Matter Smart Home: Simplifying Smart Homes or Market Domination?

By: Valerii Haidarzhy, 10 Nov 2023
11   min read
Reading Time: 11 minutes

“With Matter’s rise, we’re focusing on revolutionizing user experiences. This goes beyond just connectivity to intuitive tech environments.”

© Alex Nikitenko, CEO, Sirin Software.

In a world increasingly reliant on smart technology, the introduction of Matter, a new connectivity standard, has sparked both excitement and skepticism. The evolution of the Matter for smart home is set to redefine convenience and interoperability within our living spaces. This initiative, backed by industry giants like Amazon, Apple, and Google, promises a unified language for smart home devices. Matter aims to dissolve the compatibility barriers, envisioning a future where devices from different manufacturers effortlessly communicate. The attraction of a unified home automation standard is undeniable: a seamless, integrated smart home where your gadgets, security, and appliances work in harmony, regardless of brand. However, when we peel back the layers, more questions emerge. How will Matter negotiate the tangled web of existing protocols and standards? Will it genuinely deliver on its promise of universal compatibility, or will it introduce a new layer of complexity?

Are we on the brink of a new era, or is Matter just another ambitious project in a sea of tech advancements? Let’s review these challenges alongside their potential, answer the question of “What is Matter?” and try to understand if this initiative can really revolutionize our interaction with smart technology.

Innovativeness of Matter and the Problems It Solves

Before Matter came along, people found it difficult to make different smart home devices work together. For example, someone might have trouble getting their Philips Hue lights to work with a Google Nest thermostat. This happened because each device used different ways to connect and communicate, like Zigbee for a Yale smart lock and Wi-Fi for a Ring alarm system, making it hard to assemble a smooth-running home security system.

People were supposed to have an easy time controlling all their smart home devices, but instead, they often ended up with a bunch of different apps and systems that didn’t talk to each other very well. This led to problems like devices not connecting properly or not working right. This is where the question arises, “What is Matter smart home standard?” Essentially, it’s an initiative to create a universal protocol that enables these diverse devices to communicate and work together seamlessly, regardless of the manufacturer or protocol they initially used.

For the companies making these devices, not having a single way for devices to connect made things costly and complicated. They had to build devices that could work in many different setups, which slowed down new ideas and made things more expensive. What is Matter for smart home? It aims to solve these problems by creating a single standard that all devices can use. This means people should have an easier time connecting and using their devices, and companies can make them in a way that’s both innovative and cost-effective.

History of Matter Development and What Stage Is It at Now?

Matter’s journey, originating in December 2019 as “Project Connected Home over IP” (CHIP), was a groundbreaking collaboration among tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance (now the Connectivity Standards Alliance – CSA). This initiative addressed the fragmented smart home market by simplifying product development and enhancing compatibility across various manufacturers, laying the groundwork for what would become a comprehensive Matter smart home protocol overviewThe formation of CHIP, later known as Matter, represented a significant shift in the approach of these industry leaders toward the future of smart homes. This collaboration was unique, as it brought together traditionally competing companies, uniting them under a common goal of creating a more integrated and user-friendly ecosystem.

What is Matter protocol? It is fundamentally built on the Internet Protocol (IP), allowing communication through compatible border routers. This design choice was key in eliminating the need for multiple proprietary hubs, enabling Matter products to operate locally without an internet connection while being cloud-compatible.

The development of Matter saw several milestones:

  • Version 1.0 (October 2022): Introduced support for lighting, door locks, thermostats, and more.
  • Version 1.1 (May 2023): Focused on bug fixes and enhancements without adding new device categories.
  • Version 1.2 (October 2023): Expanded to include nine new device types like refrigerators, dishwashers, and air quality sensors, along with improvements to existing categories.

Future updates are planned to support additional devices like those already introduced by 1.2, and Wi-Fi access points, with biannual updates to keep evolving the ecosystem.

Which Companies Support Matter?

Today, over 400 companies are members of the CSA, which oversees Matter, with 280 involved directly in Matter development. Many are also part of the Thread Group. This includes major names like Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung SmartThings, Signify (Philips Hue), Assa Abloy (Yale/August), Ikea, and many others. These companies help shape how the standard will work, focusing on developing specifications for different device types in the smart home, essentially crafting the Matter standard definition. Companies can also opt to sign on at a lower level as an “adopter” or “associate” to develop and certify Matter products.

How Does the Matter Protocol Work and What Capabilities Does It Have?

Networking 

To answer the question “How does Matter work?”, let’s start with networking. At the heart of Matter’s functionality are its robust networking technologies. Matter leverages the strengths of existing protocols. For low-power, low-bandwidth devices like sensors and light bulbs, Matter uses Thread – a protocol known for its reliability and power efficiency. For devices requiring higher bandwidth, such as streaming media players, Matter employs Wi-Fi or Ethernet. 

This networking approach means that Matter can accommodate a wide range of devices, providing optimal performance based on their individual requirements. It’s a clever blend of efficiency and power that enables the device, whether it’s a simple sensor or a high-definition camera, to perform optimally within the Matter ecosystem.

The Role of Thread 

The Thread protocol is a key component of Matter, offering a reliable mesh network designed to solve many of the smart home’s biggest problems. Thread is a Zigbee hardware stack with a software layer on top, making it IP-native and a fundamental part of the Matter smart home protocol. This approach eliminates the need for a hub or bridge to talk to the internet, significantly enhancing the reliability of smart home products.

Thread devices can be battery-powered or mains-powered, and the latter can act as Thread border routers, bridging between a Wi-Fi and Thread network. This technology can be built into any device with an always-on power source and can be placed anywhere in the home, such as smart plugs, speakers, fridges, TVs, thermostats, and Wi-Fi access points. As more border routers are added to the home, the more the range and reliability of the network improves.

Local and Cloud Connectivity

One of the most intriguing aspects of Matter is its approach to connectivity. While cloud-based operation has been the norm in the smart home industry, Matter introduces a significant shift towards local operation. This means that Matter-enabled devices can operate independently of the internet, with faster response times and reliability even during internet outages, which is a cornerstone of what is Matter home automation.

However, Matter doesn’t abandon cloud connectivity entirely. Instead, it offers a dual approach. While local control is quick and dependable, cloud connectivity adds the benefits of remote access and enhanced functions. This combination provides customers with the best of both worlds: the dependability and speed of local control, as well as the flexibility and additional features of cloud connectivity.

Keep updated with our latest insights on Matter. This matter smart home overview is just a start and our team is deeply involved in evaluating Matter-compatible hardware and we’re eager to share our findings and explain all about Matter home automation. Subscribe for updates on our detailed reviews and insights into Matter’s impact on smart home technology, important for both consumers and manufacturers.

Challenges and Concerns

“It would certainly seem, if everything is executed as promised, that it will make sense to move towards Matter products. That’s a big ‘if,’ however, and there are other questions in terms of security.”  

© Mitchell Klein, Executive Director, Z-Wave Alliance, LLC.

The Peril of Becoming Just Another Standard

The industry’s history is littered with failed standardization attempts, raising concerns about Matter home automation‘s potential fate.

Historically, attempts at standardization in the smart home sector have often led to more confusion rather than simplification. For instance, protocols like Zigbee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth each tried to become the dominant radio protocol for smart homes but fell short. They couldn’t gain sufficient traction or offer the flexibility needed to cover all aspects of the industry. This fragmentation led to a slower adoption of smart home technologies, as consumers struggled with compatibility issues and the complexity of managing multiple standards.

To answer this concern, we have to admit that Matter, as the new smart home standard, however, is positioned differently. Unlike previous standards that often required multiple proprietary hubs and complex setups, it leverages existing technologies like Thread, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ethernet, allowing devices to communicate locally without relying on the cloud. This approach promises a more seamless integration of devices, irrespective of their brand or operating system.

The Dilemma for Smaller Players

Matter’s ambition to integrate a variety of protocols into a cohesive standard is a task of considerable complexity. This architecture, designed to be both robust and flexible, involves a sophisticated layering of responsibilities and encapsulation within its protocol stack. This design, while promising in theory, poses significant challenges in practice, and is at the heart of what is Matter technologyFor smaller entities in the market, Matter represents a double-edged sword. On one side, aligning with a universal standard like Matter could potentially unlock new opportunities and streamline product development. On the other, the demands of complying with Matter’s technical and security requirements could pose a formidable barrier. Manufacturers may find themselves daunted by the prospect of aligning with these specifications, particularly when it involves substantial changes to their existing product lines. There’s a palpable risk of reluctance or outright refusal by some to embrace this new standard. 

The decision to adopt Matter involves weighing the potential benefits against the substantial investment and risk involved, and the hesitance often stems from the task of providing backward compatibility with a huge amount of existing devices. For many, especially smaller manufacturers, the investment required to update older devices to be Matter-compatible may not be justifiable or feasible.

A key thing to think about is the certification needed for Matter compliance. This certification makes sure that every device in the Matter system works well with others, securely, and reliably. But, for smaller companies, getting this certification can be tough. It requires thorough testing and could be expensive, which could be hard for smaller businesses with fewer resources. Also, getting certified takes time, which can push back when products are released. These challenges might make manufacturers hesitant to use the new home automation standard, worrying that the cost and difficulty of getting certified might not be worth it.

Another obstacle is the inability of major platforms to agree on how to implement one of Thread’s biggest benefits: a shared mesh network that any border router from any manufacturer can join to provide a reliant local smart home network. The specification includes a foundation for adding a border router from any manufacturer to any Thread network, but there’s no standardized protocol for securely sharing Thread credentials between different border routers. In our opinion, to answer these concerns, the path to adopting Matter, though complex, is navigable with industry collaboration and support. If the main players resolve their differences, providing technical assistance to smaller manufacturers, the transition becomes more feasible. The question remains, however: are the major market players really interested in making these efforts?

Matter for Business: Is It Time for Implementation?

“If this is successful, everyone sells more”
© Mitchell Klein, Executive Director, Z-Wave Alliance, LLC.

In the labyrinth of smart home technology, where incompatible standards and protocols reign, Matter for home automation emerges as a beacon of hope. So,we asked ourselves a question: do we need to peek behind the curtain to reveal the strategic maneuvers of industry giants? Their support for Matter, while seemingly altruistic, is tied to broader market ambitions and ecosystem strategies. Logically, it follows to ask: Is Matter just about simplifying the smart home, or is there more to the story?

While the primary narrative around Matter focuses on enhancing user experience and simplifying the smart home ecosystem, let’s consider the strategic interests of major players. For us, it’s obvious that these companies, while committed to improving the smart home experience, also have their own market goals.

Expansion and Control 

The interest in creating a unified standard like Matter by tech giants is a strategic play in a fiercely competitive market. Introducing the Matter IoT standard could potentially catalyze the adoption of smart home devices, but with a twist – it might funnel this adoption towards a handful of well-known brands, thereby consolidating market power. Real-life examples are not hard to find. Consider the smartphone industry, where the emergence of standardized operating systems like iOS and Android led to a market dominated by a few key players. This consolidation can lead to increased market control for these companies, enabling them to set industry trends and influence consumer choices more directly.

Similarly, the online streaming services industry witnessed a comparable trend. Platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ started in a fragmented market but soon became dominant due to their extensive content and superior user experience. This shift made it difficult for new or smaller streaming services to establish a foothold in the market. Another parallel can be drawn with the evolution of e-commerce platforms, particularly Amazon. Starting as a simple bookstore, Amazon expanded to become a one-stop shop for a vast array of products. Its dominance in the e-commerce space, driven by a unified platform and efficient logistics, has overshadowed smaller online retailers, setting trends and influencing consumer behavior.

Looking to the future, we might see a similar pattern emerge in the smart home market. As Matter becomes the de facto standard, smaller players might struggle to gain traction against the established giants. This could lead to a market where innovation is driven less by start-ups and more by the existing tech giants, potentially stifling diversity in the smart home ecosystem.

Differentiation and Ecosystem Lock-in

The skepticism around big companies fully embracing universal compatibility over proprietary interests is well-founded. While big players are making efforts to update their platforms to support Matter, the depth of this integration remains uncertain. This situation mirrors the dynamics seen in other tech sectors, where companies offer cross-platform compatibility but optimize the user experience for their own ecosystems. In the context of the “Matter Internet of Things“, this could mean that while devices may technically work together, the best performance is only achieved within a single manufacturer’s ecosystem.

For instance, in the gaming industry, cross-platform play is often touted, but exclusive titles and optimized experiences for specific consoles still drive consumer loyalty and ecosystem lock-in. This makes the task of entering the market with their own brand even more elusive for the rest of the players. Similarly, in the smart home domain, while Matter may provide technical compatibility, the real differentiation will likely come from how easily devices integrate into each company’s ecosystem. In the near future, we might witness a scenario where, despite technical compatibility, the user experience of a smart home device is significantly enhanced when used within the ecosystem of the company that manufactured it. This could lead to a situation where consumers, though technically free to mix and match devices from different brands, find themselves naturally gravitating towards a single, well-known, and established ecosystem due to the superior user experience it offers.

Last Thoughts

The shift towards innovative features and services is creating a more competitive landscape. For most developers and manufacturers, this evolution is both a challenge and an opportunity. The need to invest more in research and development to stay relevant in this new ecosystem is evident. However, this requirement should not be seen solely as a strain on resources. Instead, it’s an opportunity to use agility and innovative capacity to create unique products and solutions.

The universal standard set by Matter can be a significant advantage. It offers a well-defined framework within which manufacturers can innovate. This standardization could potentially reduce development costs in the long run and streamline the process of bringing new products to market. By focusing on niche markets or specialized products that complement the broader ecosystem, smaller players could still carve out their own space.

Cooperate With Sirin Software

At Sirin Software, we’re known for developing advanced solutions that help businesses smoothly integrate smart technology.

Matter is opening new doors for smart products, and we bring our proven track record, like our work on the iMatrix Monitoring Platform, to the table. This system is a model for scalable IoT solutions that work for different industries and sizes of companies. Companies that used to create their own ways for devices to communicate, can now use Matter to unify their products and reach more customers. Although Matter doesn’t yet work with all types of devices, it’s getting there, and we’re working on products to adjust and become Matter-compatible.
Sirin Software doesn’t just help you meet Matter home automation standard – we help your products stand out. Our  hardware engineering services cover a range of sectors, from agriculture to retail. Your solutions won’t just be part of the Matter ecosystem – they’ll shine on their own.

Consider also our track record  across different fields. We provide numerous smart home automation development services, from the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud solutions to custom firmware and systems. Team up with Sirin Software to discover how the home automation working principle of Matter can give your business an edge. Get in touch to find out how we can enhance your products’ presence in the smart home industry.

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