Will the Matter Smart Home Standard Be Our Saving Grace?
What do you see when you sit back and think of your life before smartphones entered your life? How did you text people? Were you able to take high-quality photos with your phone? Were you able to play heavy games? While there was a lot of stuff we could do back then, compared to our current standards, our old mobile phones had a lot of limitations.
This goes to prove that we live in a world that is constantly evolving and changing. So much has happened in such a short amount of time. It is mind-blowing, to be honest. We have come so far with technology that we now have Driverless Vehicles! Isn’t that jaw-dropping?
But this article won’t be talking about how technology has awed every one of us. In this article, we will look at how one particular technological aspect hasn’t been doing so well despite its popularity for a while now. And that particular technological aspect is the Smart Home Technology.
Don’t worry. This is not a depressing article that will conclude that Smart Home Technology is doomed. rather, this article will look at what the big four companies (Google, Apple, Amazon, and Samsung) plan to do to improve the usability of Smart Home Devices and their Ecosystem.
The image above clearly depicts people’s perception of Smart Home Devices. This is because urban sustainability challenges are not only related to the evolution of cutting-edge technologies like Smart Home Devices. Applying these Smart Home Devices as standard elements of the urban environment is probably one of the most daunting endeavors. At the center of this urban scenario is the aim of generalizing the use of intelligent technologies in all households.
What do Smart Home devices seek to achieve? Smart Home devices aim to help our home evolve naturally by using innovative technology that gives us better appliances, systems, and experiences. But to this day, it’s only been complicated, confusing, and expensive. Yes, there is abundant availability of Smart Home devices. But because these devices lack an industry-wide connectivity standard, people are confused and frustrated because much of the time is wasted on understanding what Smart Home devices work with each Smart Home ecosystem.
It is even more frustrating that manufacturers focus on getting their devices to work with three, four, or more different platforms. Apart from this, the manufacturers also try to make all the devices compatible. Thus, rather than spending their time creating better products and new features, we are presented with a confusing smart device that makes our life not easy but challenging.
The comic below by Randall Munroe perfectly illustrates the difficulties faced by us, the consumers, because of the various standards that the manufacturers create. A perfect representation of the proliferation of standards, if I say so myself.
We, the consumers, spend most of our energy trying to figure out which product works with which. We start troubleshooting the connections before, more often than not, giving up on the whole procedure. The confusion and complication we undergo when using a Smart Home device have led to slower adoption of Smart Home devices than most expected.
The Solution – Matter Smart Home Standard
But Smart Home device manufacturing moguls like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Samsung have come together to give you the best Smart Home Experience by conforming to one universal standard. And the wireless technology that complies with this universal standard is called Matter. Thus, the universal standard is now referred to as Matter Smart Home Standard.
Those who have heard of universal standards might be skeptical about this decision. And for the people who don’t get what a standard is, don’t worry, you will understand what it is very soon. Before we start talking about what Matter is and why everyone would be skeptical about this, let me explain what a standard is.
What is a Standard?
So, when you buy a new smartphone, what do you look at first? The specs? The design? The price? Whatever it is that you decide to buy, you will only buy it if it meets your standards, right? Don’t you have a particular benchmark you hope your future smartphone will pass? Similarly, Smart Home devices also have a bar, a standard they must meet.
Now, you might wonder, ‘isn’t that a good thing? Why are people skeptical about this?’
Matter isn’t the first standard-based wireless technology that Smart Home devices have come across. There’s Zigbee, Z-Wave, etc. And most people were mad that while some smart home devices co-operated with a certain standard, others didn’t. While all these standards were good in their own way, they were confusing and not available to all smart devices nonetheless.
So What is Matter, and Why is it Different?
Simply put, Matter is a unified connectivity technology that complies with a universal standard for your smart home that simplifies how your smart home works. It is not a smart home platform like Apple HomeKit, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, or Amazon’s Alexa. Matter doesn’t automate or control your home. Matter provides the pipes and language for communication devices.
As mentioned earlier, the universal standard, referred to (at present) as the Matter Smart Home Standard / Matter, is unique because it’s an IP-based technology that uses the same mechanisms to communicate as the internet. So, there is no dependence on hubs or bridges, and eventually (fingers crossed!), you will be able to get rid of all those white boxes hooked up to your modem.
It isn’t hard to adopt Matter. Matter will start as an application layer on top of existing IP technologies, including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Thread, and Bluetooth.
Wondering what Thread is? Thread is one of the key technologies of Matter. Thread is a low-power mesh networking protocol. The Matter Smart Home Standard depends on Thread greatly. If you want to know more about Thread, click this link.
Once in your home, Matter devices can operate entirely locally, talking to each other over Thread and Wi-Fi. Matter does not go through the cloud. Yes, your smart home will still work if your internet goes down. Exciting, right? Your smart home devices will need to communicate with the internet for out-of-home control, firmware, and security upgrades, which will happen directly or through a Matter controller device (i.e., a smartphone, a smart speaker, or a bridge). This availability of local control is a significant step in the smart home industry because a big concern for people when considering installing smart home devices is the maintenance of their privacy.
Okay, I won’t blame you if you found that a bit technical. I agree. To simplify, I will list how Matter will make your life easier in these three ways.
The Matter Smart Home Standard will let your devices work locally without the cloud
As I had mentioned earlier, this is a significant step in maintaining privacy. Apart from that, your devices will also have a much longer lifespan.
Setting up devices is streamlined
- First, scan the Matter QR code with your smartphone.
- After that, use Bluetooth to connect the device or commission it.
That’s it. Easy, right?!? Matter streamlines the process for everyone. Technically, you won’t need a bunch of smart home apps. You will just need one
If you are at a store and see a device that works with Matter, you will know it will work with your system. A Matter home can incorporate any smart home device that is Matter certified. (The Matter logo on a product will indicate that it’s compatible)
You might wonder, ‘Will this make your previous smart home devices obsolete?’
No, all you have to do is upgrade your device. Many companies are already pushing to provide firmware updates to their existing devices to support Matter and adopt the Matter Smart Home Standard. Take Philips Hue, for example.
You might think none of this matters, but you will soon understand that in a matter of time that this is a matter of life or death if you don’t take this matter seriously. Okay, don’t worry if that didn’t make sense. I just wanted to make a pun.
How Do Devices Work in a Matter Smart Home?
A Matter Smart Home will need a Wi-Fi access point and a Matter controller. The Matter controller can be a smartphone or tablet. It can also be a Thread border router that works with your preferred smart home ecosystem. Your preferred smart home ecosystem can be an Amazon Echo speaker, an Apple HomePod Mini, a Google Nest Hub, or a Samsung SmartThings hub.
You will also be able to set up any Matter device with your controller app. All this means that when you buy a new product — such as a lightbulb or door lock — if it has a Matter logo, you won’t need to worry about what it works with; it will just work. It’s that easy.
How Will Companies Differentiate Themselves?
Before Matter came to be, compatibility was a huge device selling point. You would most probably buy a smart home device within a singular ecosystem. For example, if you are someone who possesses smart home devices that belong to the Samsung ecosystem, then the next smart device you buy would also most probably be a part of the Samsung ecosystem because those devices work best when connected with other Samsung devices.
With Matter, that reason should go away. If all devices talk to each other, you’re no longer locked into any particular ecosystem because your preferred smart home device will not be confined to one company alone. Companies will need to innovate on top of the standard to create reasons for you to choose their devices over the competition.
While this would seem to counter Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, etc., regarding selling more devices, it also makes it easier for each company to innovate and move forward with their vision of the smart home.
So now you can buy a smart washing machine that has an excellent design not because it works with Alexa or syncs with your refrigerator but because you like it. Because with Matter, your desired smart device would be compatible with other devices incorporating Matter. Thus you will be provided with wider choices. Today, you may be limited to devices that work with the platform you have set up. But with Matter, all those restrictions will go away. A future where all your smart devices communicate with each other to help your home run more efficiently, intelligently, and seamlessly will finally materialize.
What Platforms Support Matter Smart Home Standard?
Here’s a question for you. Which companies do you think are the biggest smart home manufacturers out there? Let me try to read your mind.
You just thought of Apple, didn’t you? Who else? Amazon? Google? Samsung? Did I nail it? Yes. These four companies are the biggest smart home device manufacturers. We shall address them as the Big Four henceforth.
Well, guess what? Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, and Samsung SmartThings, have all committed to supporting Matter. What does this mean? You can use their apps, smart speakers, smart displays, and smart voice assistants as Matter controllers to manage your connected devices.
That doesn’t mean that these companies alone work with Matter. Many other smart devices comply and are compatible with Matter as well. As long as devices and platforms are Matter-enabled, you can connect them to as many platforms as you want. So, you can control the new Amazon Thermostat with Google’s Nest or Apple’s Siri. What’s better? You can even use both voice assistants simultaneously if you like.
Amazon has committed to upgrading its fourth-generation Echo smart speaker to Thread and act as a border router. Other Amazon devices that already have Thread will be upgraded and thus can support the Matter Smart Home Standard.
Plus, Amazon’s frustration-free setup heavily depends on the Matter Smart Home Standard.
The Echos that have other standard-based wireless technology like Zigbee, i.e., the Echo Studio, Echo Show 10, and Echo Plus — have the same radio as the Echo fourth-gen, so they have potentially upgradeable Thread border routers and thus, will support Matter. The company has also said it will work with developers to help them develop products and skills for the Alexa smart home that integrates easily with Matter.
Google has committed to updating all its Nest smart speakers and displays to Matter. Google has stated that its newer products with Thread built-in will also serve as border routers.
Google has also said it would back developers who make products for its platform to integrate those with Matter Smart Home Standard via a Google Home Device SDK for Matter. Google also plans to update its mobile devices and Nest devices with Matter support to control Matter devices and allow for Matter’s streamlined device set-up process.
Apple has also contributed its HomeKit to the Matter Smart Home Standard. While they haven’t posted anything specific regarding the same, they did mention that they support Matter which is a guarantee in itself, right? Believe in the power of manifestation, people. Also, Apple’s HomePod Mini and Apple TV 4K have Thread radios. Thus they can work as Thread border routers and will get Matter support.
Apple has committed to supporting Matter on the Home app and through Siri on Apple devices. The company has also mentioned that all existing HomeKit APIs will automatically work with Matter-enabled accessories.
Samsung has said it will upgrade all existing SmartThings hubs to support the Matter Smart Home Standard and enable Matter as a controller for its smartphones, smart TVs, and other smart appliances. This means that Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerators can now be connected to Amazon’s Alexa. Samsung has yet to confirm if this will be over Thread or Wi-Fi.
The big four smart home manufacturers aren’t the only ones promoting Matter. Almost 250 companies are members of the Connectivity Standard Alliance’s Matter working group, and many of those have already committed to supporting Matter in existing and forthcoming products. If you want to look at the list of companies promoting Matter at the moment, click this link.
Does Any Of This Really Matter?
Okay, in the hopes that you guys read the whole article, I am going to ask you something. Was there anything negative in regards to Matter and the Matter Smart Home Standard? By the way, No. This is not a sponsored article. Many believe that Matter is the saving grace, and once we set up Matter, we will get the best smart home experience ever. You can search it up if you don’t believe me. Most people are genuinely looking forward to it.
I mean, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Samsung— four of the biggest consumer tech companies worldwide, are cooperating with each other. And if anything, despite being giant tech magnets, these companies are also known for being petty competitors. Don’t you guys remember the whole Amazon, Google drama that happened a while ago? Google withdrew YouTube from Amazon Fire TV. Why? Because Amazon didn’t sell Google Nest devices via their platform. It was a funnily silly feud that lasted quite a while.
Right now, companies, apart from the big four, are aligned on following one protocol. It’s a miracle. Matter made an unprecedented industry coalition possible, thus making it the most promising development in the smart home since Alexa arrived on the scene.
Many believe that Matter is the solution to smart home devices, and here’s hoping that’s true because we certainly don’t need an extra standard that proves to be useless in the end.
What do you think of Matter Smart Home Standard? Would you buy a smart home device now? Tell us in the comments below!