Ahead of World IoT Day on April 9th, here’s an overview of Matter Standard, the upcoming protocol for smart home devices
Within the last decade, the Internet of Things (IoT) has gained a lot of traction.
The smart home market alone is now estimated to be worth about $53 billion worldwide.
Many years of significant research and innovation into wireless communication has resulted in the creation of communication protocols like Thread, Apple HomeKit, Samsung Smarthings, IFTTT, Google Home.
Ideally, these standards should co-exist peacefully. Just as the internet was initially developed by smaller networks, the smart home industry is ready for a truly harmonised ecosystem, tying together all other individually-developed networks.
This would make it easier for developers to create new products, increase interoperability, reduce the time to market, and have consistency and usability benefits of being under one system for end users.
Cue the Matter Standard.
What is Matter Standard?
Matter is an application protocol that sits on top of the IPV6 stack, becoming a universal bridge between devices that have not yet been able to communicate to one another.
The Matter Standard has been flying under the radar since it was first established in December 2019, with the initial catchy-sounding name of Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP).
In the last few months, however, its profile has risen considerably. Matter is backed by over two hundred companies in Working Group – such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Tesla, LG, Samsung and IKEA.
Nevertheless, Matter is still in its infancy, as can be seen by the 1.4k issues currently open in the GitHub repository.
The smart home standard was originally due for release in June of this year, but this has been pushed back to Autumn 2022 at the earliest.
The problem consumers are facing is the number of different ecosystems they need to have, or the requirement to spend money and compromise on using one ecosystem, which may be missing features that they want from another. They also need to make sure that the devices they buy have the correct protocol to be able to communicate with one another.
A dilemma for developers who will work with matter is supporting multiple different protocols as well as their own, to transmit and expose what is largely the same amount of functionality. This increases overhead on both development costs and amount of grunt that the system will have to do. There usually becomes a trade-off for which protocols are supported, leaving devices working with a subset of the existing popular protocols.
In this scenario, Matter provides an SDK for developers to use a standardised way of communicating, on top of all the protocol layers that will be supported – such as Thread, Zigbee and Wi-Fi.
Matter is not a new wireless protocol or standard. It is in layer 6 of the Open Systems Interconnection model (OSI model), which sits on top of all the existing connectivity standards such as Thread, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth and Zigbee.
Consequently, there needs to be a bridge between the ways different devices connect; for example, Zigbee, which is already used in many smart home products, and Wi-Fi like on your phone.
As a result, we can expect to witness competition between the big players in the home automation industry in the battle to come out with the best hub – likely to be integrated with a smart home assistant – Alexa, Siri or Google Home, for instance.
Key benefits of Matter Standard
Matter will be beneficial to consumers because they will have confidence that the communications between all devices that use the Matter standard will be reliable and secure.
They can also be sure that any certified Matter smart home product will be able to operate and communicate with any gateways (hubs) with Matter support, even if the manufacturers are different, much like you can expect any Bluetooth device to be able to communicate to any other Bluetooth device, or how you can expect any Wi-Fi enabled device to be able to connect to your Wi-Fi router.
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, such as Samsung’s SmartThings.
As well as benefiting consumers, this new standard is also a plus for developers and companies creating Matter devices. The standard is completely open source, improving security and reliability, as anybody is able to read and propose changes to the source code. It is still under its old name project-chip at Github.
There is a reasonable starting step for developers to get into developing with the matter standard without becoming a partner. The examples provided on Github allow examples with some popular existing devices, such as NXP i.MX range, Silicon Labs EFR range, Linux, Android and more.
The majority of the code base has been provided by Apple and Google, with Silicon Labs coming in with a decent third, most likely due to their major development of the Zigbee protocol, based on the Zigbee Alliance, which has now changed its name to the Connectivity Standards Alliance.
Connectivity Standards Alliance Costs
Companies will have to pay a certification fee to the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), to be able to Develop, Test and Certify their products as Matter compatible. This could be seen as reassuring, as it means that only devices which have been properly developed and tested will be out on the market.
However, on top of this, companies will also have to pay – for each product developed to the Matter specification – a licensing fee, and also a recurring annual fee.
Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e
You may also have come across Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e, which are not only aimed at ever-increasing data rates and latency improvements, but also at power consumption – much like BLE spinning off from Bluetooth.
Both Wi-Fi 6 and 6e aim to reduce the amount of time that a device needs to use its transceiver, by having the router tell the device when the next time they can expect a packet is, and say that the device is able to sleep until then. This is much like it is implemented in the Thread networking stack.
It will be interesting to see the power requirements of the new modules for sleepy end devices using this new Wi-Fi standard, and how it compares to Zigbee and the other protocols that Matter will support.
Matter is based on IPv6, which could support more devices than there can possibly be MAC addresses (the 48-bit address space for MAC contains over 281 trillion, so we’re unlikely to ever run out).
The Matter Standard:
- will make smart homes, but also the other IoT uses within sectors such as smart city, automotive, energy and health, simpler to connect – and should see off small ecosystems which can’t communicate with each other.
- isn’t trying to reinvent the when by replacing existing standards, but instead build on top of them to connect them together.
- makes it easier for software engineers to develop IoT devices, and consumers to buy products which they can have confidence in, that will interoperate with each other over secure and reliable communications.
You’ve learnt about Matter, now what?
A consumer? Try researching various device manufacturers online to see if they are supporting Matter, and whether your existing smart home devices will be in line for a software upgrade.
If you are a manufacturer or innovator seeking help in the smart home industry, or planning to develop any embedded device, and need support with hardware and/or software development, then talk to us.
At ByteSnap, we are expert in most communication protocols, and have completed full Zigbee compliance for a smart meter we developed, the protocol of which will most likely have a significant percentage of usage in the Matter ecosystem.
How can ByteSnap help you today?
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