When it comes to buying smart home products, it's not always cut and dry. Support for certain items can often be limited to one ecosystem, meaning you can't just pick up a smart appliance and trust that it'll just work with whatever you're using. But that's changing, thanks to Matter. Formerly dubbed Project CHIP, Matter changes things in a way that will make it easier than ever to establish the ultimate smart home.
But what exactly is Matter? Also, what is Thread, and how does that fit into everything? Do current devices work with the new standard, or will we have to buy entirely new products? We'll answer all of these questions and more.
What is Matter?
Matter generally refers to the new smart home connectivity standard created by a working group of over 200 companies and founded by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), formerly Zigbee Alliance. It uses Internet Protocol (IP) such as Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, and Thread to make smart home products compatible with each other using a single standard instead of the many disparate standards that exist today.
The Matter Working Group is also taking an open-source approach to developing the SDK, which enables companies to bring products to the market faster.
This makes it easier for companies and developers to build smart home appliances and Internet of Things (IoT) devices that seamlessly work together, regardless of the brand. That means Matter-certified products can work with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit products, Samsung SmartThings, and much more. This should also simplify the buying process for retailers and consumers, who can know that even the best smart home products will support their ecosystem.
What is Thread?
Thread is a wireless mesh protocol similar to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that enables seamless communication between devices. It is based on IPv6 and uses an edge router, or "border router," to connect that network to other networks like Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and the cloud. Thread serves as the connection between the devices, while Matter is the language that these devices will use to communicate and sits on top of Thread as an application layer.
The group responsible for the protocol boast that Thread networks have "no single point of failure and include the ability to self-heal." This is because all the devices on the network can communicate with each other as opposed to having one centralized controller like other protocols. That means that if the Leader router fails, another router will take its place in the network.
Devices using Thread are simple to set up, and most are automatically configured. Thread also supports full end-to-end encryption between all devices; that means device-to-device, device-to-mobile and remote devices, and device to any cloud service.
What companies are involved?
There are more than 200 companies involved in the Matter Working Group, meaning there will be plenty of products that are gaining support for the new standard. Some of the biggest names in the smart home industry are involved, including Google, Amazon, Samsung, and even Apple.
Some of the biggest names involved in Matter include:
It's important to note that not every product updated to support Matter will include Thread support, which may be an important distinction.
When will Matter-certified devices be available?
After a number of setbacks and delays, the Matter 1.0 spec was finally launched in late 2022. This was important because it meant that products could finally be certified for the standard.
Following the announcement, many companies began updating their devices to support Matter. Google updates its Nest devices with Matter and Fast Pair support for quick setup of Matter products. Samsung followed suit by updating its SmartThings ecosystem and launching its own Fast Pair equivalent.
Amazon has also launched Matter support on its family of Echo devices as part of a phased rollout.
In addition, many smart home accessory makers have updated current products and launched new Matter-compatible devices. Companies like Nanoleaf, Govee, TP-Link, and more unveiled new Matter-compatible devices at CES 2023, setting the stage for Matter to make a big splash in 2023.
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Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.