The Importance of 'Matter': The New Open Standard for Smart Home Devices

Cupertino, September 12, 2023

My entire house is "smart" - I can control the lights, watering of plants, activation of humidifiers and air conditioners, and even the music I listen to when I go to sleep through remote control. As an 80s kid, it's incredibly satisfying to be able to give commands and see things happen magically. However, there's a problem - all these devices use different standards. This means that you end up with multiple hubs, numerous apps, and devices that can be difficult to set up.

That's where Matter comes in. Matter is a new technology standard for smart home devices that aims to change this fragmented landscape. Why is this important? Well, no single company can cover all your smart home needs. My lamps are from Philips, my plugs are from Meross, my irrigation system is from Hunter, and my air conditioners are from Midea. These products often require separate hubs and apps for control, and they use different connectivity standards like Zigbee, Z-wave, Ha-low, among others.

While you can add these products to a home control hub like SmartThings, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, or Alexa, it still means having random apps on your phone and additional hardware in your house. Plus, when the power goes out, things can get chaotic with notifications. Furthermore, buying devices that are compatible with your home control hub can be a challenge.

In a future with the Matter standard, there will be no need for separate hubs and apps. Instead, there will be one universally accepted standard that everyone can use. This means you can choose whatever home control hub you prefer, whether it's from Apple or Google. You'll be able to merge all your devices into one control hub, eliminating the need for multiple apps and hardware.

One of the major advantages of Matter is that these devices can work even if your internet goes down because they operate on your local network. This solves the problem of relying solely on smart features without manual control when there's an internet outage.

Matter has been released as version 1.0, with support and features expected to expand gradually. The initial release included basic devices and commands for lights, switches, etc. Version 1.1 fixed bugs and improved developer accessibility, but didn't introduce new devices. However, the roadmap for Matter covers a wide range of appliances, including vacuum robots, washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators.

The best part is that almost all major players in the smart home industry have agreed to adopt this standard, making it universally accepted. The only notable exception is Ring. Achieving compatibility with security equipment makers may be a journey, but most of them are committed to Matter.

As for existing devices, some will receive software updates over Wi-Fi to comply with the new Matter standard. Hubs will be updated instead of individual devices, so the devices will work with Matter, but you won't be able to get rid of the extra hub. Zigbee devices may also receive updates. The rest of the devices will continue to work with their existing systems.

When purchasing new devices, it's important to ensure they have built-in Matter support. For existing devices, check if they can receive a Matter update. As devices age, replace them with Matter-compatible ones. Eventually, your entire system will consist of Matter devices working harmoniously together.

In conclusion, Matter brings the promise of a streamlined and standardized smart home experience. With Matter, you can simplify your home control setup, eliminate extra hubs and apps, and ensure compatibility with future devices. Just make sure to choose Matter-compatible devices and check for updates for your existing ones.

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