Let’s face it: Thanks to rapid technological advances, our homes are getting smarter. As we turn to connected devices and smart appliances to help us save time, money and energy, our lives are becoming more convenient. Despite the improved ease of our at-home lives, our modern world still sees disparate devices and competing smart home standards complicating matters, which isn’t very … umm, smart.
With smart devices increasingly performing tasks and automating routines in homes around the globe, Statista estimates that the number of smart homes worldwide will grow to surpass the 350 million mark by 2023. And while many home automation systems allow for the integration of various smart devices and appliances controlled through a centralized system, Alexa can’t talk to Siri or control a Google Assistant or Apple devices, and vice versa.
In an ideal world, however, your smart home devices seamlessly anticipate your needs and instantly respond to commands. There’s no need to open different apps to control various appliances or utter precise commands to direct your voice assistant to play your favorite album out of the nearest speaker. Fortunately, that vision of the future may soon become reality with the Matter smart home standard.
What is the Matter Smart Home Standard?
Delivering the “promise of reliable and secure connectivity,” Matter — formerly called Project CHIP (connected home over IP) — is an open-source home automation connectivity standard that aims to achieve interoperability among smart home devices and Internet of Things platforms from different companies.
According to its website, the industry-unifying standard “creates more connections between more objects, simplifies development for manufacturers and increases compatibility for consumers.” Built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable and seamless to use, Matter was launched and introduced in 2019 by tech giants Apple, Amazon, Comcast and Google, as well as the Zigbee Alliance (now the Connectivity Standards Alliance), with IKEA, Huawei, NXP Semiconductors and others signing on as members later.
Designed to be based on Internet Protocol (IP), the standard enables matter smart home devices, mobile apps and cloud services to communicate over a defined specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification. The first protocol will run on Wi-Fi and Thread network layers and use Bluetooth Low Energy for device setup.
By promising to enable different devices and ecosystems to play nicely, Matter benefits consumers, smart home device developers and retailers alike. Consumers benefit from interoperability and device-to-device communication. Say goodbye to guesswork during the purchasing process. Matter devices will work reliably together, so consumers can choose from a variety of brands they know and trust.
Since Matter is a unifying, IP-based connectivity protocol built on proven technologies, the standard helps device manufacturers connect to and build reliable, secure IoT ecosystems. Without worrying about building a competing standard, developers can focus on innovation and accelerating the time to market. For retailers, Matter will help simplify the consumer purchasing process, thereby expanding the smart home category to more retailers and lowering operational costs.
What Smart Home Products will Work With Matter?
Unifying the Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home and Samsung SmartThings smart home platforms, the first Matter release was due in late 2020 but has been delayed since. As of today, Matter devices and software updates for existing products are expected to be released in fall 2022, but there is always the possibility of further delays.
The Connectivity Standards Alliance announced in March the latest delay was to accommodate more devices and platforms and ensure smooth interoperability before release. As of this writing, the Matter website lists more than 4,000 Alliance-Certified products, from devices destined for personal or commercial use to a fundamental building block of a certified end product.
The first Matter specification, Matter 1.0, includes the following connected device categories:
- Lightbulbs, light switches, lighting controllers
- Plugs and outlets
- Door locks
- Thermostats and other HVAC controllers
- Blinds and shades
- Home security sensors (motion, contact, carbon monoxide/smoke detectors)
- Garage door controllers
- Wireless access points and bridges
- TVs and streaming video players
Security cameras and doorbells, robot vacuums and other smart home devices will probably be covered in a later specification.
While the four major smart home platforms, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings, have all committed to supporting Matter, consumers can use multiple platforms at the same time because of a feature called “Multi-Admin” control. Whether smart plugs, dimmable lights, door locks, flow sensors, IoT lighting, sump pump monitors, shade controllers, thermostats or other smart home devices, as long as devices and platforms are Matter-enabled, you can connect them to as many platforms as you want.
Will Matter Work With Existing Smart Home Products?
So, what does all of this mean for you and your smart home gadgets? Are you going to have to buy all new devices and learn about new ecosystems? Unfortunately, the answer depends on the specific device.
While some devices will work with Matter after a firmware update, other devices appear unlikely to be upgraded individually — and some will never be compatible. Yes, many smart home devices that currently work with Thread, Z-Wave or Zigbee should be able to work with Matter, but it’s not a given that they will be upgraded when Matter launches. And even if your gadget won’t be upgraded, the majority of smart home devices that won’t receive an update to provide Matter support will still yet likely be active for a good while.
What Happens to Other Smart Home Standards Following the Launch of Matter?
The chances are high that most existing smart home standards will hang around for a while — assuming they have a large base. However, the current high adoption rate of Matter would indicate that vendors will eventually move to supporting Matter and start letting existing standards drop off over time.
Matter, Data Security and Personal Privacy
Matter has been specified with certain principles to help address security and privacy concerns. The standard will establish a good foundation for security, but how well it will protect your privacy remains unclear.
First, security protection is built in at every level. This layered approach with authentication and attestation helps verify that devices are legitimate while requiring that all data being transmitted between devices is encrypted. Matter also uses the strongest commonly available certificates and passcodes as well as a single strong, well-vetted standard cryptographic suite. During initial commissioning, every message is protected and secure over-the-air firmware updates are executed. The standard uses a distributed compliance ledger (DCL) that provides a scalable and secure way for Connectivity Standards Alliance vendors to publish trustworthy device data.
In addition to security, which is only half of the picture, consumer personal information must be protected when it’s consumed and transacted. Matter addresses privacy concerns by building the following data privacy principles into the specifications for interactions between devices and software that uses personal information (source: Zigbee Alliance):
- Confidentiality & Integrity
- Proof of Identity
- Open Standard
- Data Minimization
- Defined Purpose
- Privacy-Preserving Mechanisms
The Future of Matter
Based on the growth of other well-backed standards like Bluetooth, you should expect that Matter will experience a fairly similar growth path and ultimately succeed in unifying the smart home industry.
When it comes to the development of Matter-compliant gadgets, Silicon Labs, Nordic, STMicroelectronics, NXP, Espressif, Amazon and several others all have Matter dev kits available now, and Silicon Labs seems to be the most active member. While choosing the best dev kit for your device is a subjective endeavor, Silicon Labs has a very mature and comprehensive set of Matter-compatible development boards.
This level of support illustrates that the coming standard is well backed by industry leaders and hits a sweet spot of needs for IoT. Yes, we believe Matter will be with us for the long haul, but like all standards, it will evolve over time. Is Matter the future of smart home product design? Only time will tell.
When the specification finally arrives, however, even more companies will aim for Matter certification, and we will invariably see another wave of smart locks, smart bulbs, security sensors and beyond as more brands recognize the advantages of Matter and climb aboard.
Cardinal Peak and the Matter Smart Home Standard
At Cardinal Peak, we are very well prepared to develop devices that adhere to the emerging Matter standard. We have deep existing IoT development experience that directly translates to Matter-based implementations. Like any new toolset or library, there can be a learning curve involved, but development for the Matter standard should not be radically different from the development of other secure connected devices.
Although Matter is very new and still in the hype stage, the significant level of current industry support should help it continue progressing. Because the code is open-source, the only considerations are how expensive the certifications are and whether the Matter branding will translate to customer perception of security, privacy and value.
If you’re seeking to design and develop a compatible device that capitalizes on the simplicity, interoperability, reliability and security of Matter, we’re here to help! Contact our team to start designing and developing your Matter-compatible smart home product today!