How Matter Changes Your Smart Home Experience
In an ideal world, a smart home would be simple to set up, all your devices would work well together no matter the make and you’d be able to control everything from whatever smart speaker, smartphone or other device you wanted without running into any weird bugs. For a long time, this hasn’t really been possible—often because of competing standards—but this looks set to change. Matter, a new open-source standard developed by the Connectivity Standards Alliance and backed by hundreds of tech companies, is here to change the way you use your smart home.
What is Matter?
As a new open-source smart home standard, Matter is designed to make different smart home devices from different manufacturers work seamlessly together. And crucially, it’s backed by big-name smart home players like Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung and IKEA.
Depending how long you’ve spent trying to set up a smart home, Matter will either sound totally obvious and something that should have happened long ago or an absolute pipe dream.
How does Matter work?
Matter is built on top of a couple of existing standards. It allows high-bandwidth devices like TVs and streaming devices to run over Wi-Fi and Ethernet, and low-bandwidth devices like smart light bulbs and sensors to use Thread, a mesh network standard designed for smart devices. It also uses Bluetooth LE for device setup.
What this means is that Matter-compatible devices will be able to communicate with each other without the need for hubs or bridges, and that setting these devices up on one smart home platform will set them up on all your smart home platforms. So not only will your Amazon Alexa be able to control your Matter-compatible light bulbs directly, but so too will your Apple HomePod or Google Home, and you’ll only need to set things up once. (Right now, you’d need to set your smart bulbs up with each platform individually and things may not work smoothly.)
All this is a long way of saying that Matter should invisibly solve most of the annoying compatibility issues that have plagued setting up a smart home in the past. You won’t need to worry if a certain device is compatible only with Alexa or only with Google Home. Any Matter-certified device will be interoperable with all others.
As a bonus, Matter will make it easier to secure your smart home by allowing all your devices to operate over your local network without needing an internet connection.
What smart home devices work with Matter?
Matter 1.0, which was released in October 2022, supports the following kinds of devices now:
- Smart light bulbs and switches
- Smart plugs and outlets
- Smart locks
- Smart thermostats and HVAC controllers
- Smart blinds and shades
- Smart sensors
- Smart TVs and streaming devices
- Smart garage door controllers
Later Matter specifications will add support for:
- Smart major appliances
- Smart security cameras
- Smart doorbells
- Smart environmental-quality sensors
- Smart smoke detectors
- And plenty more smart home devices
How will Matter work with my old devices?
While most new products are likely to support Matter going forward, what does it mean for all your smart home devices? Well, it’s complicated.
Some devices can be updated to support Matter. For example, Amazon has added Matter support to more than 20 Echo devices, including the second-generation Echo Dot and Echo, released in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Other devices, like Phillips Hue light bulbs, can’t be updated to support Matter—but the Phillips Hue Bridge will be. This means you’ll need to keep your Bridge around to control your lights over Matter, but otherwise shouldn’t have any difficulties.
Unfortunately, some devices just won’t be updated to support Matter. Nanoleaf has released new smart bulbs that support the standard, but won’t update its older devices.
The best way to find out is to search the internet for information about the specific smart home devices you use and their Matter compatibility. Many of them should be upgradeable to support Matter in some way.
How do I get started with Matter right now?
Matter is a new standard and is still rolling out. Even still, many major smart home devices support Matter already, including all the currently available smart home hubs and smart speakers from Amazon, Apple and Google. Updates are underway, so really, as long as you keep your smart home products up to date, you’re probably already using it.
With that said, going forward you should look to purchase Matter-compatible devices. This way, you can run your smart home smoothly, just the way you want.
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