My best friend was spot on when she said, “You’ve always wanted to talk to your house.” True enough! But aside from a few experimental smart assistants like Alexa and Google, I have only been willing to buy into a smart home fully once the ecosystem matured. In my book, a device that only works on a single platform is not “Smart.” And I’ve seen too many manufacturers create devices but then fail to find the economic model to sustain them — and so a few years later, kill them off and the systems that support them. Google is famous for this, but many are at fault.

When Matter debuted in 2022, I became hopeful. While my personal technology is very Apple-centric, my partner prefers Samsung, Android, and Windows. Could Matter be the robust home automation framework I could reliably build upon?

I’ve approached the project with an experimental mindset and planned it as an agile technology consultant would. So, let’s start with… how should it work?

Job Stories

  • When I’m walking from the kitchen down the stairs to the TV room in the evening with a tray full of glasses and supper, I want the stairwell and 1st-floor hallway lights to turn on and off automatically, so I don’t trip down the stairs or struggle with light switches when my hands are full.
  • When I’m preparing to leave my home through the front door or the garage, I want the hallway lights to turn themselves off automatically, so I don’t have to leave in the dark and struggle to get through the door or struggle with light switches with full hands.
  • When I forget to lock the front door, it should lock itself, so that I don’t get yelled at by my partner.
  • When I have a house guest, I should be able to give them a cross-platform app, so that I don’t have to duplicate another set of physical keys.
  • When I come home at night through the front door or the garage, I want the hallway lights to turn on by themselves, so I can avoid struggling with light switches when my hands are full.
  • When I am hosting a dinner party, I want to easily change the lights throughout the evening, from cocktails to supper, so I don’t have to manually adjust a series of dimmers in the kitchen, living room, and dining room.

Functional requirements

  • All physical light switches must function: no light switch can be taped over with “do not use” so that smart bulbs, controlled by an app, receive constant power.
  • All switches must work, even if the WiFi network is out.
  • No light may require a phone app, voice interface, or other technology to work.
  • All devices must be platform agnostic. No device may work only on Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home, or Apple’s HomeKit.

Non-functional requirements

  • Security: devices should communicate through a high-security hub if exposed to the network and Internet.
  • Maintainability: no device shall require a subscription or additional pay add-on to work.
  • Privacy: no data is leaked from house devices to the Internet
  • Performance: all devices should be at least as performant as regular switches.
  • Interface: all devices should have minimal, easy-to-use physical controls. No device’s primary interface should look “weird” or technical. Door locks, for example, may not have massive circular switch dials.

Part 2 of this series: what devices did I assess and finally implement?