A new way for smart home devices to communicate, Matter has been engineered to make it easier to install and use automation products from different manufacturers.

matter products

What is Matter?

If you're already familiar with smart homes, then you're familiar with what Matter is and what it promises.

Matter is a newly developed, common language designed to enable communication between smart devices. Those smart devices have been designed for home automation and are typically used for automated lighting and intelligent security systems. In most ways, Matter is just like Z-Wave and Zigbee but without years of maturity.

Products that are Matter-enabled can all communicate with each other, including with Matter-enabled hubs. Most homes already have a home automation hub that they don't use. Typically it's a voice speaker such as an Amazon Echo running Alexa, an Apple HomePod running Siri or a Google Nest smart speaker. Most smart speakers can be upgraded to become Matter-enbled, meaning that owners can simply buy a Matter product without having to worry if it's labelled "Works with" Alexa, Google or HomeKit.

And that, perhaps, is the key difference: for most homes, it won't be necessary to buy a new smart hub, but it will be much easier to buy smart devices.

Matter: FAQs

The Matter standard is making no small promises. Indeed, it's been pitched as being so easy to use that all homes will become smart homes. But will such lofty ideas really lead to equally big advancements for smart home tech? After all, Matter is really just 'yet another standard' following in a long line of dedicated standards, such as Z-Wave and Zigbee.

Why might Matter matter?

If what makes it great is the ease of buying a Matter-enabled device, then the true advantage of Matter is an economic one. More devices from more makers should give consumers more choice and, therefore, cheaper access to smart home technology.

When will Matter products be released?

The Matter standard and products that use it should be released in Winter 2022. Should is the key word here. Matter was originally meant to be released in 2019 and has been delayed 3 times since then. If a Winter 2022 release is achieved, products will be available in significant volumes in 2023.

Does Matter require a hub?

In theory, no. Matter devices can talk with each other, and a dedicated hub won't be strictly necessary. In practice, however, you'll need a hub in order to customise your smart home with intelligent automations. Despite this, there is one advantage to Matter versus other standards: you will not need a dedicated hub. Many Wi-Fi based products, such as Apple's HomePod Mini and second generation TV 4K, will work as Matter hubs. Inexpensive, dedicated hubs will also be available, as will open-source software.

Can existing smart home devices be upgraded to Matter?

In theory, all devices with a 2.4 GHz wireless antenna and which support the IEEE 802.15.4 protocol can be upgraded to support Thread and, therefore, Matter. Zigbee, ISA100.11a, WirelessHART, MiWi, 6LoWPAN, and SNAP all run on that protocol so, in theory, devices using them can be upgraded to speak Matter. In the real world, it's going to be very different, however. The underlying code for Matter is rather large (some would argue bloated). That means that the vast majority of smart home products already made cannot host it; they simply don't have enough available flash memory. Further, there has to be a willingness from the manufacturers of said smart home products to support Matter; they have to want to invest their time, money, and resources into creating and certifying new firmware. Simply put: most won't as they'd rather sell you completely new devices, and most smart home devices already produced won't come to support Matter.

Can Zigbee firmware be upgraded to Matter?

Much like other standards on 2.4 GHz, such as Thread, existing Zigbee devices can theoretically be upgraded to work with Matter - and upgrading should be as simple as installing new firmware to the device. However, there are two key limitations. First, not all chips have enough internal memory to support the Matter protocol. Second, once installed, the Zigbee functionality of most chips will cease to function. That is to say that a single chip can run only one protocol, either Matter or Zigbee, but not both.

Can devices run Matter and Zigbee or Thread at the same time?

The vast majority of existing Thread and Zigbee devices will not be capable of running Matter at the same time as Thread or Zigbee. However, this isn't true of all devices. For instance, those running the Silicon Labs EFR32MG series of chips can communicate via Matter and another standard at the same time. This comes down to the chip offering 2 radio processors (Dual RCP) enabling them to communicate using two standards, such as Zigbee and Matter, without theoretically impacting performance.

How does Matter compare to Z-Wave?

While Matter remains unreleased, its wireless chips and some of its source code are both available to Atrim. That's allowed us to make a comparison between Matter versus Z-Wave. TLDR: Matter is missing some key functionalities, and its wireless frequency is going to pose problems for users.

What software supports the Matter standard?

Presently, no hubs publicly support the Matter standard, though some, such as SmartThings, are certainly undergoing private trials. However, Matter is already supported by the open-source software Home Assistant. They've announced that version 1 of the standard will be fully integrated into their software sometime in November. They've also announced that you can already trial a beta version of Matter.

Is Matter replacing other smart home protocols?

No, Matter is not replacing existing automation protocols. Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-Wave will all still be part of smart homes. Z-Wave will likely find itself as the more reliable competitor to Matter. Bluetooth LE will actually become even more prevalent with Matter: it's used for setting up Matter devices and connecting them to a hub.