What is Matter, the New Smart Home Standard?

Mar 2, 2023 | Smart Home

Smart homes are big business these days. It’s estimated that more than 130 million households currently own at least one smart home device as of 2022. Many of us imagine a smart home as a scene with a plethora of connected smart devices, all responding in sync and harmony to your every command.


While that’s kind of true, smart technology is still pretty young, and standardization hasn’t been completely universal. That means many people have found themselves frustrated with the lack of connection between smart devices and ecosystems. Ironic, isn’t it? Amazon Alexa can’t talk to Siri or Google Assistant, nor can it control Google or Apple devices, and vice versa.


It begs the question — why can’t it all work together seamlessly? Well, a new smart home standard set to all your smart home devices together seamlessly, introducing Matter.


What Is Matter?

Matter is a connectivity standard protocol that devices use to interact with each other. Matter isn’t an app or a platform. Rather, it’s the language of how the devices speak to each other. It runs over existing protocols, including Thread for low-power, low-bandwidth devices and wifi (or ethernet) for higher bandwidth devices. It also uses Bluetooth for device setup. 


Matter was released in October of last year after being developed by the Connectivity Standards Alliance — a global, industry-wide collaboration between 300+ tech companies. Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, LG, Nanoleaf, Eve, Wyze, and many more industry leaders are on board with the initiative and giving it the push to succeed.


What’s special about Matter is that it simplifies smart home management by making smart devices work with each other across platforms and ecosystems regardless of the manufacturer. So, previously, where Apple products may not have worked with Amazon products, Matter sorts out the communication difficulties so any Matter-compatible device can work seamlessly.


That’s the primary benefit of Matter for users — compatibility. If your smart home runs on Matter, you can buy any Matter-compatible device and be comfortable knowing it will work. So instead of choosing devices primarily based on their compatibility with your smart home ecosystem, you can select them based on features and functionality.


Matter devices are also easier to connect. In fact, that’s why most smart devices are returned to the store — people can’t get them to connect or work right with their smart home system. With Matter, adding devices is now as simple as scanning a QR code.


Matter also provides more versatility in managing all your smart home devices. Because it works with all the major ecosystems, you’re no longer limited to using just one management tool. In fact, there is no Matter app or assistant, and you’re not tied to any one smart home ecosystem. You can now use the voice assistants and apps of your choosing. So, if someone in your house prefers Amazon and someone else prefers Apple, they can each use their preferred assistant.


What Do You Need to Use Matter?

Matter devices are available now, and many existing smart home devices are already Matter-compatible or are slated to be updated with Matter support. You will need a Matter controller (or controllers) to manage communications, control, automation, and remote access. There are many options — some of which you may already have.


Matter controllers are built into the latest versions of Android and Apple. Some smart speakers and devices, like the Apple HomePod, Apple TV 4K, Amazon Echo, Google Nest Hub, and Samsung SmartThings hubs, can function as Matter controllers. 


Alternatively, if you use Matter over Thread (instead of wifi or ethernet), you’ll need a border router. Thread is a wireless protocol that creates a mesh network where the more devices you connect, the more stable the network becomes. Many common existing smart devices can be Thread border routers for Matter — Echo 4th Gen, Nest Home Max, Home Pod Mini, and Home Assistant Yellow. Just check for Thread in the device specs.  


Does Matter Work With Existing Smart Home Devices?

Maybe. The major smart home platforms such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Home, and Samsung SmartThings support Matter. So their apps, speakers, hubs, and voice assistants will work with Matter and can serve as Matter controllers to manage other devices. 


Many brands already support Matter, like Eve, Meross, Nanoleaf, Philips Hue, Comcast, and Toya. Many others are getting on board. Thread, Z-Wave, or Zigbee devices should work with Matter. Older devices will work with Matter after a firmware update while others won’t. Check with manufacturers about specific device compatibility.


Devices that can’t be upgraded to Matter can continue to work with their existing platforms and coexist separately from Matter devices.


What Does Matter Mean for the Future of Smart Home Technology?

Matter makes a smart home a more connected, comfortable, and helpful place. Now, instead of purchasing specific devices to work with your Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, or Apple Homekit, you only need to know if a smart device is Matter-capable.


With the industry support, it’s likely that Matter is here to stay and you’ll have many options for Matter-compatible devices on the market. Look for the Matter logo to determine if a smart device is Matter-compatible.


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