Unlocking the smart home’s brain with matter

Unlocking the smart home’s brain with matter

This article is part of TechXchange: Why Matter Matters

What you learn:

  • How the Matter standard will change the smart home.
  • The benefits the Matter standard provides developers.

Expected in late 2022, the Connectivity Standard Alliance’s (CSA) Matter standard is set to positively change the way smart homes work – with advanced interoperability between devices and more reliability overall. While consumers will enjoy a more seamless and connected smart home, with more product options than ever before, developers and manufacturers will also benefit from the streamlined processes that Matter ushers in.

At its core, Matter is a home automation standard that enables IoT products from different vendors and manufacturers to work together. In today’s pre-Matter smart home, each device requires a controller that essentially acts as the brain of the smart home system. Device manufacturers will often build “brains” into existing devices, often speakers and voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Nest, to act as the main hub for communication throughout the rest of the smart home.

For example, when a smart home user wants a light in the house to be switched off at a certain time, the communication goes through the brain, and/or the hub, in the smart home first and then to the light. For this to work correctly, the devices must be able to communicate with the hub.

Before Matter, consumers needed to ensure that their devices worked with the smart home hub already in their home. A smart light bulb that only works with Google Home cannot perform its smart functions if the only hub in the house is Amazon Alexa. Thus, consumers must either buy only the smart home components that are compatible with the hub they already own – devices within the same “ecosystem” – or buy multiple hubs to be able to use products in different ecosystems.

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Matter will unlock the communication barriers between ecosystems. It will open up the market for smart home devices, give consumers more product options without having to buy a hub for each ecosystem, and allow for simplified setup of smart home devices and standardized security.

Supply chain and developer progress

The introduction of Matter will give developers and device manufacturers more access to the smart home market. Smaller, commercial manufacturers of home products will have the ability to connect to larger IoT ecosystems and platforms, with reduced development and manufacturing time and costs.

Consider a manufacturer that sells smart doorbells that are compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Without matter, the doorbells for the Amazon ecosystem and the Google ecosystem would require different stock keeping units (SKUs) and have different hardware and software. Once the Matter standard is implemented, the doorbells only need one SKU, greatly simplifying the supply chain.

The additional effort and cost associated with providing cloud services, apps, accounts and other infrastructure to enable multiple ecosystem connections results in a lot of time, effort and cost spent developing smart home products. The broad adoption of Matter will simplify the process of creating devices that work with all ecosystems, and the CSA has 214 members adopting Matter. This standardization will level the playing field for device manufacturers, and the increased competition in the market will drive innovation.

Matter allows for local connectivity, without the need to use apps or cloud services. In addition, it is IP-based, so it can support Wi-Fi and Thread, giving developers the freedom to choose the technologies that work best with their products.

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Historically, connection protocols have been controlled by a single entity or are licensed, making them difficult to use with different platforms and preventing widespread adoption. Matter is open source, and has been tested, validated and supported by major silicon suppliers in the CSA. Developers will have access to code submissions and development tools, further minimizing the barriers needed to enter the smart home industry.

The CSA will also require Matter-developed products to meet advanced specification, certification and testing requirements. Beyond the benefits of interoperability with Matter devices, consumers can adopt devices with confidence that they will perform as expected.

Simple consumer setup

Matter devices will be marked with the Matter logo and have cryptographic bands that demonstrate their authenticity. CSA also introduces a device database to prevent counterfeit products.

Many existing smart home products will be eligible to be updated once the Matter standard is officially released. When purchasing a new Matter-enabled product, users can expect the setup process to be simple and seamless. All Matter devices come with a QR code to guide the user through setup, eliminating confusion and guesswork. Any Matter smart home device of any brand can be paired with the user’s smart home app of their choice – and it will work with the rest of the smart home’s devices.

Safety at the heart of the matter

Matter will exponentially expand the IoT, expanding the attack surface and making Matter-enabled homes attractive to bad actors. Therefore, robust security is critical. Each Matter device will have a certificate that binds it to the manufacturer, ensuring that the device is authentic and not impersonating another device. When the device is set up in a smart home, it will also be tied to the ecosystem of which it is a part.

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If an apartment complex has a shared Wi-Fi network, the residents will still be able to have their own private smart home ecosystems on the network, without the risk of the neighbor’s ecosystem interfering with their own. Devices within an ecosystem will only be able to communicate with other devices in the same ecosystem, preventing unwanted connections.

In addition, Matter security does not depend on the security of the communication technologies it runs on top of – such as Wi-Fi and Thread. If the security of an ecosystem’s Wi-Fi network is breached, the self-contained Matter security will protect the smart home devices on the network from being hacked or compromised.

Realizing the potential of the smart home

The material will remove the limitations that the smart home has struggled with for a long time, and opens up a world of possibilities. With accelerated time-to-market on Matter-enabled products, developers will be able to focus on ways to add value to the smart home by innovating in ways that were previously too time-consuming or expensive.

After Matter’s initial release, more device types will be supported by the standard, with opportunities to develop technologies that can be integrated. Matter will enable consumers to enjoy the connectivity of a smart home without the bottlenecks of incompatibility, lack of interoperability, disjointed setups and weak security.

Read more articles in TechXchange: Why Matter Matters

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