In 2019, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Zigbee Alliance members came together to form Project Connected Home over Internet Protocol (CHIP), a working group building a new standard that enables IP-based communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services, and ultimately unites the smart home.
In 2021, the Zigbee Alliance rebranded as the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), and Project CHIP rebranded to Matter. These rebrands were necessary as the new Matter mark authenticates devices, ensuring that any object built on this standard is reliable by nature, secure by design, and compatible at scale.
Fast forward to today, and Matter is here! Officially released in October 2022, the Alliance and Matter have seen tremendous growth with 600+ members, 750+ Matter-certified devices, and multiple updates to Matter. Before we dive into these updates, let's learn more about what the Matter standard is and why Matter matters.
What Exactly is Matter?
Matter is an application layer protocol developed specifically to address device interoperability within the smart home, more specifically across different smart home device platforms. That means your Amazon Alexa can work with your Google Home or Apple HomeKit. Beyond interoperability, its other biggest benefits include simplified device setup, significantly better reliability and latency, and improved security through standardization.
Matter is designed to support existing protocols, such as Thread, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, Zigbee, and Z-Wave, allowing flexibility to manufacturers and consumers alike.
For developers, Matter simplifies product development while lowering development and operational costs. Since Matter is completely open source, anybody can read and propose changes to source code, resulting in collaboration from the industry, improved quality, and expedited processes. With Matter, device manufacturers only need a single SKU per product instead of separate ones for each ecosystem, thereby reducing costs, shortening development and production time, and simplifying the entire supply chain.
With Matter, consumers have the power to choose how they want to control their homes and with what devices – not limited to certain ecosystems. Consumers can have peace of mind when using their devices as privacy and security are central to Matter, with built-in encryption, over the air updates, and standardization to keep data safe. Another benefit for consumers is simplified setup for new IoT devices in their homes. Matter uses a simple and secure onboarding process to connect new devices and is as easy as scanning a QR code to add a new Matter device. Lastly, Matter is compatible with existing devices – non-Matter-certified devices – using Matter bridges so that consumers can continue to use the devices they already have.
Matter 1.0: Certification Now Open
In 2022, the CSA launched Matter 1.0., eight authorized test labs for product certification, the test tools needed to certify devices, and the open-source reference design software development kit (SDK) to develop Matter devices.
Consumers started to see the first ever Matter-certified devices. The Matter 1.0 release supported a variety of common smart home products, such as lighting and electrical, HVAC controls, window coverings and shades, safety and security sensors, door locks, media devices including TVs, controllers as both devices and applications, and bridges.
In addition to new devices, Matter 1.0 allowed companies to upgrade existing, already deployed devices, to Matter-certified devices via over the air updates.
Matter 1.1: Enhancements for Developers and Devices
Six months later in May 2023, Matter 1.1 was released. This update enhanced support for many smart home products in the Intermittently Connected Devices (ICDs) category, as known as "sleepy devices." ICDs are usually battery-powered devices like sensors, door locks, and switches that are connected via wireless networks and need to conserve power for optimal operation and lifespan. While ICDs aren't constantly connected, they "wake up" and connect periodically, drawing power and making energy efficiency vital. Matter 1.1 allows ICDs to sleep for longer periods of time before checking in with parent devices without having to reconnect to the network. Fewer check-ins means power conservation and longer battery life.
Matter 1.1 fixed many of the bugs from the initial launch of Matter, especially from the developer side. Given the code is publicly available and relies on open source SDK, it is important that these tools are easy to work with. In this update, the CSA gathered feedback from developers throughout the process to make clarifications on how to make the tools better to work with, helping developers to work with Matter.
The CSA also launched a testing center in Portland offering interoperability testing services to alliance members developing Matter products for certification. Silicon Labs also launched its Connectivity Lab, which simulates a modern Smart Home, with a range of IoT devices, applications, ecosystems, and networks. Customers are able to test their Matter prototypes operating within real-world scenarios across a variety of protocols and device brands.
Matter 1.2: More Device Types
Fast forward another six months, Matter 1.2 introduces new device types and brings other improvements that enhance interoperability and user experience. This release expands device types to washing machines, refrigerators, dishwasher, room air conditioners, robotic vacuums, air quality sensors, air purifiers, smoke/CO alarms, and fans. Matter 1.2 also adds key foundational elements that will enable more device types, such as operational modes, that are important to adding more appliances in the future.
This is exciting as many of these devices tend to be Wi-Fi-enabled but often have limited ecosystem support and require proprietary app control. Matter 1.2 allows manufacturers to simplify the user experience – including commissioning – while enabling integration into key smart home ecosystems.
Matter 1.2 also includes new features that improve the user experience for commissioning to better identify the product and its description. For example, to help the user verify which device is the one they are interacting with, the color of the device is listed in the Matter controller's user interface, or a light with multiple bulbs can describe the location or position in a controller user interface to indicate which bulb is bound to a smart switch.
Final Thought: Matter 1.3 and Beyond Only Gets Bigger
Support for Matter will only continue to get bigger. In fact, Amazon has already added Matter to more than 100 million Echo and eero devices. The CSA has already indicated that it hopes to share new Matter updates every six months, so we can continue to expect more Matter device types, specifically cameras and energy management devices to further unify smart home ecosystems, as well as more updates that helps widespread adoption across the smart home.
Author: Rob Alexander, Principal Product Manager