Matter: The Future of Smart Homes
The smart home space may be about to experience a revolution in IoT communication standards.
Written by Tony Jackson, Mechatronics Engineer at MistyWest
The smart-home space is currently — for lack of a better term — a bit of a mess. You see a neat new device that you want to add to your home, but you have to look carefully over the documentation to figure out where the device sits in the patchwork of compatibility between the devices you already own.
If the device is listed as compatible, you’ve then got to set it up, which often involves downloading another manufacturer’s app, going through a bunch of configuration steps, then connecting that manufacturer’s cloud backend to your preferred ecosystem, be that Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit, etc. You may also discover that some features of the device are limited to the manufacturer’s app and can’t be accessed from other systems.
Once you’ve got everything set up, you then discover the different manufacturers’ systems don’t necessarily play nice together, causing devices to intermittently drop out, stop responding, or give weird results. You find yourself stuck in your garage because the smart garage door opener has glitched out, or wandering around in the dark because the lights won’t turn on — what’s broken this time?.
Wouldn’t it be great if all these devices used a common standard and worked well together right out of the box?
What’s the Matter?
Matter is a new communication standard that enables smart-home devices from different manufacturers and on different protocols to easily work together. You’ll be able to buy a Matter-enabled hub and Matter-enabled devices, set them up, and have them all work together virtually seamlessly.
Instead of manufacturers building a patchwork of compatibility for one another’s platforms, they can build to the common standard of Matter. Certification tests for Matter will ensure all devices carrying the Matter badge meet a minimum level of functionality, ensuring that the devices will work together reliably.
Matter sits higher up in the protocol stack, allowing devices on WiFi, Ethernet, and Thread to communicate with one another in standardized ways. This is similar to how WhatsApp works on cellular data, WiFi, or a plugged-in computer — you can talk to all your friends over any network protocol.
Challenge of Broad Adoption for Matter
Of course, introducing a new standard could fragment the market further if it doesn’t get supported and broadly adopted by the industry, so it’s very encouraging that the major players in the sector — Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung, and many others — have formed the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) to develop Matter. With so many companies signing on, we believe Matter will become the next industry standard similar to how many devices have centralized on USB-C or Bluetooth.
Potential Concerns for Matter Adoption in Industry
New standards are sometimes used to force users to upgrade to new devices by ending support early for existing devices. It will be up to the individual companies to provide support and over-the-air updates to existing devices to allow them to “speak” Matter. Some may choose to not provide these updates and force their customers to upgrade to a new device that is Matter-capable.
Two tiers of capabilities
There is also potential for companies to support standard product features over Matter, but withhold premium features for only devices and accessories from their family of products. As a hypothetical example, Amazon could decide that Ring smart doorbells function with Matter products as doorbells, but that the security camera built into the doorbell only functions in the Amazon Alexa ecosystem. Companies could support Matter in name, but keep the premium features for their walled garden ecosystems. Whether this happens remains to be seen as Matter is released and adopted by the industry.
Future of Matter
Matter is projected to be ratified in fall 2022, paving the way for the next smart home generation which will revolutionize how IoT devices are developed and used. We believe Matter will be critical for any company wanting to enter into the smart home space — whether they are developers building the hardware products, or the consumer electronics companies bringing their products to market. With a projection of more than 5.5 billion Matter devices shipping between now and 2030, Matter’s importance will be undeniable.
Do you want to accelerate your smart device development and avoid pitfalls? Talk to MistyWest about how our experienced team can help inform your decisions around IoT protocols.