With the development of AI technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), smart home automation has quickly become a new trend in the technological world. The ideal smart home system should anticipate your needs and act on them right away once you’ve given a command.
Although different manufacturers sell multiple smart home devices, the compatibility of these devices isn’t always up to scratch. To solve this problem, a brand new smart home standard, Matter, has tried to align the market and bring some much-needed harmony. So what is Matter? What does it mean for smart home automation? Let’s get to the bottom of it together!
- What is Matter Standard for Smart Homes?
- What Technology Does Matter Use?
- Devices Required to Use Matter Standard
- List of Current Matter-Compatible Smart Home Gadgets
- Benefits of Matter Standard
- Matter vs. Other Existing Smart Home Protocols
- Final Thoughts: Security and Privacy of Matter Standard
What is Matter Standard for Smart Homes?
Simply put, Matter is an open-source connectivity standard, predominantly for smart homes. The aim of Matter is to improve compatibility between devices without sacrificing security. The Matter standard works through a series of compatible border routers, trying to avoid the use of multiple proprietary hubs.
To understand this new standard in an easier way, it’s basically all about how your devices talk to each other. Device manufacturers need to comply with the Matter standard to ensure their devices are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and others. Having the Matter standard in play means that smart home devices no longer have to be certified for each platform individually.
For example, you can buy a Matter-supported smart light bulb and set it up with Apple Homekit, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa, without having to worry about compatibility. Despite some of these existing Smart Home giants already having some cross-brand compatibility, Matter seeks to expand the range of compatible devices, ensuring that the setup of new devices is quick and easy.
What Technology Does Matter Use?
The Matter standard is working on the existing Internet Protocol. So, for this section, the term “technology” only refers to the existing Internet protocol that Matter Standard works on. The Internet protocols include:
Ethernet/LAN (IEEE 802.3)
Ethernet refers to the technology for cabled data networks that connect software or hardware with each other. This connection often takes place via LAN cables, which is why Ethernet is also sometimes called LAN technology.
Devices that work over Ethernet could be computers, printers, servers, routers, or others. When connected to a local network, the selected devices create connections via the Ethernet protocol. From here, they can exchange data packages with one another in a seamless way. At the moment, for smart home devices, the IEEE 802.3 protocol of Ethernet LAN is mostly used for the data transmission of higher bandwidth devices, like streaming media players.
WiFi/WLAN (IEEE 802.11)
Wi-Fi, or IEEE 802.11, is the standard for wireless LAN, also known as WLAN. Unlike Ethernet LAN, WLAN requires no extra cables to realize data transmission. IEEE 802.11 is the most widely used wireless network standard in the world. Almost all WiFi-compatible electronic devices are working on this protocol.
This protocol is used by most home networks to allow laptops, printers, smartphones, and other devices to communicate with each other and access the Internet without needing wires.
Thread (IEEE 802.15.4)
Thread is the technology that is integrated into Matter. At its core, Thread is an IPv6-based wireless protocol specially built for IoT devices and this protocol creates a secure, robust, and simple-to-use network. By using Thread protocol, devices end up working a lot faster, are more energy-efficient and reliable, and can actually communicate with each other a lot easier.
Similar to existing smart home protocols, like Zigbee and Z-Wave, Thread is a low-power and low-bandwidth mesh network protocol. Compared to Zigbee and Z-wave, Thread doesn’t need a central hub or bridge, instead, Thread devices can simply talk directly to each other. By cutting out the middleman, Thread can be faster than a lot of other protocols, especially over large networks.
In terms of Matter standard, Matter is an application layer that runs on Thread. Matter relies heavily on Thread to make sure all your devices not only speak the same language but that they stay connected even if other devices drop off the network. In the Matter-compatible smart home system, Thread protocol is used for low-bandwidth devices, such as door locks, leak detectors, CO detectors, and motion sensors.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
As the name suggests, Bluetooth Low Energy is a lower energy consumption version of Bluetooth. Also known as Bluetooth 4.0, BLE uses frequency-hopping wireless technology to connect nearby devices. Unlike its predecessor, Bluetooth LE maxes out at just 1 Mbps while consuming just 0.01 to 0.5 watts.
Driven by today’s fast-growing IoT, BLE is attractive to consumers and manufacturers because of its low cost, long battery life, and easy integration. Thanks to BLE, a smartphone or tablet can establish its first wireless contact with a Matter device during installation. Then, it transmits the access data for the Wi-Fi to the device via Bluetooth, so it can log into the smart home network. In a smart home system, BLE is used for onboarding devices to a Matter network.
Devices Required to Use Matter Standard
If you’re looking to use the Matter standard, there are some specific devices that you’re going to need. Here are a few key devices you’re going to need if you want to run Matter Standard properly.
Matter controller is the brain of your smart home. It onboards all Matter devices to your home network, controls them, and manages communication and automation. The ideal Matter controller should always be in your home, with constant power, and connected to your home network via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. This does mean that. ideally, your smartphone shouldn’t be your Matter controller.
It doesn’t matter what brand you choose for your Matter controller. As long as it’s a Matter controller, it can control a Matter device no matter who made it. However, for the best Matter controller, choose one that aligns with the smart home platform that you plan to use. For example, you can choose an Apple HomePod or Apple TV for Apple Home, an Amazon device for Alexa or a Google Nest Hub for Google Home.
Thread border router
As we’ve mentioned, not only does Matter standard work with Ethernet and Wi-Fi, but it also works on Thread. While Matter controllers cover all Wi-Fi and Ethernet devices, if you have Thread devices you may also need a Thread border router to talk to the Matter controller.
Luckily, some Matter controllers are also Thread border routers. Products like Apple HomePod mini, Google Nest Hub, Google Nest WiFi and Amazon 4th-generation Echo speaker can also work as a Thread broad router. If you already have these products in your smart home, you don't have to worry about the function of your Thread devices.
Smart home app
For smart home automation, an app is where you’re going to spend most of your time. You can use smart home apps to add devices, set up rooms, automation and routines, monitor all devices, and control them. In a word, it’s the command center for your entire smart home.
Some Matter controllers require a smartphone or tablet app to fully function, and some apps or mobile operating systems are actually Matter controllers themselves. Matter control is built into the latest versions of iOS(v.16.1 or above) and Android, and several device companies have announced that their smartphone apps will become Matter controllers in the future.
Since April of 2023, some widely used smart home apps like Apple Home App (on devices running iOS 16.1 or newer), Google Home (Android/iOS), Samsung's SmartThings App (iOS/Android) and Amazon’s Alexa App (only for Android) already have Matter-compatibility.
List of Current Matter-Compatible Smart Home Gadgets
As a new smart home protocol, you’ll want to know which devices or platforms are Matter-compatible.
Matter-Compatible Smart Home Gadgets
Smart home gadgets are the end devices for the Matter protocol. At the moment some gadgets which have this compatibility are;
- Light bulbs and light switches
- Plugs and outlets
- Thermostats and other HVAC controllers
- Window coverings and shades
- Motion and contact sensors
- Televisions and streaming video players
- Wireless Access Points
Note: It’s important to remember that not all of the products listed above have the Matter compatibility. For example, a certain brand of smart home light bulb might not be Matter-compatible, so check the specification or just consult the seller to make sure the product can work on Matter standard or not.
Matter-Compatible Smart Home Platforms
The four big platforms, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Home, and Samsung SmartThings, all support Matter, which means you can use any of their apps, smart speakers, hubs, and smart voice assistants to manage your Matter devices.
- Amazon Alexa: A total of 17 Amazon Echo devices, including all of the current lineup, became Matter compatible in December 2022. In the spring of 2023, Amazon updated its Echo 4th-Gen smart speaker to be a Thread border router and will expand its Matter support to more device types in the future.
- Google Home: All of Google’s Nest smart speakers and displays can act as Matter controllers. If you’re looking to set up Matter devices, Android devices and the Google Home app are also now Matter-compatible.
- Apple Home kit: As of iOS 16.1, Apple’s HomePod, HomePod Mini, and 2021 and 2022 Apple TV 4K models are all Matter controllers. The new Apple HomePod (second-gen) released earlier this year also can serve as a Matter controller and a Thread border router.
- Samsung SmartThings: The SmartThings apps for iOS and Android are Matter-compatible. Some Samsung hubs, TVs, and monitors have been updated to a newer version that works over Matter too.
At the moment there are more than 200 brands that have joined the Matter Community. Some of them have integrated Matter-standard into their products while others promise to equip their products with Matter-compatibility. Here are some of these brands:
Benefits of Matter Standard
As a brand new smart home standard, a lot of smart home platforms and companies have announced that they will integrate Matter into their existing products and launch more Matter-compatible products in the future. Compared to other smart home protocols, Matter-standard has the following benefits:
The biggest advantage of the Matter standard is its simplicity. It’s easy to purchase and use. Famous companies and brands like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Samsung all announced that their main smart home products are all Matter-compatible right now, which makes the Matter standard automatically included for smart homeowners.
The interoperability of Matter standard refers specifically to its multi-admin capability. Through its multi-admin feature, Matter allows you to control devices via multiple smart home systems at the same time. For instance, you can turn on your lights from the SmartThings app via a Samsung smartphone, dim them by asking Alexa on an Amazon Echo speaker, and then turn them off altogether from the Apple Home app on your iPad.
So far, there doesn’t seem to be a hard limit on the number of different systems you can have running at the same time, but you don’t have to use one of the big four ecosystems if you don’t want to. You can choose any Matter-compatible system you want.
Interactions with your smart home devices, such as turning lights on or off, will happen much faster and keep working in the midst of an internet outage. Through the Matter standard, you can control your devices locally rather than over the Internet. You don't have to worry about the consistency of the services provided by different internet providers, which can be sketchy at times!
In other words, thanks to the local nature of the standard, Matter devices will continue to work even if their manufacturers go out of business or suddenly decide to shut down their servers.
The major four smart home systems, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung will face increased competition thanks to the Matter standard. Any business can develop a system and app that can manage all Matter devices in the same way as the major four platforms. This, in turn, will create a more competitive environment, offer more choices for consumers, and push brands to evolve and innovate to stay on top.
Many other smart home devices have announced the release of Matter-compatible products. For example, Ikea has announced that, in addition to its own smart home goods, it’s updating its new Dirigera hub to allow control of all Matter devices.
Brilliant, a business that produces touchscreen control panels for smart homes, also revealed intentions to update those panels so that they can operate Matter gadgets.
Matter vs. Other Existing Smart Home Protocols
Matter isn’t the only smart home protocol in the game, but how does it compare to its existing competitors? Here are the differences between Matter standard and some of these other protocols:
Zigbee is a wireless technology that uses a mesh network to communicate. That means a device is used to relay a signal to other devices, strengthening and expanding the network. At the moment, Zigbee can be integrated into dimmers, door locks, thermostats, and other devices.
Overall, Matter standard differs from Zigbee mainly for compatibility reasons. Matter devices can be made compatible with Zigbee through a “Matter bridge” or “smart home hub” but Zigbee devices can not work with Matter going the other way. This is because Matter needs an IP transport layer to run while Zigbee does not support the IP transport of data packets.
Z-Wave is very similar to Zigbee, in fact, the main difference is actually the data throughput, with Z-wave being roughly 6 times slower than Zigbee. It does, however, require less energy to cover the same range as Zigbee. For instance, Samsung SmartThings uses Z-Wave.
Much like Zigbee, Z-Wave devices aren’t compatible with the Matter standard either. However, Matter devices can work over the Z-Wave protocol because wireless protocols, like Z-Wave, don’t hold IP transport of data packets as Matter standard does.
KNX is an open protocol that’s been on the market for decades and is also one of the most popular protocols for smart home automation. It operates on more than one physical layer, for example, using twisted pair wiring, power line networking, infrared, and Ethernet.
The biggest difference between KNX and Matter lies in the central devices. KNX smart home systems don’t operate from a central unit, like a Matter controller. This means that every single unit hooked up to the KNX ecosystem is smart in itself and doesn’t rely on other devices or parts to function.
Final Thoughts: Security and Privacy of Matter Standard
People have always been concerned about security and privacy issues when adopting a smart home system. When the Matter standard comes into play, the first thing consumers care about is whether the new standard is secure or not.
To address these concerns, it’s important to note that Matter uses specific industry-standard encryption technology, and every device gets authenticated before it’s able to join a network. Thanks to the certification system, every message that’s delivered is secured on the network.
In addition to this, Matter also supports secure over-the-air updates. With direct IP control, devices that work with Matter standard can speak straight to the Internet. Users don’t have to worry about the possible failure of networks and interruption of other wireless signals.
Matter embeds data privacy principles for all interactions between devices and software agents that handle personal information. In other words, the data from your home remains confidential between you and the individual manufacturers. For improved privacy protection, Matter always tries to minimize how much data is shared in any Matter interaction and defines the purpose of data sharing when requested.
Overall, as an updated smart home protocol, Matter offers better security protection, especially where the privacy of its users is concerned. That being said, only time will tell if the security and privacy measures work as well as Matter claims.
Which smart home device categories don’t work with Matter?
Currently, there are many smart home devices that still don’t support the Matter standard, such as garage door and gate controller sensors, home security cameras, smoke and CO detectors, environmental quality sensors, etc.
However, CSA has announced that these device types and systems are on the horizon for inclusion into the Matter standard and will be soon incorporated.
Which smart home platforms support Matter?
Realistically, the main smart home platforms that support Matter are the Big Four: Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Home, and Samsung SmartThings. So, you can use all of their apps, devices, and hubs to work alongside your Matter devices.
If you don’t want to use one of the big four, don't worry. The whole point of Matter is to help open up the communication channel between different branded products, so there have been quite a few companies saying that their apps will become Matter controllers, including the TP-Link Tapo app, the Aqara app, and the Wiser app.
Can my existing smart devices use Matter?
Existing smart home devices that use a Matter-compatible bridge, such as Philips Hue smart bulbs, can be “bridged” into Matter so that their connected devices can be controlled in a Matter smart home platform. Until April of 2023, only Apple Home fully supports Matter bridges. Even if some companies said they might not get their products upgraded to Matter right now, there are upgrade paths in the future for a lot of gadgets.
Do I need new equipment for Matter?
That depends on what you already have! If your existing smart home products can receive software updates to make them Matter-compatible, you don't need any extra devices. Fundamentally, the most important part is to make sure that the central unit is Matter-compatible. If this is the case, then your devices can continue to use their own radio frequency standard, like Zigbee or Z-Wave.
If you have products that communicate with your smart home network without an intermediary – like WLAN or Thread – you’re going to need to update them. This might not actually be possible, and depends completely on the manufacturer.
Undoubtedly, the brand-new Matter standard will make the smart home market more competitive and offer more choices for consumers. Thanks to its simplicity, interoperability and reliability, many companies have already shown their support to this new Standard. There are so many Matter-compatible products available on the market and we all know that there will be more in the future.
With the launch of the Matter Standard, your home will be smarter, more compatible, and easier to set up. It’s as simple as that.
Do you have a smart home system installed? Have you ever noticed the Internet standard that your devices use? What do you think of the new Matter standard? Share your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you!