Outlook 2024: Laying the foundations

4 mins read

The secure connected edge provides the foundation for smart home innovation.

Cloud computing has delivered incredible advances in artificial intelligence and rapid data analytics to make homes and buildings smarter and more responsive. The real value of the smart home and the next stage of innovation will be focused on bringing autonomous and personalised experiences to end consumers. That will require distributing intelligence securely to the edge, where devices on the network need to make decisions to enable an autonomous home.

Defining the edge

The edge encompasses a vast range of device types and industries, from software-defined automobiles to Industry 4.0 or building automation systems to the billions of devices in smart homes that comprise the Internet of Things (IoT). Devices at the edge provide a link to the real world, reacting to the needs of their users and the surrounding environment. Sensors and actuators interact with physical properties and make it possible to digitise and process what is happening in the surrounding environment. Devices then process incoming data and use the network to communicate to other devices and systems, both at the edge and in the cloud. Those devices may call on the cloud to store or process large amounts of data, but restrictions on latency, cost and network access can significantly impact the autonomous experience and can necessitate local decision-making.

For example, a smart speaker will often call on the cloud to perform speech recognition, but rarely needs to perform real-time decisions. Video doorbells, on the other hand, need to be able to process information locally and make intelligent decisions quickly about whether activity signifies an intrusion without relying entirely on cloud services.

With edge computing, devices can make smart decisions based on locally processed data gathered from their surroundings and from other devices to provide fast and seamless responses.

NXP enables edge computing by driving performance, capabilities and hardware and software integration across our compute and connectivity portfolios. 

Laying the foundation

Connectivity is essential to the edge, allowing devices to gather information from each other, the cloud and their environment in order to make intelligent decisions. While connected home automation devices have been available for many years, a lack of interoperability has created walled gardens and held the market back from achieving a truly autonomous home.

Matter changes this: It is an industry standard backed by hundreds of companies and the glue that lets devices from different companies interact with each other seamlessly, without compromising performance or security. This interoperability gives users freedom to choose from a wider marketplace of smart home devices and provides confidence that all of their smart home devices will work with each other. For product manufacturers, Matter opens the door to innovation: organisations can reduce the resources required for product development by leveraging the expertise and investment of companies and people across the industry. By using the Matter standard for the ''plumbing'', they can invest more in product differentiation and innovation.

Matter leverages IPv6, combining that with support for several important standards: Thread, Wi-Fi and Ethernet. These protocols allow devices to talk directly to each other. Devices using non-compatible protocols are also incorporated into the secure connected edge through Matter bridges, which can be embedded into hubs and gateways to "translate" for non-Matter devices. Matter-compatible hubs can take care of the management of edge nodes that do not natively use the protocol, relaying messages to and from devices that natively implement the Matter protocol.

By ensuring a wider variety of devices can seamlessly communicate with each other at the edge, the smart home becomes more intelligent and autonomous, using the intelligence of the secure, connected edge to anticipate the needs of its users. 

Building devices to support these standards and capabilities is streamlined with NXP's tri-radio and multiprotocol wireless SoCs and MCUs.

Securing the edge

Security is of course essential to the secure connected edge and is one of the key differentiators between Matter and its antecedents. While many of the prior standards for home automation provided mechanisms for devices to communicate with each other, they did not specify a coherent security framework that extended from installation through operation. Commissioning new devices onto the network was left to individual manufacturers and they often did not take security into account or made it an optional feature.

Matter’s design ensures only devices that have the required security attributes can join a network. Devices are required to provide an attestation before they can be added to a Matter network for the first time, proving the device is what it claims to be and is Matter certified. These security certificates are loaded by the manufacturer into every Matter device they make, where they are stored in secure, non-volatile memory. This certificate supports a key-exchange sequence, in which the device’s credentials are checked with a corresponding root certificate maintained in a central, trusted database. If the device's credentials are not validated, it cannot join the network. This helps prevent hackers from putting malicious nodes into the network. Matter also provides standard mechanisms for devices to share encrypted data, allowing devices to communicate with each other only once they are commissioned to the network.

While implementing Matter security brings more protection against cybersecurity attacks, it also raises the level of complexity in developing and deploying devices. NXP's EdgeLock ecosystem of security IP, integrated into our processing portfolios and offered as discrete security SoCs along with our EdgeLock 2GO security service platform provides the tools needed to deploy purpose-built security for a variety of threat models in secure IoT systems.

Building the smart edge

As an industry standard with contributions from hundreds of companies, like NXP, and an open-source code implementation, Matter unlocks the potential of the secure connected edge in the IoT industry. Product manufacturers don't need to build every aspect needed for a smart home network; they can focus on delivering innovative products and experiences in their area of expertise.  This is also why Matter is likely to extend into adjacent fields, such as systems to manage commercial buildings, multi-dwelling units, e.g., apartment buildings, health and wellness, and automotive.

A common secure infrastructure combined with cloud connectivity makes it possible to leverage technologies such as AI, machine learning, multimedia streaming, biometrics and more.  And, with significant advancements in microprocessors and microcontrollers, these technologies are more deployable into edge devices. Using a balance between edge and cloud computing, product and platform providers can address use cases such as energy management, physical security and personalised automated environments. 

The secure connected edge

The possibilities are endless. Matter unlocks opportunities for innovation through interoperability. NXP is uniquely positioned to enable this innovation through our scalable system solutions with integrated connectivity and security.

Home and building automation represent ripe opportunities for novel forms of user experiences and service delivery that encompass environmental data that's processed at the edge by a range of devices from a wide variety of vendors. The secure, connected edge is the mechanism that will deliver autonomous experiences to users for a more secure, more reliable, more energy efficient and more comfortable environment.

Author details:  Larry Olivas, VP and GM, Wireless Connectivity Solutions, NXP Semiconductors