The Matter Standard – why it matters

Guest Author Dunstan Power, Director of ByteSnap Design, sets out the key benefits of The Matter Standard for IoT device development that will amp up smart homes by ensuring gadgets are interoperable.

Within the last decade, the Internet of Things (IoT) has gained significant traction and the smart home market alone is now estimated to be worth about $53 billion worldwide. Research and innovation into wireless communication have resulted in the creation of networking protocols such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Thread. Ideally, these standards should co-exist peacefully – however, they don’t.

That’s why there’s such unprecedented interest in the Matter Standard, the new smart home interoperability standard being developed by Google, Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Comcast, GE and many other brands, to help devices work together in a single smart home ecosystem. This is what it delivers.

Compatibility – all devices working together seamlessly

The smart home industry is ripe for a more harmonised ecosystem, which would bring together all networks that have been developed individually, making it easier for developers to create new products, reduce time-to-market, and have consistency and usability benefits of being under one system for end users. That’s the purpose of the Matter Standard, as it gives direct IP control for devices to speak straight to the internet.

Matter is in layer 6 of the Open Systems Interconnection model (OSI), which sits on top of all the existing protocols such as Thread, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee, becoming the bridge between devices that have not yet been able to communicate with one another. It will make  homes smarter, and also resonate in other IoT uses, such as energy, smart city, automotive, retail, industry, healthcare and buildings, where it will become much easier to connect and replace small ecosystems which can’t communicate with each other or the outside world.

Supported by over 200 firms, consumers can be sure that any certified Matter device will operate and communicate with any other Matter device. Another advantage that comes from this interoperability between devices from different manufacturers is that there will be more competition in the IoT space, as they will no longer be locked into one specific ecosystem.

Simplicity – easier consumer control over the interaction, and faster time-to-market

A major problem that consumers are facing is that either they need to accept the inconvenience of managing a number of different ecosystems or they need to lock themselves into using one ecosystem, which may be missing features and cost them more money. To make things worse, they also have to ensure that the devices they buy have the correct protocol to be able to communicate with one another. Matter will help consumers because they will have confidence that the communications between all devices using the Matter standard will be reliable and secure.

Matter also helps developers – providing an SDK that supports a standardised way of communicating on top of all the protocol layers (such as Thread, Zigbee and Wi-Fi). After Matter comes into play, developers will be able to focus entirely on creating products without having to worry about connectivity or interoperability issues in the design and development phase.

The new standard isn’t trying to re-invent the wheel by replacing existing standards, but builds on top of them to connect everything together. Any Matter-certified end product will be plug-and-play. Devices that were not previously guaranteed communication in a different ecosystem will complement any smart home ecosystem using that standard. But, the Matter Standard will also simplify the developer experience by reducing functional specifics that could limit interoperability.

Open source – resilience rather than obscurity

The new Matter standard is also a plus for developers and companies creating devices using Matter. Most of the code base has been provided by Apple and Google, with Silicon Labs also contributing. The standard is completely open source, improving security and reliability, as anybody can read and make changes to the source code. It is still under its old name (project-chip) at the following git link: https://github.com/project-chip/connectedhomeip

The standard provides a common layer for device life-cycle events, with an open-source approach using best-in-class contributions from market-tested smart home technologies. Developers can leverage those to drop-in code and development tools that are tested, validated and supported by members of the Alliance. This will deliver interoperability without any risks or issues in connectivity and communications.

How you join the club

Matter is still in its infancy and not expected to roll out until later in 2022 and, as can be seen by the 1.4k issues currently open in the GitHub repository, there is a lot of work still to do. To be part of the club, companies will have to pay a certification fee to the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), to market their products as Matter compatible. However, this could be seen as a good thing, as it means that only devices that have been properly developed and tested will carry the badge.

Dunstan Power is Director of ByteSnap Design, which helps businesses looking for help in the smart home industry or to develop embedded devices. You can find out more about ByteSnap here.

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