What is the new Matter standard for smart home technology?

Setting up and pairing smart home technology has always been a bit restrictive. When you find yourself using devices from different ecosystems, there’s a good chance that what you thought would make things easier is actually making it harder. Matter wants to change that. This guide explains what Matter is and why it is so important to the smart home user.

In its current state, building a smart home with devices that connect to each other can be a bit difficult. It’s best to stick to an ecosystem that follows a single standard, like Google Home, Apple Homekit, or Samsung SmartThings.

If you follow this guideline, there’s a good chance your lightbulbs, switches, smart blinds, and other devices will talk to each other and work the way you want them to, as long as they’re made by the same company.

The shortcomings of current smart home products only really become apparent when you start buying products from different manufacturers, even if both work with Google Home or Apple HomeKit. You’ll find that devices can work in some ways, but often don’t play well with each other. For example, some brands are exclusive to an ecosystem. Eve, for example, has only ever supported HomeKit, meaning customers with Android phones won’t be able to use or control those devices.

What’s happening?

The aim of the Connectivity Standard Alliance with Matter is to connect these smart home products – whether they are made by different manufacturers or only work with certain standards – and to develop a bridge between them and connect them through a simplified standard connect that is easy to understand for any device.

Matter was officially launched about a month ago by an initiative by Google and other smart home manufacturers to bridge this gap between devices and ecosystems that don’t necessarily play well together. This allows more companies to produce technology without being certified to a dozen different standards. Rather, anyone can focus on one or two and know their products would work with hundreds of others.

Currently, Matter has pledged upcoming support for around 200 different products, including some by Philips Hue and Google. The first devices are the Google Nest range, including the Nest WiFi Proacting as a thread border router.

What is Matter Smart Home?

How Matter Works

Bringing hundreds of products together and connecting them in a way that forces them to play nice isn’t easy, but the idea can be simplified to a basic process.

Essentially, Matter is something of a middleman. Every action that a device performs goes through matter. From there, it can be controlled quickly and relatively quickly by other devices. There are two ways to do this. The first is the traditional Wi-Fi connection, which sends a signal to other devices over a local Wi-Fi network. The second way is something called “Thread”, which is a fast network protocol that works in conjunction with your Wi-Fi network.

What is the “thread” log?

Thread is a common feature of mesh networks as the two go hand in hand. This allows Thread devices to always have a solid connection, as multiple devices can emit a low-power signal, maintaining a consistently strong connection. You can think of the thread log as another lane on your local network, with certain devices choosing to take that route with less traffic and higher speed limits.

Smart home technologies that rely on battery power, such as Devices such as sensors are fantastic candidates for the thread protocol as they don’t require a lot of power and are easier to maintain. In reality, most devices would work better with Thread over Wi-Fi, although more companies would need to include it in their products.

Of course, in order to use Thread-enabled devices, you need a Thread border router, which is a device that can plug those devices into your internet connection. Currently, the Google Nest Hub Max, Nest Hub (2nd gen), and Nest WiFi Pro all operate as thread-border routers, meaning you can start building your Matter empire now.

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Are Matter devices easy to set up?

Although the standard has only been officially alive for a short time, companies like Google are already supporting it. This already primes Android with a quick Matter integration and setup, bringing Fast Pair into the smart home, much like it would be used to pair earbuds or a smartwatch.

This essentially means that devices that support Matter are extremely easy to get up and running with Android. Here are the general steps you need to take with most Matter devices:

  1. Put the device in pairing mode and wait for the Fast Pair prompt for your new device to appear.
  2. Scan the QR code.
  3. Choose your preferred controller app.
    • Note: This is either Google Home, Samsung SmartThings or another app.
  4. Connect your Google account.
  5. Choose the device location and give it a name.

Of course, we haven’t had a chance to actually try this out yet, although we anticipate the actual process not being far off. As complicated as some smart home products can be to set up, we expect Matter will bring a bit of relief when installing new lightbulbs or whatever else you have.

Is Matter actually already being used?

As mentioned, Matter is a product of most smart home technology manufacturers and companies. Supporting this new standard means products will be compatible with more households and much easier to use, making it a win-win for everyone. This breaks the barrier for many people as they don’t just have to stick to one standard like Google Home or HomeKit.

The current list is large and consists of over 15 different companies with certified products. In addition, more companies have announced upcoming support of the Matter standard. Of course, this is only the first step, because no smart home products exist outside of smart home products Eve’s lineups use Matter for now. We assume that this will change relatively soon.

What types of devices does Matter support?

Matter currently has a plan to support a few select device categories. This is the current group that will be compatible with the standard:

  • bridges
  • controller
  • window coverings
  • door locks
  • HVAC controls and sensors

One obvious exclusion is cameras. A little more work needs to be done due to the security concerns behind controlling security cameras. In addition, almost every other category is covered.

The sudden wave of matter integration is surprising, although more than welcome. As major companies integrate the Matter standard into existing and new devices, we really hope that smart home technology becomes more accessible and easy to use for everyone, no matter what devices you use.

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John Walker

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