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Why the Matter protocol is a gamechanger in the smart home

11 December 2021


The new standard for smart home devices will make them interoperable, removing a barrier to growth.

One of the biggest barriers to the development of the smart home is the lack of interoperability between smart home devices. While smart home speakers from Amazon, Google and Apple can all act as hubs that operate your thermostat, lights or door, none of them connects with all smart home devices. Amazon’s Alexa, for instance, cannot operate the Google Nest thermostat. That’s why the new smart home protocol Matter aims to set a universal standard.

History shows how the advent of such standards transforms markets. Take home video, which took off once Sony abandoned the Betamax format in the 1980s and conformed to the VHS standard, so unifying the market. In mobile telephony, GSM (Europe) and CDMA (U.S.) used to divide the market, but once the industry made these standards interoperable at the device level, user costs plummeted, ease of use improved and adoption skyrocketed.

The Matter standard should similarly galvanize development of the smart home ecosystem. For the first time, consumers will be able to buy any smart home product, and use it with their existing ecosystem (e.g. Google Home, Samsung SmartThings). That should increase use of smart home devices and consumer choice. As long as a device supports Matter (even specialized devices from small manufacturers will), it can connect to any smart home ecosystem.

Explaining Matter

So what is Matter? It started in 2019 when 200 of the biggest tech companies joined forces to sponsor the Project Connected Home over IP (with the acronym CHIP). They included Apple, Google, Samsung and the Zigbee Alliance . Their goal: to create a unified smart home standard that would make it easier for manufacturers to connect their products to the dominant voice assistants and to each other’s products. Industry support was high.

Matter, however, is not completely new. Instead, it builds on existing standards such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy for initial pairing. It also uses Thread, a relatively recent networking protocol that connects products from different brands without the need for a smart home hub. There is ongoing work to allow existing smart home ecosystems to integrate new devices that incorporate the Matter protocol. Several companies will update their existing products to support Matter – such as Philips Hue, Yale and Google.

This is an overview

Source: Qorvo 1

Growing momentum

The first new products with Matter compatibility should arrive next year. Google, for instance, said at its Google Smart Home Developer Summit that it would release new tools to help developers build devices that work across Google Home, Matter and any other Matter-compliant ecosystems. Amazon too has affirmed that it will support Matter in its Echo devices and Eero Wi-Fi routers. For its part, Apple has said it will support Matter in iOS15; and Samsung has promised Matter support for SmartThings hubs, Galaxy devices, TVs and even fridges. With these dominant manufacturers committing to Matter, it should only be a matter (pun intended) of time before other manufacturers jump on the bandwagon.

It’s an exciting time for the smart home. As the Matter protocol takes off, it’s likely to prove a gamechanger for the smart home.

1The Zigbee Alliance is an already existing alliance of smart home companies including Ikea, Legrand, Schneider Electric, Signify and many others. It was recently renamed to the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA).

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