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Explained: What is Matter and why does it matter for the smart devices ecosystem – Times of India

Our homes are getting smart; if not today, they are poised to get one day. There are dozens of smart home devices – bulbs, switches and possibly every other home appliance is going smart, and they add a pinch of smartness to our homes. However, a roadblock is still stopping our smart homes from becoming smarter.
Most of us have a smartphone that comes with a smart assistant, or some of us even get a smart speaker – to control the smart devices in our homes. The big four – Amazon, Apple and Google and Samsung – have their digital assistants – Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Bixby – and protocols. Well, every device is not compatible with every assistant app.
So, you need to find a specific device compatible with your smartphone’s assistant or need a separate companion app. And this could get very tedious at times because you need to have a very specific device which works and a app or assistant which works together.
There are workarounds to make these devices interoperable, but that is not easy. But how good it would be if you didn’t have to search for a specific device, and every device works with every voice assistant. The best would be to have one common companion app to control them all. What if we tell you that it is going to happen soon.
Yes, you heard it right. In 2019, a group known as Project Connected Home over IP or Project Chip formed a smart home standard, now known as Matter. What is big about this is that it has some big names on board, including Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung. And it tries to solve one of the biggest problems – interoperability – by unifying protocols from these big tech corporations.
So let us understand what exactly Matter is and how it will shape our future smart homes.
What is Matter?
Matter is a new unified standard for IoT or smart home devices which promises to bring together different standards under one umbrella. As mentioned, it began as Project Chip in 2019 by Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung SmartThings and CSA (formerly known as Zigbee Alliance).
It is an open-source protocol, meaning companies can use it for their smart home devices. Currently, over 170 companies are a part of Matter, including Comcast, Ikea, Huawei and more.
The goal of Matter is simple – to make things easy for customers and make different smart home devices work together without fuss.
How will Matter work?
Matter is built upon the Internet Protocol (IP), enabling IP-based networking across different smart home devices, mobile apps and cloud services. Initially, the Matter protocol runs on Wi-Fi and Thread network layers while establishing a connection via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). However, things could change in the future as technology advances.
In the future, Zigbee devices will also be compatible with Matter. Also, we can expect Z-Wave to join, but there is no word on that now.
What is a Thread network? It is one of the connectivity methods used by Matter. Meanwhile, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are only for setting up the devices. We can explain Thread as a mesh network protocol that will allow different smart home devices to connect together, eradicating the need for a common hub.
In a nutshell, you will not need to buy a product which is compatible with the smart speaker in your home. You can buy any Matter-certified smart home device and control it through Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant.
Will older smart home devices work with Matter?
As it becomes official, new Matter-enabled devices from the participating companies start coming out in the market. But that does not mean that old devices will not work with Matter. Manufacturers can bring Matter support to older smart home devices via firmware updates.
Google has already announced that all the Nest devices will be compatible with Matter. So, when Matter rolls out, you can control them through Siri or Alexa.
Upcoming Matter-certified products will come with a label mentioning that they are Matter compatible, as you see for Alexa or Google Assistant.
Matter will support – smart plugs, lights, locks, sensors, thermostats, shades/blinds, and Wi-Fi routers.
What are Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung doing for Matter?
At its recent Alexa Live Developer event, Amazon announced quite a number of new features and tools to help developers adopt Matter. Further, the company will also help developers to make older smart devices Matter compatible.
As far as Amazon’s Echo devices are concerned, the older Echo smart speakers will receive OTA updates to enable Matter support. Furthermore, fourth-generation Echo smart speakers will function as Thread routers allowing any Thread device to connect to one’s home network.
Amazon introduced the Frustration Free Setup process that will allow users to add the device automatically as soon as they power it on without eliminating the pairing process once and all. And the company has donated its FFS process to Matter SDK so other developers can use it for their devices.
Further, an Ambient Home Dev Kit will allow the device to utilise the full potential of Alexa’s capabilities. Amazon is also opening up Routines to third-party manufacturers with Matter.
With iOS 16, Apple introduced a revamped HomeKit app. Apple says that the new app will support Matter. So, users could use any Matter compatible device with the Home app or Siri.
At the I/O event this year, Google announced that all its Nest smart speakers and display would receive an OTA update to support Matter. Also, users would be able to control Matter devices using Google Assistant. Meanwhile, Nest WiFi, Nest Hub Max and the second-gen Nest Hub will work as Thread border routers.
Lastly, Samsung is also integrating Matter into SmartThings. So, users would be able to use Samsung televisions and Galaxy devices to control any Matter compatible devices.
So, when Matter launches, most of your devices will be compatible with the new standard. However, we don’t have any timeline about when these older devices would be getting the OTA updates to make them Matter compatible. But, we expect the process to kick off soon as Matter becomes official, because the whole industry seems excited about the upcoming unified standard for smart home devices.
When is Matter coming?
Matter is expected to release later in 2022. So, we can expect the new Matter-enabled products to come later this year or next year. We should learn more about the timeline in the coming months as the launch nears.

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