The smart ideal at home anticipates your needs seamlessly and responds immediately to orders. You shouldn’t have to open a separate app for each device or remember the exact voice command and voice assistant combination that starts the latest episode of your favorite podcast on the nearest speaker. Due to competitive smart home standards your devices do not need to be complicated to operate. It’s just… well, smart.
Tech giants try to cross standards by offering their voice assistants as a control layer on top, but Alexa can’t talk to Google Assistant or Siri or control Google or Apple devices, and vice versa. (And so far, no single ecosystem has created all the best devices.) But these interoperability woes may soon be remedied. Formerly known as Project CHIP (Connected Home over IP), the open source interoperability standard known as Matter is finally here. Some of the biggest tech names have signed on, such as Amazon, Apple, and Google, meaning seamless integration could finally be within reach.
Updated October 2022: Added news about the release of the Matter 1.0 specification, the certification program, and some additional details.
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Content promises to enable different devices and ecosystems to play nicely. Device manufacturers must comply with the Matter standard to ensure that their devices are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and others. For people building a smart home, Matter theoretically allows you to buy any device and use your favorite voice assistant or platform to control it (yes, you should be able to use different voice assistants use to talk to the same product).
For example, you’ll be able to buy a smart bulb supported by Matter and set it up with Apple Homekit, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa – without worrying about compatibility. Currently, some devices already support multiple platforms (such as Alexa or Google Assistant), but Matter will expand that platform support and make setting up your new devices faster and easier.
The first protocol runs on the Wi-Fi and Thread network layers and uses Bluetooth Low Energy for device setup. While it will support a variety of platforms, you’ll have to choose which voice assistants and apps you want to use — there’s no built-in Matter app or assistant. Overall, you can expect your smart home devices to be more responsive to you.
What Makes Importance Different?
The Connectivity Standards Alliance (or CSA, formerly known as the Zigbee Alliance) maintains the Matter standard. What sets it apart is the breadth of its membership (more than 550 technology companies), the willingness to adopt and merge disparate technologies, and the fact that it is an open source project. Now that the software development kit (SDK) is ready, interested companies can use it royalty-free to incorporate their devices into the Matter ecosystem.
Growing out of the Zigbee Alliance gives Matter a solid foundation. Bringing the leading smart home platforms (Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings) to the same table is a feat. It’s optimistic to imagine seamless adoption of Matter across the board, but it has enjoyed a rush of enthusiasm with a range of smart home brands already signed up, including August, Schlage, and Yale in smart locks; Belkin, Cync, GE Lighting, Sengled, Signify (Philips Hue), and Nanoleaf in smart lighting; and others like Arlo, Comcast, Eve, TP-Link, and LG. Matter has more than 280 member companies.
Content has been in the works for years. The first release was due in late 2020, but was delayed until the following year, rebranded as Matter, and then touted for a summer release. After another delay, the Matter 1.0 specification and certification program is now finally ready. The SDK, tools and test cases are available, and eight authorized test labs are open for product certification. That basically means you can expect to see Matter-powered smart home gadgets going on sale as early as October 2022 after they’ve been certified.
The CSA says the final delay is to accommodate more devices and platforms and make sure they all work smoothly with each other before release. More than 130 devices and sensors across 16 development platforms (operating systems and chipsets) are working through certification, and you can expect many more soon.
What About Other Smart Home Standards?
The road to smart home nirvana is paved with various standards, such as Zigbee, Z-Wave, Samsung SmartThings, Wi-Fi HaLow, and Insteon, to name a few. These and other protocols will continue to exist and function. Google has merged their Thread and Weave technologies into Matter. The new standard also uses Wi-Fi and Ethernet standards and uses Bluetooth LE to set up a device.
Content is not just technology and should evolve and improve over time. It will not cover all possible use cases for all devices and scenarios, so other standards will continue to be developed. The more platforms and standards that integrate with Matter, the greater its potential for advancement, but the challenge of seamless operation also increases.
Will Dance Work With Current Devices?
Some devices will work with Matter after a firmware update. Others will never be compatible. There is no simple answer here. Many devices that currently work with Thread, Z-Wave, or Zigbee should be able to work with Matter, but have not been noted to receive an upgrade. Best to check with manufacturers about specific devices and future support.
The first specification, or Content 1.0, only covers certain categories of devices, including:
- Light bulbs and switches
- Smart plugs
- Smart locks
- Safety and security sensors
- Media devices including televisions
- Blinds and smart colors
- Garage door controllers
- HVAC controllers