Matter: collaboration assures smart home growth

Picture of John Denslinger
John Denslinger is a former executive VP Murata, president SyChip Wireless, and president/CEO ECIA, the industry’s trade association. His career spans 40 years in electronics

John Denslinger explains how collaboration is creating a new standard for growth. The once forecasted smart home explosion is more probable now thanks to Matter 1.0


Early last year, I shared my personal experience setting up a smart home from scratch. Honestly, the result was mostly satisfying and worth the expense of automating a number of safety, security and convenience functions. However, getting it all to work seamlessly was quite another matter. The devices chosen were based on reviews and availability as some items were supply constrained. That decision seemed wise at the time, but I soon realized each device required its own app for installation and feature management. Each smart home device maker cleverly set unique communication protocols preventing consumers from enjoying a more desirable interoperable ecosystem. Had I elected to use a single pioneer (Apple, Google or Amazon), my build-out would have been so much simpler.


This lack of interoperability remains the biggest threat to smart home expansion. Fortunately, the industry saw fit to convene a working group in December 2019 named Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP) tasked with addressing this shortcoming. Original members included Amazon, Apple, Google, Comcast and the Zigbee Alliance. Their goal was straightforward: achieve interoperability among smart home devices and IoT platforms regardless of maker while increasing the availability of compatible products for consumers.


CHIP eventually became Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) counting more than 300 tech companies as collaborators. The output was Matter standard 1.0, ratified October 2022 and released a month later in November. From the tech company perspective, Matter 1.0 offers: a proprietary certification pathway, an open-source software development kit and licensing controls. Brands able to market themselves as Matter-compatible will certainly profit from future smart home buildouts. With Matter-certified devices, consumers also gain. Consumers get simplicity: easier set up, seamless control via a single app or voice assistant and less complicated integrations.


Matter 1.0 is just the beginning though as many product categories are yet to be certified. The next release, Matter 2.0, isn’t expected until Spring of 2024 which means creating a true smart home will be incremental at best. Given the pace of innovation, perhaps the pause is a consumer opportunity to assess upgrades with late-breaking technology.


What about existing devices? Will these items be evolution casualties or can they be made Matter compatible? Like me, consumers will not easily abandon working products. If reports are accurate, several companies have already disclosed Matter software updates are possible for existing devices. It remains to be seen which brands, age and models are indeed software upgradable.


As for security and privacy concerns, both are carefully addressed in the new standard. Matter confirms device identity before accepting access to secure networks, and since Matter operates locally over IP rather than running through an internet connection, privacy is also protected. However, one additional issue has yet to be tackled by Matter: data security. As the number of connected product categories increase, companies will find themselves sharing enormous amounts of user data likely triggering another wave of consumer privacy concerns. CSA will need to adopt rules governing user data by or before the 2.0 release. Nothing is ever easy in the world of connectivity.