The smart home standard Matter creates a cross-manufacturer basis for networked devices in the home. The first version (Matter 1.0) was adopted in October 2022 and has since been updated twice with enhancements and improvements. The current release is numbered Matter 1.2. To support the standard, manufacturers must update existing devices or bring new product versions onto the market. This is why the rollout is taking place in stages. matter-smarthome.de has set itself the task of summarizing and analyzing the developments. As an independent source of information, we answer the most frequently asked questions (FAQs), provide the latest news and give a product overview of the Matter standard.
FAQs on the standard:
What exactly is Matter?
Matter is a manufacturer-independent connection standard for the smart home. Its goal is to simplify and improve the communication of devices. Matter (link) is intended to put an end to the tiresome search for compatible smart home products. Regardless of their origin, lamps, thermostats, plug adapters, sensors and other components can be combined with each other at will – as long as they comply with the Matter standard.
What is Matter not?
The standard is not a panacea that will fulfill all wishes in the smart home and completely standardize the range of products on the market. It can facilitate product selection because one and the same device works in several systems. For example, a smart plug that listens to Amazon Alexa will also harmonize with Apple Home, Google Home, SmartThings or another compatible solution. However, the differences between these systems will remain.
Matter specifies a basic set of features that all vendors of certified Matter products must support. However, manufacturers are free to go beyond these requirements. With their apps and control centers, they can implement functions of their own and thus differentiate themselves from the competition.
What defines the standard?
Matter’s standardization is based on various levels. First of all, it is a connection protocol that regulates how devices communicate with each other. It is a kind of language that ensures communication – across manufacturer boundaries.
Basic control must take place locally, which means without involving the Internet. However, manufacturers’ cloud services are still permitted, and in some cases even necessary, for example to operate devices on the move via an app.
Each Matter device comes with an individual setup code consisting of eleven digits. It is usually enclosed with the product in paper form or can be affixed as a label. The most common form is as a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone camera.
During installation, the device establishes an encrypted connection to the network using its set-up code. Later communication is also encrypted, a key security feature of the standard. The Matter inventors have gone to great lengths to make hacking devices more difficult, if not completely impossible.
Who supports Matter?
Matter goes back to a joint initiative of Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Google, SmartThings and the then called Zigbee Alliance. The founding members launched a project called Connected Home over IP, later also known by the acronym CHIP, at the end of 2019. Other companies joined and the working group now has over 300 members. Thousands of engineers and software developers are working on the standard worldwide. One result of this collaboration is the software code, which is open source and freely accessible to everyone (link).
In May 2021, first specifications were set – along with a new name. Since then, the CHIP project has been called Matter. In parallel, the Zigbee Alliance has renamed itself the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA, link). As an umbrella organization, it manages not only the Zigbee standard in its various manifestations, but also the Matter project. The CSA is also responsible for product certification. Before devices are allowed to carry an official Matter logo, they must have passed tests at authorized testing institutes.
What technology does Matter use?
Communication between devices in Matter is based on the Internet Protocol (IP). Consequently, the transmission protocols provided are also IP-based. Devices that are to comply with Matter use at least one of the following three options:
Ethernet / LAN (IEEE 802.3)
WiFi / WLAN (IEEE 802.11)
Thread (IEEE 802.15.4)
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is also included as a fourth standard. Thanks to Bluetooth, a smartphone or tablet can establish the first wireless contact with a Matter device during installation. Then, it transmits the access data for the Wi-Fi via Bluetooth to the device so that it can log into the home network. This also works with Border Routers for a Thread network.
What product categories are available in Matter?
The first version of the Matter standard, published in October 2022, supported a selection of device categories:
Light (lamps and switches)
Electricity (sockets and switches)
Heating/HVAC (thermostats and controllers)
Blinds (shades, shutters)
Sensors (motion and contact)
Door locks (smart locks)
Media player (for streaming)
Bridges (for Zigbee, Z-Wave etc.)
Nine more were added with version 1.2 in October 2023: Refrigerators, Dishwashers, Laundry Washers, Air Purifiers, Room Air Conditioners, Robot Vacuum Cleaner, Fans, Air Quality Sensors, and Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm. Others are in the works, according to the CSA (link), though there is no information yet on when they will be released. Among the planned solutions are: cameras, e-car charging, energy and water management, home routers and access points, TVs.
On top of that, there are so-called controllers. A Matter Controller has the task of installing new devices and controlling the smart home that has been set up. The feature can be integrated into a wireless hub like the SmartThings Hub, but also into smart speakers (Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod) or smart displays like the Google Nest Hub (2nd gen.). An app from the manufacturer in question is provided for operation.
Do I need new equipment for Matter?
That depends. Some of the existing products may receive software updates to make them compatible with the Matter specifications. This applies, for example, to solutions with their own wireless bridge such as Philips Hue or the smart home hubs from Aqara or SmartThings. In this case, only the central unit has to be made compatible. The devices connected to it can continue to use their own radio standards, such as Zigbee or Z-Wave.
Products that communicate with the smart home without an intermediary – for example, via WLAN or Thread – require an update themselves. Whether this is technically possible and offered by the manufacturer depends on the individual case. Among other things, there has to be enough flash memory and processing power on the device to perform the update (see Eve).
In principle, Matter needs an IP transport layer to run on. Wireless protocols like Z-Wave or Zigbee do not support IP transport of data packets and will therefore not be able to support the standard themselves.
What is a certified Matter product?
The software code of Matter is available to all developers free of charge. As an open-source project, the files are published on the online portal GitHub (link). Meaning: Anyone can develop devices with it. However, in this case, there is also no guarantee that everything will be implemented in conformity with the standard. Only certified Matter products, which have undergone a series of tests at official bodies, offer this level of certainty.
Also, certain security features of the standard, such as the Distributed Compliance Ledger (DCL), are only available with certified products.
Which Matter products are already available?
The first official end devices came onto the market in spring 2023. Due to some delays, the Matter standard was not ready until October 2022. The market launch of some manufacturers is therefore postponed. An overview of the planned and already available hardware and software is provided by the
Overview of Matter compatible devices
How do I operate Matter devices?
Using a control system that supports Matter. So far, there are four major smart home ecosystems that have integrated the standard into their apps and products:
Apple Home (HomeKit)
Google Home and
SmartThings by Samsung
There will also be other solutions that serve as Matter controllers – including those from independent programmers or open-source projects. One example is Home Assistant, which has integrated the standard with software version 2022.11.
What is the Multi-Admin mode?
One advantage of Matter over previous solutions such as Apple HomeKit or Samsung’s SmartThings is that lights, switches, sensors and other products can be accessed via multiple systems in parallel. They are no longer exclusively bound to one control system.
For example, devices added to Apple Home with an iPhone can also be operated by family members using the Google Home app on their Android smartphone. Every Matter-enabled smart home ecosystem has a pairing mode for this purpose.
In this procedure, the installed device – which can be reached from the first platform – is put into a temporary connection state via app. The smartphone in operation displays an individual QR or numerical code that can be used for installation in the new system. After that, both platforms have equal access to the device. The process can be repeated with other Matter control systems.
What is the Distributed Compliance Ledger (DCL)?
Matter uses so-called blockchain technology to protect products from manipulation. From manufacturing and certification to subsequent firmware updates, changes to the device software are stored in a digital, decentralized online directory.
This Distributed Compliance Ledger (DCL) is a network of Internet servers that communicate with each other in encrypted form and can be queried by Matter controllers. Read more in the article about Matter’s security features.
What is a Matter Fabric?
Devices added to a Matter smart home form a common fabric. In the same fabric, they trust each other and can communicate with each other in encrypted form. A controller, such as the smartphone, decides which fabric they join during installation. In doing so, each smart home ecosystem at home creates its own fabric. For a detailed explanation, see the background article on Matter fabrics.
What is a Matter Bridge?
The Matter standard so far provides for three network technologies for connecting devices: Ethernet, WLAN and Thread. However, manufacturers who use a different method can still make their devices accessible for Matter systems – with a bridge. It translates the signals of the foreign connection standard into the IP language of Matter.
The bridge functionality can be built into a central unit (hub) or be located in other devices of the manufacturer. On one side, it communicates with Matter systems via Ethernet (LAN) or Wi-Fi (WLAN) and, on the other hand, establishes a connection to the manufacturer’s technology. Typical are, for example, bridges for the radio protocol Zigbee or the professional lighting control DALI. For more information, see the background article on Matter Bridges.
Will Matter replace other smart home systems?
No, because Matter itself is not a smart home system. Although the technology connects devices in the home, it has little or nothing to do with their automation and control. Such tasks still require a higher-level system that is compatible with Matter.
This is essentially where the rules and links come from (exception: Matter Bindings). It provides user interfaces or voice control. In principle, it does everything that Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, SmartThings, and others have done in the past, but each separately and without a common connection standard.
What does Matter mean for manufacturers?
Development for smart home ecosystems such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Home or SmartThings becomes easier. Instead of having to adapt each product individually to the systems, Matter is sufficient to ensure extensive compatibility.
However, the standard does not exempt companies from doing additional work for system-specific extras. Anyone who wants to print a label such as “Works with Alexa” or “Works with Apple Home” on the packaging in addition to the Matter logo must meet the requirements of the respective developer program.
Standardization of the Matter platform may also make typical smart home products such as sensors, adapter plugs, light bulbs, door locks or thermostats more interchangeable for consumers. If there is no reason to go for a higher-quality device, the cheapest one may get the nod.
A division of the market into two parts is conceivable: on the one hand, the inexpensive basic Matter range. And on the other side, high-quality products with special features, special processing quality or exclusive materials, which buyers will then also pay more for. Manufacturers who want to survive in the market must define themselves more strongly than before by the added value that their product delivers compared to the masses.
Will this catch on?
No one can say at this point. However, the chances are good. The argument in favor of Matter is the market power of the companies involved, which have come together despite all the competition. An initiative of this size and with such influence has probably never existed before. Developers also benefit from the uniform approach.
Since the specifications are open and there are no license fees on sold devices (only certification costs the manufacturer money), this could lead to a boom in new devices and exciting applications. At least that’s what the companies involved hope. Just how great the expectations are is shown not least by the fact that companies from the professional building technology sector are also intensively involved with Matter.
Last updated October 23, 2023, 14:30 h CET
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