What happened? We explain the new smart home standard

The perfect smart The house anticipates your needs seamlessly and responds promptly to commands. You don’t have to open a specific app for each device or remember the exact voice command and voice assistant group starting the latest episode of your favorite podcast on the nearest speaker. Competing smart home standards make operating your devices unnecessarily complicated. It’s not just… well, smart.

Tech giants are trying to go beyond standards by offering their voice assistants as a control layer on top, but Alexa can’t talk to Google Assistant or Siri or control Google or Apple devices, and vice versa. So far, no ecosystem has produced the best hardware. But this may change. Previously known as Project CHIP (Connected Home over IP), the open source interoperability standard known as Matter will finally be launched later this year. Some of the biggest tech names have signed in, such as Amazon, Apple, and Google, which means seamless integration may finally be within reach.

You may also like to read our guides on the best smart speakers or the best smart lights, and our guide to setting up your smart home.

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The material promises to enable different devices and ecosystems to play well. Device manufacturers will adhere to the Matter standard to ensure their devices are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant and more. For people building a smart home, Matter should enable you to purchase any device and use the voice assistant or platform you prefer to control it.

The first protocol will operate at the Wi-Fi and Thread layers and use Bluetooth Low Energy to set up the device. While it will support many platforms, you will have to choose which voice assistants and apps you want to use. There is no central or auxiliary application.

What makes it different?

The Communication Standards Alliance (or CSA, formerly the Zigbee Alliance) maintains the material standard. What distinguishes it is the breadth of its members, the desire to adopt and integrate disparate technologies, and that it is an open source project. When the software development kit is ready, interested companies can use it royalty-free to integrate their devices into the Matter ecosystem.

Exiting the Zigbee Alliance gives Matter a solid foundation. Bringing the major smart home platforms (Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings) onto the same schedule is an achievement. While it’s optimistic to imagine a seamless adoption of Matter across the board, it has enjoyed a rush of enthusiasm with a wave of smart home brands, including August, Schlage and Yale in smart locks; Belkin, Cync, GE Lighting, Sengled, Signify (Philips Hue), Nanoleaf in Smart Lighting; And others like Arlo, Comcast, Eve, and LG. There are more than 240 member companies in total.

The matter has been in the works for years. The first release was due in late 2020, but was pushed back to the following year, rebranded to Matter, and then promoted for this summer. Now it has been postponed again until the fall. There is always a chance for further delays.

The CSA says the latest delay has been to accommodate more devices and platforms and ensure they will all work seamlessly with each other before release. More than 130 devices and sensors are working across 16 development platforms (operating systems and chipsets) through certification, with more to come in the fall.

If the specs arrive this fall, more companies can apply for Matter certification, and we could see a second wave of smart locks, smart bulbs, and security sensors in holiday time. Assuming the release goes well, we expect several other smart home brands to emerge.

What about other smart home standards?

The road to a Nirvana smart home is paved with various standards, such as Zigbee, Z-Wave, Samsung SmartThings, Wi-Fi HaLow, and Insteon, to name a few. These and other protocols will continue to exist and work. Google will integrate its Thread and Weave technologies into Matter. The new standard also uses Wi-Fi and Ethernet standards and uses Bluetooth LE to set up the device.

It is not a single technology and it must evolve and improve over time. It will not cover every possible use case for every device and scenario, so other standards will continue to be developed. The more platforms and standards are integrated with Matter, the more successful it will be, but the challenge of making it work seamlessly is also growing.

Will it work with existing devices?

Some devices will work with Matter after a firmware update. Others will never be compatible. There is no simple answer here. While many devices that currently work with Thread, Z-Wave, or Zigbee should be able to work with Matter, it’s not a given that they’ll get upgrades. It’s best to check with manufacturers about specific hardware and future support.

The first specification, or Matter 1.0, covers only certain classes of devices, such as: