What New Matter Has Smart Devices Talking?
A Major Leap Forward for Smart Home Devices
The beauty of a smart home or small business is controlling a range of devices with the touch of a screen or voice command on a networked device. Everything from smart appliances and entertainment media, to security, lighting, thermostats and other smart devices can be controlled remotely. This works great if each piece is the same brand operating within the same ecosystem. However, devices from different manufacturers have to be controlled separately, or use a third-party assistant device to control some but not all smart products. But that all is about to change with Matter.
What is Matter?
Matter is a new smart home standard that enables devices from different manufacturers and Internet of Things platforms to play together nicely. Users will be able to interact with all devices on the system through one app without the need to buy a hub. Or, Matter-enabled devices can work through a smart home assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. There is no central Matter app or assistant. And because Matter is based on open-source technology, there is no subscription fee.
When deciding what smart features to add to a home, consumers will be able to pick and choose smart devices from different brands. This shifts the decision making to features and price, rather than being locked in to what is available within one brand. As long as the Matter logo is displayed on the box, buyers know the device will be compatible with other Matter devices.
The first protocol will run on WiFi and Thread network layers, using Bluetooth Low Energy for device setup. Thread is a mesh networking technology protocol that will allow all of your smart home devices to connect together without needing a dedicated hub. Thread is also very stable: If one of your smart home devices stops working, the network will adjust and carry on without it.
Major device brands have jumped on this open-source compatibility solution, including Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung, and many more through the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA). The CSA promotes universal, open standards that enable products to securely connect and interact. In all, there are 26 top level tech companies listed as “Promoters,” and a growing list of 269 supporting companies.
Matter began its digital life as Project CHIP (or Project Connected Home over IP), an initiative announced in 2019 by a handful of top tech companies working in the smart home space, including Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung SmartThings and the Zigbee Alliance. It has now rebranded as the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA).
The smart home market
CSA conducted a survey, revealing the majority (69%) of U.S. households now own at least one smart home device. This represents about 83 million households, with 18% owning more than one smart home device. Top products include smart TVs owned by 56% of people, followed by home networking (34%), home security (33%), energy management (21%) and lighting (15%).
Instead of controlling these devices individually, Matter-compatible products will all securely work together through one app or voice assistant, in a reliable way.
When can you expect to see Matter products?
If you can imagine the complexity of all the companies producing smart home devices having to re-tool, it’s no wonder Matter has faced a few delays. However, the first Matter-branded products are still expected before the end of 2022, and tech companies are preparing now. For example, in June, Apple announced that iOS 16 will be Matter-compatible.
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Existing smart home devices
Unfortunately, many of consumer’s current smart home devices will not be Matter-compatible. Some brands are updating software so that current devices will work with Matter, some are making new devices coming out Matter-enabled, making previous versions obsolete.
If a brand decides to overhaul their smart home device software, the device must be able to connect to WiFi, ethernet or Thread to receive the update, and have enough memory and processing power to load it. This article lists the number of Google smart home devices that will get a software update. I’m pretty excited that Samsung will update their software to Matter through their SmartThings app, meaning our TVs and phones will be Matter-enabled. Have Hive products at home? Those devices, which use Zigbee (an alternative to Thread) are less likely to be upgradable, although Hive says it intends to resolve the issue.
Of course consumers always have the option to use their current smart home devices until they are ready to switch over to Matter.
It may be a bit of a transition to Matter as Matter-enabled products roll out, but we can look forward to the day when all smart home products work together seamlessly.