Smart living has come a long way in recent years, with many homes now sporting smart thermostats, voice assistants, security cameras, and light bulbs. Still, there remains one major obstacle to a truly seamless smart home experience: compatibility.
If Amazon Alexa delivers news in your kitchen, Google Assistant runs your Nest thermostat, and Siri recommends content on your smart TV — but none of them can communicate with each other — you're going to have some frustrations.
Matter aims to change that.
Matter is the new smart home interoperability standard, created by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), a coalition of companies including Apple, Google, and Amazon that develop universal standards for the Internet of Things. And it's set to transform how people buy, use, and manage their smart home devices.
Matter was first introduced in 2019, and launched on October 4, 2022. Since its introduction in 2019, Matter has gone through a lot of changes — including delays, rebranding, and new partnerships.
So, what exactly is Matter and how will it affect your smart home?
Let's take a look.
What is Matter?
Matter is an open-source interoperability standard that will make all smart home devices compatible. It will build upon Internet Protocol (IP) — the rules that allow data to be sent from one computer to another — to enable communication between smart technology. In fact, it was first named Project Connected Home over IP (Project CHIP) but then changed to Matter (The CSA was also formerly called the Zigbee Alliance).
The Matter smart home standard will run by using WiFi, Bluetooth, and Thread network layers. But it won't have its own app or smart home assistant platform. It will simply facilitate the connection between smart home devices. (WiFi and Bluetooth may sound familiar, but here's a quick note on Thread: It's a new type of wireless mesh network that's built for the Internet of Things. Since Thread is considered low-power, it helps reduce energy usage and preserve the battery life of devices, while also improving communication between them.)
Matter has launched with over 130 compatible and certified products from more than 50 companies, including Comcast, GE Lighting, and Ikea. Matter will also be deployed across more than 16 operations systems and chipsets, including Linux, Android, Infineon, TI, Silicon Labs, and Synaptics. All compatible products will have a Matter logo, signifying their interoperability as part of the Matter standard.
The benefits of Matter
Matter promises to make smart home devices more secure, reliable, and user-friendly. Specifically, the new Matter smart home protocol will make it easier to:
- Buy smart home products. You can purchase any smart home product without worrying about its compatibility with your existing devices. This will let shoppers choose new devices based on price and features instead of interoperability. It'll also make it easier for retailers to market and sell smart home products to customers.
- Create a connected smart home experience. Devices from different brands can work together and adapt to your needs. For example, you can turn on your lights with the Apple Home app and then turn them off by asking Amazon Alexa. Devices should also be able to communicate faster since they'll be better connected using WiFi and Thread networks.
- Develop new smart home devices. Manufacturers and software developers will be free to create devices that are compatible with a range of smart home systems, like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings. Matter also promises to make the development process quicker and more cost-effective.
- Improve security. Matter aims to make smart home systems more secure by using blockchain and advanced algorithms to safely connect and transfer data between devices.
Smart home devices compatible with Matter
At launch, Matter supports a range of smart home devices, including:
- Lightbulbs, plugs, and switches
- TVs and streaming devices
- HVAC controllers
- Door locks
- Window shades and blinds
- Motion sensors
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
- Garage door controllers
Future versions of Matter may support other types of smart home products, such as:
- Home appliances
- Security cameras
- Robot vacuums
- Solar panels
In fact, many smart home device manufacturers are already developing products that will support Matter, including:
- Arlo smart home security cameras
- Assa Abloy smart locks
- Aqara motion sensors
- Belkin Wemo smart plugs and lights
- GE smart bulbs and light strips
- Eve Systems water guards, motion blinds, and smart plugs
- Nanoleaf modular lighting panels
- Schlage door locks
- Tuya Smart robot vacuums and smart lights
Will Matter support your existing smart home devices?
Some existing smart home devices will just need a software update to support Matter. The current list of these devices includes:
- Amazon Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers
- Amazon Echo Flex, Echo Plus, Echo Show, and Echo Studio smart speakers and smart displays
- iOS 16 Apple devices, such as iPads and HomePods
- Google Nest smart speakers, displays, thermostats, and WiFi routers
- Ikea Dirigera smart home hubs
- Philips Hue smart locks
This list will continue to expand as Matter evolves. As long as the devices on this list can connect to the internet via WiFi, Thread, or Ethernet cable, they should be able to update remotely and run with the new Matter standard.
If your devices don't connect to the internet via those methods, you're not out of luck. Manufacturers will have a chance to create a new network bridge to support Matter. Signify, maker of Philips Hue smart lightbulbs, has already taken this step. Meanwhile other manufacturers like Belkin, maker of Wemo smart home devices, will launch new versions of their products to support Matter.
Other devices, unfortunately, may not work with Matter and will need to be replaced.
How to know if a device supports Matter
The main purpose of Matter is to help smart home devices connect more quickly and seamlessly, yielding better smart home experiences for consumers. Still, as people transition from having many disparate devices to having this first-of-its-kind standard protocol, there may be a bit of a learning curve.
As outlined here, various leading tech brands have come together to support the standard and help bring Matter to the market. At the moment, however, there doesn't appear to be a definitive directory of smart home devices that will support Matter.
So, if your existing device needs a software update to support Matter, your manufacturer will likely notify you — such as by email or push notification — to start the process. As long as the device has the right hardware, memory, and processing power, it should be able to run the update. If your devices don't have those capabilities, you may need to buy new products to start using Matter. And if you're not sure whether your device supports Matter, contact the device manufacturer to confirm.
If you're shopping for a new smart home device, on the other, just look for the Matter logo on the product package or description. That's how you'll know it supports the new Matter standard.
What about smart home hubs?
Existing smart home hubs like Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, and the upcoming Ikea Dirigera should be compatible with Matter. But Matter itself will not be a stand-alone smart home hub or even app.
Instead, new and existing hubs (with the proper software updates) will be able to act as Matter controllers, meaning they can control other Matter devices on the home network.
As a result, we might see more companies retrofit or launch new smart devices to fit this purpose. Samsung, for example, is adding its SmartThings hub software to its smart TVs and refrigerators so they can act as Matter controllers.
Companies that support Matter
Matter is the result of an industry-wide commitment to building more interoperable smart homes. Over 250 companies currently support and work on Matter as part of the CSA. These companies include:
- Texas Instruments
How Matter protects your digital privacy and security
The CSA considers security “a foundational tenet" of the Matter smart home standard, promising to keep IoT devices secure with its core security principles. For example, Matter will use blockchain to identify cyber-threats and encryption codes to protect information that's exchanged between devices.
Matter will also take a multi-step approach authenticate new devices, requiring certification, passcodes, and a defined purpose for accessing data. And Matter will minimize the amount of information shared between devices to lower the risk of data leakage.
Despite these built-in security protocols, some may have valid concerns about Matter's ability to protect digital privacy. Since Matter devices will each connect directly to the internet, they'll still be susceptible to cyber attacks, malware, and hacks. In fact, they'll pose more risk than smart home hubs, which have just a single access point.
As a result, consumers should make sure their device manufacturers have built-in security protocols as well — especially when it comes to storing and sharing data. Because, while Matter is taking privacy seriously, we won't know how well it actually protects people's devices and information until it's being used widely.
Other smart home standards
Matter isn't the first smart home standard on the scene. Other standards exist, like Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Insteon. Since Matter is backed by the organizations behind these standards, however, it seems the plan is for Matter to be the end-all-be-all protocol for smart home interoperability.
Still, Matter will continue to evolve and expand once it reaches the market, and other standards may do the same. New standards may also pop up over time to help improve smart home experiences.
Will Matter succeed?
The promise of Matter is great: a world where smart home products from across manufacturers are seamlessly, reliably, and safely integrated in each home. With a range of industry-leading companies on board and running tests, Matter could be set to transform the smart home experience as we know it.
Still, as with any major software launch, Matter may experience some glitches and growing pains, especially as consumers start to upgrade existing devices and add new ones to their networks. It may also take developers some time to build and perfect their new Matter-enabled devices for the market.
Most importantly, if Matter does succeed, it will give smart home users the power to choose their products based on price and quality — instead of just interoperability. Because interoperability will be the new normal.
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As new standards and products emerge and evolve, one thing remains certain: The smart home of the future is powered by HomePass. Start building your smart home experience today.
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