that was foreshadowed by Microsoft and Bill Gates nearly two decades ago."

The other side: Tobin Richardson, president and CEO of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, tells Axios: "I've not seen this level of commitment and this level of energy" in the standards realm to date.

  • "You know, we have over 2,000 engineers involved in the effort, and that is really unparalleled."
The Matter brand logo — soon to become familiar?

Be smart: Privacy and security are other obvious concerns regarding Matter, and regulators are just starting to sniff at those issues.

  • Richardson points out: "We're not owning any data — we're just creating a standard by which all these devices connect and talk to each other."
  • "The privacy is really going to come down to the relationship between the vendor and the consumer."
  • Young of ADT says: "None of this is meant to be Big Brother — this is all with the customer’s consent."

The bottom line: Matter holds the promise to combat the "app fatigue" that results from disparate systems operating in silos — and to make our homes more efficient and helpful.

  • "It addresses the problem you get when you start putting smart home stuff in," says Aaron Emigh, CEO of Brilliant, which makes a smart home system that controls everything from your lighting and sound system to your video doorbell and baby monitor.
  • With the advent of Matter, rival firms can compete on something other than proprietary standards: "We don’t think that integration should be a form of competitive differentiation," Emigh says.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 22, 2021 - Technology

Microsoft debuts new Surface hardware

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft unveiled updates to its Surface line, including laptops, convertible tablets and an improved versions of its Android-based dual screen Surface Duo.

Why it matters: The new devices come ahead of Windows 11's official launch on Oct. 5.

Stock buybacks boom as corporate cash piles grow

The Delta variant is keeping more companies cautious about how to invest the mountains of cash they have at their disposal. That hesitancy has led, in part, to corporate spending on stock buybacks outpacing capital expenditures this year. 

Why it matters: Companies hoarded cash and raised prices over the past year — leaving them with a lot of money and decisions about what to do with it.

2 hours ago - Health

Health policies at stake in Democrats' infrastructure bet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats are at a pivotal moment in their quest to expand health care coverage, slash the cost of prescription drugs and create a social structure that prioritizes people's health.

Driving the news: Democrats have a clear list of health care priorities they'll be fighting for this week. Among them is a measure to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits.