The dream of the smart home where things just work is, as anyone who has installed smart devices in their home will tell you, not quite there. Different standards, protocols, apps and eco-systems abound, but the newly announced Matter from the Connectivity Standards Allianace (CSA) is set to change all that.
Ahead of a busy CES, you’re very likely going to hear a lot of announcements around the Smart Home, and that will include announcements for Matter support from a lot of these companies, but what is it, and when can you get it?
What is Matter?
At its core, Matter is the name of the new smart home standard that brings together a number of protocols used across Smart Home devices previously including Thread, Zigbee and more. Matter itself works over Wi-Fi using Border Routers as controllers for each device. These Border Routers are found in a number of existing devices to make setting up a smart home easy. It also works locally, so when you issue commands it doesn’t need to go out to the internet to complete it.
While we’ve all heard big promises on new standards before, the big feature of Matter is that all the big names have signed on to support it. This means Google, Apple, Amazon, Samsung and more are all on board. So your HomeKit smart devices will talk with the Google Assistant, or Alexa and vice-versa.
There’s also a load of manufacturers on board to make devices that will all be interoperable with these assistants and eco-systems.
What do I need to set it up?
The good news is that some existing devices are either ready to, or are supporting Matter already. Homes using Matter will require a Thread-compatible Border Router which connects your devices into Matter compatible mesh network connecting devices with each other. So which devices will be used?
Google says that their Nest Hub Max, Nest Hub (2nd Gen) and Nest Wi-Fi are ready to be used as Thread Border Routers, with Google today announcing they have enabled Matter on their devices. They will also see Matter support for their Nest smart speakers as well.
Apple says the Apple TV 4K (2nd Gen) and Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen) as well as the HomePod Mini are also ready for use as Border Routers.
Amazon says ‘Matter over WiFi spanning 17 different Echo devices, Plugs, Switches, and Bulbs with Android setup in December of this year. This will be followed by broad availability across iOS, Thread, with additional device types and remaining Echo and eero device support early next year’.
For fans of NanoLeaf, their Shapes, Elements, and Lines LED light panels are all able to be used as border routers.
The work is already underway in your favourite mobile OS to make all this work simply. Apple says that “iOS will prompt the user for permission to pair the accessory, giving users transparency and control over which accessories are added, and providing a consistent setup experience across apps. When pairing a new accessory, iOS will display a camera viewfinder to scan the Matter setup code.”
It’s also supported in Android with Google’s Director of Product Management for Google Home, Karen Yao saying of Google’s implementation of Matter support in Android:
“So our goal is to make smart home setup and connectivity work, simply and consistently across every android device. So, we’ve integrated setup into the operating system itself, which runs on three billion, phones, tablets and other devices. And we’ve also integrated it into Android fast pair. So, when the user just plugs in their device, the phone will say, hey, we’ve detected that you’ve plugged in advice, which would you like to set it up and the user can set that device up with just a few taps.”
Existing Smart Home users
Unfortunately some of your older equipment will be left behind in terms of Matter support. They either won’t have the necessary hardware, or do not natively support Matter and the Thread protocol.
In these cases including the likes of Zigbee, Z-Wave, and other IoT devices and protocols, bridges will be the answer for a lot of users. There are already companies such as Silicon Labs working on these bridges already.
Philips has already advised that their Hue lights will be useful through an update to the Hue Bridge which will be updated to connect to the Matter standard ‘The Philips Hue Bridge will support Matter with a software update, meaning that your Hue lights and accessories automatically support Matter, too.’
If your devices are more esoteric, or don’t have great support, you’ll still be able to setup these devices the old way.
What devices can I get?
The first round of devices supported by Matter includes most of the basics, but there’s more on the way. The Matter 1.0 spec was launched in October, but the CSA are pursuing a bi-annual release schedule with version 2.0 expected sometime in 2024 which will support even more devices.
According to the Matter 1.0 specification, Matter will initially support ‘a variety of common smart home products, including lighting and electrical, HVAC controls, window coverings and shades, safety and security sensors, door locks, media devices including TVs, controllers as both devices and applications, and bridges.’
At the initial launch of Matter, President and CEO of the CSA, Tobin Richardson said that the next round of devices that Matter will support will include Cameras, robot vacuums, white goods and appliances, access points, energy management devices, closure sensors, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, ambient motion & presence sensors and Environmental Sensors and controls.
Products are also being launched in Australia as well. Aqara, one of the world’s leading smart home tech providers, has recently launched their range of products through JB HI-FI and will be enabling Matter support.
“Aqara has partnered with all the major platforms, so people can build with peace of mind. We’re also bringing Matter support to our existing Zigbee based products by pushing the over-the-air (OTA) update to selected Aqara hubs to ensure our range continues to have full compatibility as technology evolves,” Aqara’s business development manager Mark Berahmand said.
EVE has also announced that the Eve Energy, Eve Door & Window, and Eve Motion – have completed Matter certification and will be available for a free over-the-air firmware update on December 12. Further, EVE have also announced that their entire lineup of now 14 Thread-enabled Eve devices will receive free Matter firmware updates over time.
Nanoleaf has also launched four new Matter-compatible Smart Bulbs and Lightstrips into their Essentials line, offering the first-ever lighting products to work with Matter. This innovative line of smart lighting includes A19, GU10, and BR30 Bulbs, whilst also joined by a new Lightstrip.