With the support of Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung, and even Ikea, Matter looks like the standard to rule them all in the smart home category. But what is it, and why should you care about it? Get to know the new standard in our Matter 101.
What is Matter?
Matter was announced at the end of 2019 by Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance as a “royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products”. Originally called Connected Home over IP (CHIP), the standard uses the internet protocol (IP) to interconnect different devices, ecosystems, and apps.
Think of it as the USB of smart home devices. While the “Universal” plug mostly retired serial (DE-9), parallel (DB-25), gameport (DA-15), and recently DisplayPort (DP) and even charging connectors, Matter seeks to end the doubts about having to choose between Siri, Alexa or (Google) Assistant for controlling devices, or Z-Wave, Thread or Zigbee for their communication.
Of course, that leads to the classic situation best exemplified by xkcd’s famous comic. But the sheer clout of all companies involved leads to believe that Matter will become the market standard.
When will Matter be available for use?
The standard was expected to be released in 2021, which was postponed to “summer 2022” (in the Northern Hemisphere) and in March to “fall 2022.”
Similar to what happens with the Wi-Fi standard, companies are already working with draft versions of the specification, and some early validation testing is underway. Even so, product announcements are expected only after the launch of finalized specs. So don’t expect to see products on shelves until Q4 2022.
What kind of devices will Matter support?
Just like USB, Matter will define a number of product categories (or classes). At launch, Matter is expected to be compatible with:
- Doors and control access
- Lightning and illumination (bulbs, switches, shades, windows blinds)
- Security (door and windows sensors, motion and pollutant detector
- Temperature control
- Televisions, media players
Besides that, Google already announced work with streaming features for security cameras, smart displays, and video doorbells. After the first standard release, expect to see the ecosystem expand to include categories like air purifiers, vacuum cleaners, weather stations, and much more.
Will current devices be compatible with Matter?
Not necessarily. Products need to be certified for the new standard and some of them will require a firmware update. Both Amazon and Google, together with device makers eWeLink, Ledvance, Sengled, TP-Link, Tuya, and Lifx announced that many devices will receive updated firmware to be compatible with Matter. The provisional list includes many Echo, Nest, and SmartThings devices and of course, Alexa and Assistant.
In some cases, the firmware upgrade will be required for a single device in the home, as the Matter upgrade Signify announced for its Philips Hue Bridge, which will integrate existing lamps into the new ecosystem. Similarly, Samsung announced that some of its smart TVs/monitors and even refrigerators will work as Matter hubs to control compatible devices.
What do you think about Matter? Are you waiting for compatible products to reach the market or are you already preparing your home for the new standard? We expect to update this guide as the standard’s release nears, so be sure to leave a comment below!