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‘Matter’: What Is It?

 

Here we look at what Matter 1.0 is, its advantages for the IoT and setting up a smart home (or office), and what its current limitations are.

What Is Matter?

 

Released recently this October, Matter 1.0 is the new open standard that resolves interoperability and connectivity issues between all the IoT devices in smart homes. This new single software standard and certification will mean that different IoT gadgets and devices from other manufacturers will be compatible and able to link together to create an intelligent home if they are Matter certified, communicating with a common standard. Up until now, for example, consumers trying to make a fully connected ‘smart home’ (e.g. where the lighting, locks, heating, music, and home devices can all be voice-operated from a digital assistant) have faced compatibility issues, complications, and difficulties in setting up and managing lots of smaller micro-ecosystems. 

 

Who?

 

The new Matter 1.0 standard and accompanying certification have been developed by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA). It was formed in 2002 and comprised an international community of more than 550 technology companies. The Alliance describes itself as “the foundation and future of the Internet of Things (IoT)”, and its mission is “to simplify and harmonise the Internet of Things (IoT) through open, global standards and by creating a place where companies can work together to create a more connected, accessible, sustainable, and equitable world.” 

IoT device makers don’t need Matter 1.0 standard certification, but they risk being left behind if they don’t. 

 

Underlying Technologies – Wi-Fi & Thread

 

To make Matter work effectively, underlying network technologies, like Wi-Fi and Thread, where needed. The Wi-Fi Alliance and Thread Group partnered with the Connectivity Standards Alliance to develop Matter. For example, Wi-Fi enables Matter devices to interact over a high-bandwidth local network and smart home devices to communicate with the cloud.  

 

Thread is a low-power and low-latency wireless mesh networking protocol which solves the complexities of the IoT, addressing challenges such as interoperability, range, security, energy, and reliability. Thread essentially provides an energy-efficient and reliable mesh network within the home. 

 

How Is Matter Being Introduced?

 

The matter is to be rolled out as an update in early 2023 to current devices and smartphone apps so owners of existing intelligent home setups can continue using them as usual. The CSA says this initial Matter release will be “running over Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Thread, and using Bluetooth Low Energy for device commissioning”. 

 

 

Certification

 

For IoT device manufacturers looking to get Matter certification for their products, it’s a case of being a CSA member and making sure that their products comply with the requirements of the new standard and submitting their product to a testing lab. All new product CSA certifications, for example, require product testing at a CSA Authorised Test Provider, followed by an application with the CSA in its Certification Tool. 

 

The CSA’s global certification program includes eight authorised test labs that can test Matter, but also Matter’s underlying network technologies, Wi-Fi, and Thread. 

 

The Certification Tool is an online web tool that allows CSA members to manage and submit product certification applications to the Alliance. 

 

The Advantages of the Introduction of Matter 1.0

 

The many advantages of introducing Matter include the following: 

 

– It will now be much easier for consumers to find and set up compatible smart home tech. Matter-compatible products should integrate seamlessly and interact, e.g. with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or Apple Homekit-powered setup. 

– There will be more options for the gadgets that can be added to the home’s innovative home system. 

– Existing intelligent home setups will continue to work as well as ever and won’t require the cost and hassle of replacing immediately – they will (if new enough) receive the update automatically. 

– Manufacturers/developers can build genuinely compatible cross-platform devices using the standard. This could increase their market potential, share, and profits. 

– Improved IoT device/gadget security. For example, Matter certification includes compulsory compliance. 

– Less connectivity drop-off and disruption. This is because, although Matter is IP-based, the standard works as a layer on top of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Thread, so some intelligent home functions will still work even when the local internet goes down. 

– Support and resources relating to Matter are available for developers, e.g. the open-source Matter code repository on GitHub. 

Limitations/Drawbacks

 

There are, however, a few limitations and drawbacks to the introduction of the new Matter 1.0 standard, including: 

 

– Not all devices will support it. For example, older smart speakers / intelligent devices won’t support Matter. 

– Brands will differ in how they integrate their products with Matter, i.e., Support for the new standard may only come to newly released intelligent home gadgets from some brands, and even some reasonably recent models from some brands won’t update to Matter. 

– The initial release of the Matter 1.0 standard will only support a limited variety of everyday intelligent home products, including lighting and electrical, HVAC controls, window coverings and shades, safety and security sensors, door locks, media devices including TVs, controllers as both devices and applications, and bridges.  

 

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

 

The vast and rapidly growing Internet of Things has presented many challenges. Smart speakers and digital assistants, however, brought the promise of actually being able to have a brilliant home if it wasn’t for the fact that it required lots of time-consuming research and the frustration of gadget and device compatibility and interoperability issues.

 

Having one common standard, therefore, that can link many different IoT devices and gadgets together seamlessly and easily does sound like a significant breakthrough that could really open up the possibilities of the IoT and help consumers and developers alike. Matter’s introduction could mean more choice and less hassle for consumers, make the linking up elements of an intelligent home easier, less time-consuming, and less costly, and could deliver more consumer confidence in the whole smart home area. This, in turn, could lead to more scope, sales, and a bigger market for developers and manufacturers. It could also bring new opportunities for smart home ideas, help save home energy costs, and could (with the need for devices to be security compliant to be Matter certified) tackle the security problems that many IoT devices have posed until now. Matter, therefore, looks like it could be a real proper breakthrough in gaining more control over the IoT and how it’s managed, operated and protected in a way that benefits individuals and businesses.

 

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