What is Matter and why is it important for your smart home? – Pocket-lint.com
(Pocket-lint) – If you’ve ever wondered why certain smart home devices work with some but not other counterparts, you’ll want to know about Matter – the latest wireless interoperability standard threatening to shake up the industry.
In the works since 2019, with companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung and Zigbee at the heart, the artist formerly known as ‘Project CHIP’ has now been transformed into a shiny, formalised brand – Matter.
The aim of Matter is still the same, but everything is now set to become much more official. The big names behind the protocol will soon be throwing their products into the newly-unified state, and that inevitably has a knock-on effect for consumers.
And, as ever, the ever-changing inner workings of the smart home can be complicated to unpack.
That’s why we’ve created this explainer, where we’ll be answering exactly what Matter is, what companies are actually doing about it and why it all … matters.
So, with that obligatory matter-related quip out of the way, let’s jump in.
What is Matter?
As we’ve already kind of alluded to, Matter is a new smart home interoperability protocol launched as a joint effort by a handful of the industry’s biggest players. Over 170 companies are involved, with Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Google and the Zigbee Alliance being the most prominent names.
So, why did they do it – what’s the point? Well, the smart home in its current form is a little messy.
Customers need to make sure dedicated hubs can link up with the right peripheral devices, and also make decisions over which devices work for their home based on which assistant and ecosystem they’re already embedded in.
It’s the equivalent of not being able to shift between a games console to play the same game, or being trapped into a music streaming platform because of your built-up library.
The smart home is a friendlier battlefield than those areas, though, which is why these companies have decided to make the whole system easier for both manufacturers and consumers.
The goal of Matter, then, is to be an interoperability protocol with standard data models that ensure smart home devices can work across different ecosystems. So, an Amazon Echo Show display should hypothetically be able to work as seamlessly with a Google Nest doorbell as it does with its own Ring offerings, for example.
What will happen to Zigbee, Z-Wave and Thread?
If you’ve never realised it before, your existing smart home devices are all connected via the current dominating forces – Zigbee and Z-Wave. This pair, along with plenty of other, smaller radio protocols, as well as Bluetooth, won’t just suddenly stop connecting your devices now that Matter is emerging.
However, given Zigbee Alliance’s role in Matter’s creation – and, by proxy, the Zigbee wireless standard – it’s very likely it continues to develop alongside, create a pathway to Matter and perhaps even merge at some stage.
Z-Wave’s future is more interesting to observe. And while it may not appear to be an active participant in Matter, it’s still involved to some degree.
“It’s incorrect to think that Z-Wave is sitting on the other side of [Matter], we’re not,” Mitch Klein, the Executive Director at Z-Wave Alliance and Director of Strategic Partnerships, Silicon Labs, recently told The Ambient.