Matter has officially launched, with smart home brands announcing their first Matter-certified devices at a launch event in Amsterdam. The new IoT (internet of things) protocol is the culmination of years of collaborative work to allow developers around the world to create smart home devices that will work seamlessly together.
Among the first certified devices are products from Nanoleaf, Eve and Schneider Electric.
The protocol was developed by a coalition of 300 companies under the aegis of the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), including the big four tech brands: Apple, Amazon, Samsung and Google.
But what does it all mean for you?
There has been much hype about Matter, but very little in the way of details about exactly how it will change the smart home.
In the medium-term, the CSA’s vision is to make the process of buying smart home devices simpler and more streamlined. You’ll be able to choose the smart product you want, regardless of brand, buy it, bring it home and scan the QR code. It will jump onto your system and start working with your existing devices.
Eventually, the set-up process for all Matter devices will be the same, so once you’ve brought home one product, you’ll know exactly what to do for the next one.
Sitao Ma, Schneider’s VP of Connected Systems & CTO Home & Distribution, compares it to setting up wireless earbuds or speakers over Bluetooth. “People get to know it. No matter where you buy a product, the process is similar.”
But all of that won’t happen straight away.
The standard opened for certification at the start of October and since then 190 devices have been certified or are in the queue. That’s a great start, but when you consider the numbers of smart home products available worldwide, it’s a drop in the ocean – or bath tub, at least. But now that it’s a proper standard, Matter take-up is increasing. Over the last month, 20 new companies joined the CSA and there were 2,500 downloads of its software development kit.
So, do you need to start thinking about replacing your smart home devices?
The short answer is no. The CSA’s intention isn’t that you throw out your existing smart gadgets, especially if they’re working well for you. The launch of Matter is an important milestone for the smart home – but it’s not the finish line.
In fact, as a first stage of device production, brands are building ways to bridge the gap between existing Zigbee-based products (such as Philips Hue lights) and new Matter-compatible products.
Philips has already said that it will roll out an update to its Hue Bridge with Matter support by the end of March 2023.
Wiser’s new Matter-enabled devices, shown working with various smart assistants
Emma Rowley / Foundry
Schneider Electric is another company that has been quick to get its products Matter certified, one of which is the Wiser Gateway. This will allow existing Wiser smart heating products to be integrated into a Matter ecosystem. Schneider is keen to support a slower, sustainable move towards smart home development, with continued support for Zigbee devices. Its ultimate vision is of a system of smart home devices that will create and maintain a less power-hungry home.
But we can’t be sustainable if we’re dumping our existing devices into landfill.
You might also find that you already have Matter-enabled devices in your home – or will have soon. This year, Amazon has said it will update 17 of its Echo devices with a software upgrade that will allow them to act as border routers. This means they’ll be able to control Matter devices. Google is doing the same with many of its home assistants, and some models of Samsung’s Family Hub smart fridges and smart TVs will get a similar update.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that this is the first version of the standard. Matter 1.0 certifies only certain classes of smart device: lights and light switches, HVAC controls (heating and cooling), controllers and bridges, TVs and media devices, blinds and shades, security sensors and door locks.
If you need to replace any of these devices or buy extra ones, you may well want to choose Matter-certified products when you do.
Certification of products will occur on a biannual basis, and products in the next wave will include cameras, robot vacuums, white goods and appliances, access points (routers), energy management devices, ambient motion and presence sensors, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, environmental controls and closure sensors, for example, for garage doors.
And where will Matter go in the future?
CSA member and Distinguished Engineer at Infinion Technologies Steve Hanna had this to say: “I see this as being as big as the internet protocol. When the internet protocol started in 1982 and the first version came out, there were only three things you could do with it: email, file transfer and Telnet – which was like connecting to a command line somewhere else.
“And it took ten years for the world wide web to be developed. That was the point at which Microsoft said: ‘We’ve got to have this included in Windows 95.’ In the 30 years since then, it has transformed the world, because of the innovation it enabled. Things we never foresaw have become possible. Things like video streaming and audio streaming – and Uber. Nobody envisioned them.
“We know what’s coming in the next few years with Matter. It’s going to make our smart homes more interoperable and more secure. What will come in five or ten years? I can’t envision. Something great, I’m sure.”
The bottom line, then, is that Matter isn’t going to change anything in your smart home immediately, even if you have devices that get software updates to make them compatible.
It’s when you purchase new devices in future that you’ll start to see benefits and, hopefully, in the longer term, that you’ll be able to control all your devices from whichever app you prefer, rather than having to switch between apps as we do today.