Matter Standard – the Future of Smart Home Design
March 24, 2022
Globally, the smart home market is estimated to be worth around $53 billion. Years of R & D into wireless communication has resulted in networking protocols such as Bluetooth, Thread and Zigbee. In an ideal world, these standards would co-exist peacefully in a harmonized ecosystem, bringing together various networks and allowing developers to get new products to market faster.
The Matter Standard was created to address this.
Matter – When?
Matter is an application protocol that forms a bridge between devices that have not yet been able to communicate with one another. It is due for release in autumn of this year, but after several delays already, that date is not guaranteed. The Matter Standard was first established in December 2019 as “Project Connected Home over IP” (CHIP).
However, its profile has risen considerably in recent months. It is now supported by over 200 firms in its Working Group and backed by big names including Apple, Amazon, Google and Samsung.
Developers are having to write the same code on top of protocols – Thread, for instance - to communicate similar sorts of data. This is comparable to writing an audio data processing layer on top of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), instead of a protocol already existing in the BLE layer to do this.
In this BLE example, Matter provides an SDK for developers to use a standardized way of communicating, on top of all the protocol layers that will be supported.
Matter is in layer 6 of the Open Systems Interconnection model (OSI), which sits on top of existing protocols. Consequently, a bridge between existing protocols — for example, Zigbee, which is already used in many smart home devices, and Wi-Fi on your phone — is required.
Expect to see competition between the big players in the smart home sector as they race to release the best hub, likely integrated with a leading smart home assistant.
Communications between all devices using the Matter standard will offer greater reliability and security. Any certified Matter device will be able to operate and communicate with any other Matter device, even if the products are from different manufacturers; similar to how Bluetooth devices can communicate with each other.
The new standard is also a plus for developers as Matter is open source; improving security and reliability, as anybody is able to read and make changes to the source code. It is still under its old name, project-chip, on GitHub.
Apple and Google provided most of the code base. Silicon Labs, who developed the Zigbee protocol, also made a sizeable contribution. This was based on the Zigbee Alliance, now known as the Connectivity Standards Alliance.
Companies will have to pay a certification fee to the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), to be able to market their products as Matter-compatible. However, this could be seen as a good thing, as it means that only devices which have been properly developed and tested will be out on the market.
Matter is still in its infancy, as can be seen by the 1.4k issues currently open in the GitHub repository. There is a lot of work still to do for any products with Matter to reach the market.
Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e
Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e target ever-increasing data rates, latency improvements, and power consumption — much like BLE spinning off from Bluetooth.
Wi-Fi 6 and 6e aim to reduce the time a device needs to use its transceiver by having the router tell the device when to expect the next packet, and allowing it to sleep until then. It will be interesting to see the power requirements of the new modules for sleepy end devices using this new Wi-Fi standard, and how they compare to Zigbee and the other protocols supported by Matter.
Matter will be based on IPv6, which could support more devices than there can possibly be MAC addresses (the 48-bit address space for MAC contains over 281 trillion).
During an IoT industry webinar, device manufacturers already using protocols that Matter will sit on top of all said they would still keep their apps and try to develop those to keep customers in their own ecosystem in order to give them the best user experience possible.
In summary, the Matter Standard:
- will make smart homes and IoT deployment areas including energy, automotive, health, and buildings, much easier to connect and help phase out small ecosystems unable to communicate with each other or the outside world.
- isn’t trying to replace existing standards, but instead build on top of them to facilitate connectivity.
- makes it easier for software engineers to develop IoT devices, and for consumers to confidently buy products that will communicate with each other securely and reliably.
Consumers may wish to browse preferred manufacturers’ websites to see if they are supporting Matter and whether their current existing smart home devices will be supported with a software upgrade. Businesses looking for hardware and/or software support with a smart home product design or any embedded device, can discuss requirements with us.
ByteSnap has expertise in most communication protocols and has developed and completed full Zigbee compliance for a smart meter, of which the protocol will likely have a large percentage of usage in the Matter ecosystem.