What you need to know about Matter, the future of smart homes

We’ve all done it: found a great piece of smart home technology and purchased it without reading whether it’s compatible with the rest of our smart home ecosystems. The chances are, it’s not, or you’ll need to download another app and connect it through a third-party tool to have a chance of it working.

Simply put, the smart home space is unnecessarily complex and anti-consumer – but a new standard hopes to change things. Matter, which was previously codenamed CHIP (Project Connected Home over IP), has the backing of all of the major players – including Apple, Amazon, and Google – and is designed to increase interoperability between smart home devices across platforms.

Should the practice come into effect, popular devices from big-name brands would work the same with your Apple hardware as it would Android devices, and vice-versa. Matter hopes to break down some of the barriers put in place by smart home manufacturers and make life easier for everyone.

Matter will use existing networking technologies to unify smart home platforms. All devices that are Matter-certified will use the same Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE, and Thread technologies to connect to your network, and as these technologies advance, Matter will incorporate new standards and change the way it connects devices to platforms. Manufacturers who adopt Matter from day one will also benefit – their products will be immediately compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant, without them needing to support different protocols and keep on top of each. The idea is that the Matter logo will give users the confidence that, whichever ecosystem you’re using, you’ll be able to use the products. For instance, a Ring doorbell sold by Amazon will work with the Home app and allow users to access its controls via Siri, which is a truly exciting development and could further open up the Apple HomeKit ecosystem, which up until now has been lagging behind Amazon’s and Google’s. It’s also thought that technologies like Apple’s AirPlay 2 or Google Cast will form part of Matter, making it easier than ever to stream content on different devices, whether you’re at the office, in a hotel room, or watching a movie with your friends from a projector.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Matter is that it’s still not ready. The project has faced delays due to COVID-19, and it’s now thought that the scheme will launch this fall, but there’s no guarantee it will be available before the end of the year. When it does, we’ll likely see a number of smart home devices on our shelves across categories such as lighting, HVAC, and security – some brands are reportedly holding back new releases so that they can be the first Matter-approved devices. Another common question is whether Matter will work with older smart home devices – and the truth is, it depends. Because Matter works with technology standards such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE, it’s possible that manufacturers can push out a firmware update to push out support for Matter, and some brands such as Philips Hue, Yale, and Google’s Nest say that they’re planning to add Matter support to their existing devices. However, it’s also possible that some device makers will withhold Matter support from their old devices to encourage consumers to purchase the latest models – it will likely be a mix of the two depending on the type of device manufacturer.

Matter will also integrate with Thread, which is a mesh networking protocol used in some new smart home accessories to offer more streamlined communication and offer faster response times. Apple’s HomePod mini, for example, uses Thread, and although Matter will build upon it, it’s not essential for Matter certification, so there might be some brands and devices that do not support Thread as standard. However, as consumers increasingly look for speedy, responsive technology, the chances are that most companies will want to use it.

Are you looking forward to Matter? Let us know and check back soon for more.

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