What is Matter and why it is revolutionizing the world of smart home and home automation

What is Matter and why it is revolutionizing the world of smart home and home automation

Born with the aim of simplifying and improving the daily lives of household residents, Matter promises to revolutionize the world of smart homes and home automation by developing the idea of a unified ecosystem that ensures interoperability among all devices, enhancing intuitiveness, usability, and security.

Matter is indeed one of the hottest terms of the moment and can be defined as the standard for smart homes resulting from the alliance among major tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Google, Amazon, LG, and others. Its growing importance has been recently highlighted by the Internet of Things Observatory of the Polytechnic University of Milan, which a few weeks ago presented the report on the Smart Home market in Italy and abroad and the main technological prospects.

Antonio Capone, Scientific Director of the Internet of Things Observatory, underscores, "In recent months, the Matter protocol has undergone substantial updates and innovations through two successive releases in 2023, in May and October. With the latest version, the ecosystem incorporates a wide range of products, from smart speakers and thermostats to smart locks, and even large and small appliances. While the standard continues to evolve, however, applications and initial integration experiences by companies have not been without difficulties, and there is still much work to be done in this area."

Before discussing Matter's evolutions and its central role in today's and tomorrow's Smart Homes and home automation, let's take a step back and review its history, operation, and importance in the industry landscape.

What is Matter: origin and objectives

Born in 2019 and previously known as Project CHIP (Connected Home over IP), Matter is an open and interoperable standard for communication between Internet of Things (IoT) devices. It is managed by CSA (Connectivity Standards Alliance), formerly known as the Zigbee Alliance, a consortium of leading tech companies aiming to create a unified ecosystem for smart home devices, making it easier for consumers to install and use IoT devices in their homes, eliminating the confusion caused by the multitude of protocols and standards currently in use.

Officially launched at the end of 2022, Matter aims to ensure that devices from different manufacturers can communicate with each other smoothly and securely, regardless of the brand or type of device. Given the widespread involvement and support from the world's leading tech companies, Matter will therefore ensure complete interoperability among all devices, applications, and platforms.

It is also important to note that Matter does not replace existing platforms but rather constitutes a shared system among device and platform providers to ensure reliable communication between different devices. Accessible globally, it is an open-source protocol based on existing protocols: Thread for low-power and low-bandwidth devices like sensors or light bulbs, and Wi-Fi or Ethernet for devices with higher bandwidth needs such as cameras or media players.

Matter's targets: interoperability and reduced dependence on constant Internet connection

In particular, Matter aims to address the two main challenges associated with the spread of home automation and smart devices: interoperability among devices from different manufacturers and dependence on a constant Internet connection.

Regarding interoperability, if a consumer buys a light bulb designed to work with Amazon Alexa but uses Apple HomeKit instead, they are likely unable to fully utilize the product's smart features. Matter resolves this issue by using an open, royalty-free standard that is widely adopted.

And what about connectivity to the network? If IoT devices rely entirely on an Internet connection and the cloud to operate, any connectivity issues (such as slow or absent connection) can inevitably compromise their operation. With Matter, however, devices do not require a constant Internet connection to operate or communicate with each other: although cloud connectivity is still necessary for remote control and service management when away from home, the dependency on it is thus minimized. This feature not only improves the efficiency and timeliness of device actions but also increases the overall security of the system.

How does Matter work?

Matter is not a physical device but a language used by smart objects in the Smart Home. Its architecture is based on a standardized IP protocol and existing wireless network technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and Thread.

Here's how Matter works, explained simply:

  • IP protocol based on open standards: Matter uses the Internet Protocol (IP), an open and widely used standard for data communication over Internet networks. This allows Matter devices to communicate with each other and with other devices on the same network, regardless of the manufacturer or type of device.
  • Wireless network technologies: Matter supports various wireless network technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and Thread. This enables Matter devices to connect to the local network using the technology most suitable for their needs and the specifics of the home environment.
  • Standardization of services and functionalities: Matter defines a set of common services and functionalities that devices must support to ensure interoperability. These include services for remote control, energy management, security, and much more. In this way, Matter devices can work together harmoniously and seamlessly integrated.
  • Compliance certification: Before being marketed as Matter devices, manufacturers must undergo a complex path to obtain compliance certification, ensuring that their products meet the standards and specifications defined by Matter. This exclusivity ensures end users that the devices they purchase will function correctly and be compatible with other Matter devices.
  • Integration with control platforms: Matter is designed to work with various control platforms, including voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. This means that users can control their Matter devices using voice commands or the respective platform apps.

These features make Matter a comprehensive and versatile solution for smart homes, providing users with a seamless experience and ensuring that their devices work together as intended.

Matter's role in the smart home ecosystem

In addition to promoting interoperability and reducing dependence on the cloud, Matter plays a crucial role in the evolution of the smart home ecosystem by providing a secure and scalable solution for integrating a wide range of devices.

As a standard developed by leading technology companies, Matter ensures that devices from different manufacturers can communicate seamlessly, enhancing the user experience and making it easier to set up and manage smart home systems. This standardization also encourages innovation among device manufacturers, as they can focus on creating new features and functionalities without worrying about compatibility issues.

Furthermore, Matter's support for various wireless technologies allows devices to operate efficiently in different environments, whether it's a small apartment or a large house. This flexibility ensures that users can choose the devices that best suit their needs without compromising on performance or compatibility.

In conclusion, Matter represents a significant step forward in the evolution of smart homes and home automation, providing a unified standard that enhances interoperability, reduces dependence on the cloud, and promotes innovation among device manufacturers. With the support of leading technology companies and ongoing development efforts, Matter is poised to transform the way we interact with smart devices and create seamless smart home experiences for consumers worldwide.

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