Do you already know Matter? The new smart home protocol will sprout from this year to the standard that everyone has been dreaming of for years. How exactly does it work?
In December 2019, the then ZigBee Alliance (now Connectivity Standards Alliance, CSA) proposed a new and revolutionary protocol for smart home products: Matter. Led by the world’s biggest tech giants, a new protocol finally sees the light of day. Because Matter will matter. It is the solution to a tangle of smart home protocols, standards, and therefore incompatible products.
What’s the problem?
A smart home or smart home must entail a user-friendly evolution. Today you set a new lamp, tomorrow a smart thermostat, and next week your gate will open automatically when the smart lock on your front door closes. That is an ideal situation, which is what many people strive for.
Isn’t that already possible?
That’s right, today you can already make different smart home devices talk to each other, but the possibilities are very limited and actually far too complex for average users. Manufacturers of smart home devices use different protocols crisscrossing each other, often they match, but just that one thing you still need does not fit into the picture. HomeKit, Google Home, Alexa, everything is intermingled and companies are pushing customers into a one-sided eco-system. That is precisely what a smart home should not stand for. ZigBee, Z-Wave, WiFi, and Bluetooth, are all standards that have already tried to standardize smart home equipment.
Matter as a solution
You buy a gadget, you plug it in and it automatically works with all your other smart home devices. You set up that new product in your smart home app of choice, with your digital assistant of choice, it doesn’t matter who the manufacturer is, everything will work with Matter. This is going to be nirvana for smart home fans. At least, that’s the promise Matter has been bringing out since 2019. A dream you say? We all agree with you. A simple plug-and-play smart home is just around the corner and 2022 will be the year for Matter.
Who’s behind it?
The big difference with other protocols is that Matter is open source and supported by more than 200 major technology companies. They are located all over the world, which makes the new standard twice as interesting. A club of more than 200 technology companies, that must go wrong, right? Nothing could be further from the truth, Matter uses existing technology such as Thread, WIFI, Bluetooth, and Ethernet. As a result, the protocol is able to make it easier for all devices to talk to each other without the need for a cloud platform.
Among those 200 companies are Apple, Google, Amazon, but also Samsung, iRobot, Signify (Philips Hue), Legrand (Netatmo), Ikea, Assa Abloy, OPPO, Somfy, Tuya, Huawei, and so on. You can review the full list at buildwithmatter.com. This club of companies has only one goal and they all benefit from it: to bring compatible products to the market. Is Matter here to stay and ensure a secure future in the smart homeland, I think so.
What is the matter and how does it work?
A unified technology standard for the future. All smart home devices speak to each other and can also interact with each other. A huge difference between systems like Apple HomeKit, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa. Matter ensures that there are “pipes” between all your devices to be able to speak to each other. Whether that is via Thread, WIFI, or Bluetooth.
A unique part of Matter is the use of IP-based technology. The protocol uses the same way of working as the internet, so you are no longer dependent on hubs or bridges and all those other boxes that you have to attach to your modem. To facilitate the adoption of Matter, an application has been built as a layer on top of the IP technology and others that already exist. This means that the Connectivity Standards Alliance does not have to reinvent the wheel but rather opts for a new top layer.
Once you get a Matter product, it will be able to communicate locally with other smart home products via Thread or WIFI. You read that right, locally and not via the cloud. That is when your internet is down you will still be able to use and manage all your devices. Then why do you still need the internet? For firmware and security updates and to control your devices when you are not at home. This local control is a huge step forward because many users and institutions are concerned about the combination of smart home/privacy.
Smart home manufacturer Eve has also understood this. Eve products are always set locally to ensure customer and user privacy. “What’s at home, stays at home,” says Eve. For that reason, the company could only use the Apple Home kit until today, with Matter products can now also be opened up to other technologies.
What is Thread?
We have already mentioned it several times; Thread. It is one of the key technologies for Matter. The thread should make smart home devices more robust. The technology uses a mesh network, just like Z-Wave and ZigBee do. Devices going offline is one of the biggest problems with smart home devices, which is why mesh technology is so important. They also know that at Google Nest, says founder Tony Fadell.
Thread had its beginnings back in 2014 when it was developed by Nest, ARM, Samsung, and Yale Security. Back then it was already a joint venture, but it never got off the ground. The big advantages of Thread? Speed and reliability. For example, a motion sensor reacts much faster compared to devices that first have to pass through one of them. The thread is fast and self-supporting. A big advantage compared to Bluetooth or WiFi.
Which products already support it?
Initially, the intention was to roll out the new Matter protocol last year. Unfortunately, that deadline was not met. 2022 will be the year of Matter, the CSA said. Because the protocol was not ready yet, manufacturers could not get started either. New products were therefore not yet provided with the standard and that is of course a huge missed opportunity. But for a few weeks now, we have seen Matter products appear on the market almost every week. Which products already offer support and which will bring Matter on board?
- Google: All Google Nest devices will receive support for Matter, the company of the same name has announced.
- Apple Home Kit: Both the Home Pod Mini and Apple TV 4K feature Thread and will start supporting Matter. New products will probably also be provided with this.
- Netatmo: Since early 2022, Netatmo has also launched its first Matter device. It is a smart motion sensor. New devices from the company will also receive support for Matter.
- Samsung: All existing SmartThings hubs will get the update to Matter. This concerns smartphones, TVs, and also appliances such as refrigerators.
The list above currently seems very compact, but more and more companies are working with the new smart home protocol. That just takes time.
Do I need to replace my existing devices?
Luckily not. The CSA has communicated from the outset that Matter does not want to exclude old devices. It is therefore not necessary to replace existing devices, the new protocol will be able to communicate perfectly with all your existing devices, including those that work via Z-Wave or ZigBee. Another advantage, the implementation of Matter will make smart home products a lot cheaper because you no longer need a hub/bridge.