Crafting Connectivity: Hardware Evaluation in Matter Ecosystem

By: Valerii Haidarzhy, 28 May 2024
11   min read
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Explore Our Series Matter Technology

Dive deeper into Matter with our comprehensive series of articles. Each piece offers unique insights and in-depth analysis, guiding you through different facets of the topic. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, this series aims to provide valuable information that will enhance your understanding and spark further interest. Explore the articles listed below:

  1. Matter Smart Home: Simplifying Smart Homes or Market Domination?
  2. Evaluating the Matter Protocol: First Steps
  3. Real Talk on Matter Protocol: Software Evaluation
  4. Crafting Connectivity: Hardware Evaluation in Matter Ecosystem –  You are here

With the introduction and subsequent updates of Matter specifications, a broader range of devices that can operate within this standard has emerged, bringing new chips to market – from the next-gen models to those that are either cost-effective yet well-optimized solutions or highly specialized devices and components. In this situation, the significance of hardware evaluation cannot be overstated, particularly when integrating technologies like Matter, which poses unique challenges and opportunities. The standard’s ability to interface across multiple radio technologies not only enriches its application but also complicates the hardware evaluation process. Potential issues such as incompatible radio types or insufficient memory can severely impact a device’s functionality in a Matter ecosystem. For instance, a device designed to communicate solely via radio might become useless if there’s no border router in the user’s environment to enable connectivity.

Therefore, it’s important to consider all aspects of device capabilities – whether deciding between Wi-Fi and radio for connectivity or evaluating the need for Bluetooth over Radio ( 802.15.4) for its higher bandwidth capabilities – even if it means higher power consumption. These decisions can significantly influence whether a device will integrate into the broader Matter framework or stand in isolation.

Here, we’ll try to explain the important role of hardware choices in strategic decision-making processes, building upon our previous discussions from both business and software evaluation perspectives. Here, we shift the focus toward practical applications, giving examples of selecting microcontrollers and hardware components for successful implementations in the Matter ecosystem. 

Our engagement is wider than working with the most affordable or leading options. We have researched the current market extensively to determine which solutions best fit potential tasks. This includes niche devices, such as fully custom routers supporting Matter, where it’s better to opt for a basic solution like a triple radio controller and select a co-processor to manage this process.

Market Analysis: Embrace the Immensity

In our examination of hardware solutions for Matter integration, we’ve utilized a variety of devices. These devices offer different solutions for different needs in the Matter ecosystem to fit different IoT setups, from basic sensors to complicated automation systems.

  • NXP RW612:

This integrated tri-radio chip supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.3, and Thread, making it highly versatile for both long-range and low-power communications within smart home networks. Its EdgeLock® security ensures robust protection across the Matter network, while its low power consumption makes it ideal for battery-operated devices. The RW612 is foundational in devices such as the NXP Ublox IRIS and Murata Type 2 modules, providing a powerful 260 MHz ARM® Cortex®-M33 core and extensive on-chip SRAM.

  • Espressive ESP32-H2:

Known for its dedicated Thread hardware acceleration, this chip is optimal for complex devices requiring significant data transfer. However, it does not include Wi-Fi connectivity, focusing instead on robust Bluetooth 5.3 and IEEE 802.15.4 capabilities, with a 32-bit RISC-V core operating at 96MHz.

  • Espressive ESP32-C3:

This cost-effective chip is an excellent choice for developers looking for a low-power solution for basic Matter functionalities. It supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 and requires additional development for full Thread support, making it suitable for simple sensors and switches.

  • Espressive ESP32-C6:

This SoC stands out for supporting Wi-Fi 6 but cannot use both Wi-Fi and IEEE 802.15.4 radio stacks simultaneously, making it a strategic choice for Matter over Thread end devices. It features a dual-core RISC-V processor and supports Bluetooth 5.3.

  • Espressive ESP32-S3:

Offering a balance between performance and power consumption, this chip is equipped with a dual-core 32-bit LX7 processor, ideal for moderately complex devices. It supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 but lacks dedicated Thread hardware acceleration.

  • Silicon Labs EFR32MG24 and EFR32BG27:

These modules are designed for low-power IoT devices, with built-in Thread connectivity and Bluetooth 5.3. Due to their low energy consumption and support for Bluetooth mesh, they are ideal for use in battery-powered applications.

  • Infineon PSoC 64 CYW55512:

This module offers a powerful combination of dual-band Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth® 5.4, making it suitable for various IoT applications requiring secure, high-performance communications.

  • Nordic Semiconductor nRF5340 and nRF52840:

These devices are tailored for developers requiring advanced thread and Bluetooth capabilities. The nRF5340 includes a powerful ARM Cortex-M33 processor suitable for high-end applications, while the nRF52840 provides robust support for Thread and Bluetooth 5.0.

  • Nordic Semiconductor nRF7002:

As a Wi-Fi Companion IC, this chip enhances connectivity options for devices already using Nordic’s Thread and Bluetooth technologies, providing Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.

  • Synaptics SYN4381:

This triple combo SoC integrates Wi-Fi 6/6E, Bluetooth 5.3, and IEEE 802.15.4, offering a compact solution for developers looking to minimize space, cost, and power consumption in high-demand IoT applications.

  • Microchip ATWINC15x0B-MU:

This single chip offers a compact solution optimized for low-power mobile applications. It supports IEEE 802.11 b/g/n and provides an SPI interface for host controller integration.

Let’s Evaluate: The Use Cases.

In the Matter ecosystem, devices are categorized based on their roles and connectivity types, which determine their specific functionalities and requirements. Before carrying out the evaluation, we need to understand how it works, what components it consists of, and what requirements it places on the hardware at each stage.

Matter Controller (WiFi/LAN)

A Matter Controller is the central hub, connecting and coordinating all your Matter-certified devices, regardless of their brand or communication protocol. This lets you control, automate, and monitor your smart environment through a single interface.

There are several types of Matter Controllers, each with its strengths and weaknesses:

A Matter controller may include Bluetooth LE (BLE) for commissioning. This allows it to securely transmit network credentials and integrate accessory devices into the Thread network. During this stage, the controller acts as the commissioner. Once commissioning is complete, the device joins the IPv6 network and is equipped with all necessary information to interact securely within the Matter network alongside other IPv6 devices.

Core requirements for Matter controllers:

When considering the development of a Matter Controller, we need to choose components that fulfill the core functionalities required by the Matter protocol and offer reliability, compatibility, and performance:

The NXP RW612 and Nordic nRF52840 ranked highest, excelling in most categories. The NXP RW612 is notable for its tri-radio capabilities, which simplify integration and enhance scalability. The Nordic nRF52840 stood out for its energy efficiency and strong developer support, making it ideal for energy-sensitive and development-friendly projects.

Silicon Labs’ EFR32MG24 and Infineon’s PSoC 64 CYW55512 also performed well, especially in specialized applications requiring robust mesh networks and high-performance Wi-Fi 6, respectively.

Synaptics’ SYN4381, with its advanced triple-radio features, scored lower due to integration complexity but remained suited for high-demand scenarios.

Matter Bridge

A matter bridge allows non-Matter IoT devices to be used with native Matter devices. A non-Matter device used this way is called a bridged device. A Matter bridge exposes the bridged devices to Matter nodes in fabric as Matter endpoints.

Here, the focus has shifted towards devices that offer a better balance between connectivity and functionality while still guaranteeing that the devices can potentially meet Matter’s certification requirements with additional development where necessary:

For the Matter Bridges, our evaluation highlighted several standout solutions, with NXP RW612 taking a slight lead. This chip offers extensive security and scalability, making it highly versatile for various smart environments. The Nordic nRF52840 follows closely, mostly for its energy efficiency and robust support, ideal for projects where power management and community resources are important.

Silicon Labs’ EFR32MG24 and Infineon’s PSoC 64 CYW55512 also showed strong performances, particularly for their development support and security features. These characteristics make them suitable for deployments needing reliable, secure connectivity in diverse applications.

Despite its high capabilities in handling multiple radio types, the Synaptics SYN4381 faced some challenges with integration complexity, reflected in its slightly lower overall score. Its advanced features cater well to high-demand scenarios where a mixture of high-speed Wi-Fi and secure communication is required.

Thread Border Router (Thread↔︎WiFi, Thread↔︎LAN)

A border router serves as the bridge between different network technologies and enables communication between Matter devices. Here’s why you need a border router for Matter and what its purpose is:

Some specific functions of a Matter border router:

Typically, a Border Router solution consists of the following parts:

When evaluating border router devices for the Matter ecosystem, the priorities change to network support, security, and scalability:

Here, the RW612 from NXP is the top choice because it supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Thread – key for linking different networks. It excels in performance and security, making it a versatile and secure choice for a border router.

The SYN4381 by Synaptics integrates Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Thread well, but its power efficiency is uncertain due to limited practical-based data. The ESP32-C6 from Espressive handles Thread and Wi-Fi but can’t use both simultaneously, which limits its effectiveness as a border router, while nRF5340 from Nordic is good at managing Thread but lacks Wi-Fi. It can work with an added Wi-Fi module, but this makes integration less straightforward.

The EFR32MG24 from Silicon Labs excels in power efficiency and supports Thread well. However, its focus on Thread with no Wi-Fi makes it less ideal for broader network integration.

Matter End devices (Thread / WiFi / LAN)

The choice between Wi-Fi, Thread, or LAN for your Matter end device depends on its specific function and requirements. For high-bandwidth applications and integration with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, Wi-Fi Matter devices are a preferred choice. For applications demanding high bandwidth and low latency, like streaming HD or 4K video content, wired LAN offers consistent performance. Thread Matter devices offer significant advantages for battery-powered devices, low-power applications, and extended network coverage, and hybrid devices employing both Wi-Fi and Thread provide flexibility and can adapt to specific network contexts.

Wi-Fi Matter End Devices:

To create WiFi Matter end devices, the components should be evaluated based on their Wi-Fi capabilities, particularly their support for advanced Wi-Fi standards, power consumption considerations, and integration ease.

The RW612 and PSoC 64 emerge as the top choices due to their strong performance across all criteria, making them a good choice for high-bandwidth Wi-Fi Matter end devices. The ATWINC15x0B-MU, while not supporting the highest bandwidth capabilities, offers excellent power efficiency and ease of integration, making it suitable for less demanding applications.

We must change our evaluation priorities here and focus on low-power consumption, mesh networking capabilities, scalability, and reliability:

The Infineon PSoC 64 stands out as the top solution because it has strong potential for handling high-bandwidth applications. The NXP RW612 and Synaptics SYN4381 also show good potential, balancing moderate integration complexity with high bandwidth capability and solid security features. 

Additional Factors To Acknowledge

Making the final decision involves more than just comparing ratings. Sometimes, deciding on the best vendor can be a complex task due to additional priorities like device complexity, supported technologies, security requirements, and certification complexity. Here is our point of view on some of these questions.

802.15.4 or BLE?

This choice depends on the specific requirements of the deployment scenario. For industrial applications where long battery life and extensive network coverage are vital, 802.15.4 is the preferred choice. Conversely, BLE provides the necessary capabilities in consumer-focused scenarios where higher performance and ease of use are more preferred – especially in smart home environments.

802.15.4

802.15.4 is an IEEE standard that excels in creating low-power, large-scale mesh networks, which are ideal for applications such as sensor networks, industrial automation, and building automation

BLE

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is recognized by the Bluetooth SIG and is widely used in consumer electronics for its efficiency and broader support

Certification

The Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) oversees matter certification. It involves a thorough assessment to ensure devices comply with specifications, focusing on uniform language usage, secure and reliable communications, and interoperability.

When making your final decision on hardware for Matter applications, we advise you to also focus on the additional services that vendors offer, such as certification assistance. Vendors often provide varying levels of support in certification, depending on the scale of your orders and their interest in partnering with you. Some vendors include these services as part of their standard offerings with fixed prices, while others might offer them only in exceptional cases, or not at all. For instance, NXP’s RW612 not only supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Thread on a single chip but also benefits from NXP’s comprehensive certification assistance, which helps streamline the process of bringing devices to market with robust security measures like its EdgeLock® security. On the downside, it may cost too much for startups or small-scale projects.

Encryption

It’s also important to consider hardware capabilities for effective encryption. Some hardware solutions come equipped with trusted zones and encryption accelerators to handle the demands of security algorithms efficiently. This is essential because, without dedicated encryption hardware, a device’s performance might suffer if its processing power is also tasked with operational functions, potentially leading to disruptions and delays in handling critical data. For example, Infineon’s PSoC 64 module offers advanced encryption accelerators and trusted execution environments. When selecting your hardware, make it meets the necessary specifications to support your goals and priorities.

Wrapping Up: The Three Main Ways To Go

Constantly facing questions and keeping abreast of this constantly developing market, our team sees three different ways the hardware solutions will continue to develop for a range of needs, from large-scale enterprise projects to specialized applications.

High-End Enterprise Solutions

For companies seeking to develop advanced smart devices that combine multiple functionalities into one powerful unit, NXP Semiconductors provides an excellent example with their RW612. This highly integrated, low-power tri-radio wireless MCU features Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth Low Energy 5.3, and Thread, all powered by an Arm Cortex-M33 core. The RW612 is designed to simplify the development process for complex applications such as smart home devices, enterprise and industrial automation.

Startups and Emerging Companies

Espressive’s ESP range, particularly the ESP32-H2, caters to startups and new entrants in the smart device market looking for cost-effective yet powerful solutions. The ESP32-H2, which supports Thread and Bluetooth but not Wi-Fi, is ideal for developing Matter-compliant end-point devices on a budget. Its compatibility with the mature ESP-IDF development framework helps the development process, providing a solid foundation for building interoperable smart home devices.

Niche Applications for Technical Enthusiasts

The EFR32MG24 Wireless SoCs from Silicon Labs target developers who require specialized hardware for advanced technical applications, particularly mesh networking. Designed for high performance and energy efficiency, it features a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M33 core, and Secure Vault. This series is perfect for creating sophisticated solutions in smart home gateways, sensor networks, and building automation, supporting protocols like Matter, OpenThread, and Zigbee.

Emerging Vendors Addressing Common Needs with Advanced Features:

Additionally, new vendors like Alif Semiconductor are entering the market, aiming to cater to the most common requirements while introducing innovative additional features. Alif Semi’s Baletto wireless microcontrollers are an example of this trend. These MCUs integrate a wireless subsystem with its own dedicated network co-processor offering Bluetooth Low Energy 5.3, and a 802.15.4 radio supporting Matter over Thread in addition to a powerful application processor with digital signal vector processing capabilities, and a dedicated neural processor for on-device AI/ML processing. Their approach of combining multi-protocol wireless connectivity with powerful on-device processing illustrates how vendors are evolving to meet the demands of the smart device market.

In the hope that this material was helpful, we can add that whether you’re starting in the smart home market or are looking to create specialized devices, we’re here to provide expert guidance. Our approach is straightforward and grounded in practical experience. A recent example of our work, the development of a smart lighting solution, demonstrates our ability to seamlessly integrate smart home technologies, enhancing both functionality and user experience. We understand the importance of each decision, from selecting the right components to integrating them into a cohesive system. Sirin Software is ready to assist you in making informed choices that align with your technical and business goals.

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