The new Matter smart home standard has been officially delayed until 2022, out from its original 2021 release date. While everything’s still proceeding as planned according to Tobin Richardson, president and CEO of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, as well as a member of the Matter Standards Working Group, the standard, overall, still needs more support, testing and refining. However, there may still be a lingering question for many: What exactly is Matter? And what does it mean for smart homes?
Simply put, Matter is an emerging smart home interoperability protocol aimed at making all the best smart home devices work better together. And it has a lot of big names backing it. Apple, Google, Amazon and other major connected home players are all offering their support of the new standard, with the Connectivity Standards Alliance guiding its development.
While not too important for the average consumer right now, this is a colossal step for the smart home industry. Consider this: as of right now, many devices on the market cooperate with one another, but still require multiple apps to access all features, and even then, they sometimes don’t play with one another as well as expected.
As a connectivity certification, all Matter-certified devices will be able to play on a singular ecosystem. This means less confusion than what comes with today’s smart home operations. Effectively, it’s a seal-of-approval backed by a regulatory-like standard that means associated smart devices will play nicely with one another.
Wait, Isn’t This Already Out There?
While this may sound familiar to some (Samsung SmartThings, Zigbee, Z-Wave), the difference that makes this protocol matter is that it is the direct result of the major smart home leaders working in unison in the name of privacy and interoperability between their devices.
Ideally, with this, homeowners will no longer have to fret over finding compatible devices. All Matter devices will come with that seal of approval on their packaging.
The thinking is any smart home device purchased from a reputable brand should be able to work with other reputable smart home products, and Matter is a definite step in this direction.
As of right now, there is no concrete set-up for just how devices will be controlled an operated within a Matter-connected smart home, but an app is apparently in the works.
Imagine a truly seamless smart home (or smart room) experience in the future, facilitated by Matter interoperability, where lights, sound, (and aromatherapy?) seamlessly activate to generate deeply restorative spaces in a home. Or perhaps ventilation systems and connected appliances communicating with one another to create a connected kitchen that keeps homeowners safe and healthy from food purchasing to preparation and disposal.
So Does That Mean I Need to Repurchase Everything for it to Have Matter?
No! Not in all cases, anyways. There’s not a whole lot of new technology going into devices to make them Matter compliant, which means there are actually plenty of items out on the market currently that will be able to function within the Matter ecosystem once it launches. Again, think of it as a seal of approval and a standard for specific devices to follow.
The core principles of Matter is actually built upon Internet Protocol (IP) to enable networking between devices and the smart phone apps and cloud services that manage them. Right now nearly 100 companies by the likes of Lutron, IKEA, Comcast, Legrand, Schneider Electric, and Somfy, are currently working on the software that will ultimately be a part of the update that will make the devices compliant. More simply put, once the Matter standard has been refined and perfected, all it will take in many cases is a simple software update to make the device Matter-compliant.
“Taking an open-source SDK approach means everyone that develops a Matter device can use the same code base,” states Richardson. “That’s an absolutely critical element to ensuring rapid adoption and market success — but we need to get it right. The ultimate goal remains to deliver a specification and SDK that delivers on our promise to create a common language for the smart home and improve consumer smart home experiences and spur greater innovation.”
More information, as well as the full list of participants in the Matter protocol can be found on Matter’s main site.