As smart-home hubs continue to fall out of favor, a new protocol called Matter is gaining traction. It’s designed to be local to your home, meaning less reliance on the cloud and more security. It’s also a more unified system than existing options like Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth mesh, which each require their own separate hubs or bridges to work together. Backed by the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google, it’s likely to have widespread adoption in the near future.
At launch, Matter will support a handful of device categories: smart light bulbs and fixtures, smart plugs, switches, thermostats, and sensors; connected locks; and media devices, such as TVs. More categories will be added over time. Matter devices will use your home’s existing Ethernet and Wi-Fi networks, rather than requiring their own dedicated router or bridge. But they must be connected to a Matter controller for setup and remote control.
You can think of a Matter controller as the brains of your smart-home network, managing communications and automating routines. It can be a smart speaker or digital display (like the Nest Hub 2nd Gen or the 4th-gen Amazon Echo or the Apple TV), a smart lock, a connected doorbell, a router, or any other compatible device that’s capable of connecting to your network over Wi-Fi. No hard-and-fast rule says a Matter controller can’t be the same as a Thread border router, though there are some exceptions. For instance, the Nest Hub Max, the 4th-gen Amazon Echo Dot, and the Apple TV will function as both a Matter controller and a Thread hub.
Most smart-home products that are compatible with Matter will have a “Works With” badge to indicate they’ll work with other apps, voice assistants and platforms. This means you can use them with Apple Home, Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant at the same time. You can even use them with Samsung’s Bixby if you want to.
If you have older devices, such as Philips Hue or Aqara’s lighting and security products, that rely on a hub or bridge for connectivity, you may be able to get them up to speed with Matter through an over-the-air firmware update. Other manufacturers, including Ikea, Nanoleaf, Sengled and GE Cync, have already promised to do the same with their products.
Beyond promoting interoperability and making it easier to switch between ecosystems, Matter’s inclusion of Z-Wave and Zigbee technology should boost its reliability and security. Its low-power mesh technology lets the whole network stay functional if one device goes down, and it uses banking-standard AES encryption for secure communication between devices. These are big wins that will help make Matter a worthwhile addition to your smart-home arsenal. matter residences