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What is Matter and What Does It Mean for Your Smart Home?
Matter promises to make all smart home devices compatible with each other, no matter what brand. But will it work?
Getting all your so-called smart devices to talk to each other can be harder than getting two sides of the political divide to agree.
You need to read through dozens of reviews to make sure a new device works with your Alexa or speaks to your other smart devices through Bluetooth. And heaven forbid you want to swap to a new smart home brand. To do that, you’ll need to fork over some serious cash on new devices to redo your entire smart home environment or get your hands dirty with some behind-the-scenes technical tinkering.
Matter intends to fix that.
But how will Matter affect you? When is it launching? Will you need to buy a whole new set of smart home devices? Should you buy them now or wait to splurge?
We’re here to help you find the answers to those questions and get to the heart of the, well, matter. (Sorry, not sorry.)
What is Matter?
Started in 2019 as Project CHIP, Matter is a new home automation standard similar to Bluetooth, Z-wave, or Zigbee. But unlike Bluetooth, Z-wave, or Zigbee, Matter hopes to work for all smart home devices. And that seems extremely likely now that dozens of well-known brands like Apple, Google, Samsung, and Amazon are behind it.
The Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), formerly known as the Zigbee Alliance, is the main group behind the Matter project.
How will you know if a device supports Matter?
For devices you own, expect to see an email or other communication letting you know that a Matter upgrade is ready. Towards the bottom of this article, we’ve also got a list of brands and specific devices that will work with Matter.
As for new devices, you’ll see the Matter logo on the device itself, on the packaging, or in the online description.
What does Matter mean for the future of smart homes?
Along with gaining support from hundreds of smart home brands, Matter should have a positive impact on anyone with a smart home device thanks to these features:
- You get more freedom to pick and choose new smart home devices.
- Setup will be simpler for smart home devices—and they’ll be more secure.
- You’ll no longer need to spend as much money to build out your smart home ecosystem.
Freedom to pick and choose
If you own a Matter-certified device, it will work with any other Matter-certified devices you own, no matter what brand made them.
To add to that, you’ll be able to control all your devices through Matter’s Multi-Admin feature, all through one app or voice assistant.1 So that means you can turn off your lights with Alexa, lock the front door with Apple HomeKit, and then use your doorbell cam to see who’s outside with Samsung SmartThings.
Simpler setup and strong security
We love that Matter aims to keep high security and data privacy standards.
And you, as the owner of a smart home device, get to control how that particular device communicates with all the other devices in your home. This is a relief in a world where you always have to wonder what gadget might be spying on you.
Matter will also make setup easier by using QR codes that you can scan—the app then gets all the information it needs to walk you through the setup process. Currently, Apple HomeKit and Google use a similar approach to setup. (Which we found was extremely simple and quick when we set up our Nest Wi-Fi.)
As an open-source project, anyone can use or modify Matter. This is beneficial because it allows multiple people to review and test it, improving the security and reliability of the project.
The most obvious way Matter will save us all money is getting every smart home device to talk to each other. That means you could opt for a cheaper doorbell camera, even though it wouldn’t work with your Apple HomeKit hub before Matter.
This may lead to more smart home brands creating a wider range of affordable devices. But you’ll probably still see some über expensive options out there for anyone who wants special features, colors, or materials.
Why we need Matter
If you already own a smart home device or two, you’re probably well aware of the issues that crop up if you buy devices from different brands. But for anyone who’s new to the smart home game or is lucky enough to not run into issues yet, here’s the gist:
Not all smart devices speak to each other.
Some devices are compatible only with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, while others aren’t. For example, the Nest Wi-Fi router is compatible with a handful of other smart home brands, like Philips HUE, GE, and LG, but good luck getting it to work with an Apple HomeKit device. (Unless you have a little technical know-how and use a platform called Homebridge.)
This lack of a universal smart home language makes it confusing, frustrating, and expensive to set up a fully automated home.
How Matter works
With Matter, you’ll be able to buy any smart device you like, plug it in, and watch it get to work. Smart home language barriers will be a thing of the past.
At least, that’s what the dream is.
What sets Matter apart from other home automation standards, like Zigbee and Z-wave, is that more than 200 different companies back it. That includes Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung.
And any device that uses one of the following technologies will be able to communicate using Matter:1
- Ethernet (LAN, a wired internet connection)
- Wi-Fi (WLAN)
- Thread (a wireless mesh network)
- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for setup only
But keep in mind that Matter is not a replacement for your smart home hub. It’s what connects your smart home hub to all your various devices, and you may still need other apps to adjust settings on devices like your thermostat, lights, and security cameras.
When will Matter be available?
Currently, the CSA expects Matter to fully release in early 2022.2 But we likely won’t see new Matter-ready devices until late 2022.
It’s worth noting that, in the past, the timeline has been pushed back. (Thanks to the pandemic and other uncontrollable events, mostly.) So it remains to be seen if Matter will be ready to go in the next few months or not.
Which smart home devices will work with Matter?
Matter has more than 200 companies that have agreed to use it when it launches, including multiple home security companies like SimpliSafe and ADT, plus electronics companies that also make smart hubs and devices, like Samsung and LG.
And if you’re a fan of smart speakers, rest assured that Amazon, Google, and Apple are all jumping on this bandwagon too. That so many companies have embraced Matter is no small feat.
It also likely means that each of these companies will produce new equipment that’s ready to work with Matter. And some, like Amazon and Google, have already pledged to update existing devices so they’ll work with Matter when it finally launches.3,4
Overview of popular smart home companies supporting Matter
- Arlo Technologies
- Comcast Xfinity
- First Alert
- GE Lighting
- And more
Which devices will get upgraded to Matter?
So far, here are the devices that will upgrade to support Matter:
- Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Flex, Echo Plus, Echo Show, and Echo Studio displays and speakers3
- Android OS and apps, including Google Assistant, Google Home, and Android Power Controls4
- All Apple devices running on iOS 15, including iPad, iPhone, and HomeKit5
- Eero Beacon, Eero Pro, and Eero 6 Wi-Fi routers3
- Eve devices that use Thread6
- All Google Nest speakers, displays, Wi-Fi routers, and the newest Nest thermostat4
- Nanoleaf lighting products7
- Philips Hue smart lights8
Should you buy new Matter-supported devices right now?
We’d say hold off on throwing cash at new smart home tech.
It’s safer to wait until Matter officially launches and existing devices are upgraded. That way you can see which of the devices you own will work with Matter and fill in the gaps with new products as needed.
Plus, Matter’s launch has been delayed at least a few times already. So it’s worth waiting until that fateful day when it finally goes live. Otherwise you may fork over hundreds of dollars on new devices, only to potentially have them not work with Matter.
We’re excited for Matter, and we bet you are too. This new home automation standard will finally let all our smart home devices talk to each other, which means we get to customize our smart home setups even more.
Here are the main things you should know about Matter:
- What is Matter? It’s a new home automation standard that will let all smart devices talk to each other and work together, no matter what company made them.
- When is Matter launching? The launch date keeps getting pushed back, but is currently set for early 2022. New Matter-compatible devices likely won’t appear until late 2022.
- What devices will work with Matter? More than 200 companies pledged to support Matter, including ADT, Amazon, Ecobee, Google/Nest, iRobot, Samsung, and many more. Some existing devices will get upgraded to support Matter, and we’ll also see new Matter-ready devices hit the shelves.
- Do you need a new Matter device? Right now, we say hold off on buying new Matter devices unless you’re completely sold on the price and features. More news keeps popping up about smart device upgrades, so you may not need to replace pieces of your smart home ecosystem at all. Plus, new Matter-ready devices will become available once it fully launches.
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Still curious about Matter and how it will affect your smart home? We can help.
Project CHIP, or Project Connected Home over IP, is the former name for Matter, which is a new smart home automation platform intended to make all smart home devices compatible with each other, no matter what brand.
Yes, you’ll still need some sort of smart home hub even if your devices use Matter. That’s because Matter is a way for each device to connect to others. It may offer a few simple controls, but in order to run your smart home to its full potential, you’ll want a hub.
According to the CSA, privacy and security are two key features of Matter. It will use the highest levels of cryptographic security to ensure hackers can’t collect data each device shares with other devices in your smart home.
Another key feature of Matter is it’s an open-source project. This means anyone can hop in and test security and data privacy—and make changes to fix any gaps.
Yes, Matter will work with voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Hey Google. Google, Amazon, Apple, and Samsung are all supporting the Matter project and will integrate it into their devices once it launches.
Thread is similar to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth in that it’s a way to connect devices together. And Matter uses Thread or other communication standards (like Wi-Fi) to let each device communicate with the other.
You can think of Matter kind of like a translator: some devices communicate through Thread, while others communicate through Wi-Fi. Matter translates all these communications into a language that every device can understand.