What is Matter

You may have heard about “Matter” when it comes to smart home technology. It is a new standard for smart home, that is supposed to help remove the long standing issue – that there are still many smart home products that do not work with others. There are hundreds of smart home products that will work with SmartThings, Hubitat or other smart home hubs, but there still are many that do not. Many of them work within their own closed ecosystem and does not play nice with others.

An example I have is that when I was new to smart home and wanted to try some things out, I got a Nest Protect smoke detector. It works well, and if the alarm goes off, it sounds the alarm and goes to the app on your phone and tells you there’s smoke. But it does not connect to smart home hubs sucha s SmartThings. Which therefore makes it impossible for smart home hubs to help automate if an alarm goes off from Nest Protect. This is why I switched to First Alert 2 in 1 smoke detector. It does connect to smart home hubs and helps automate such as triggering your lights, unlocking the doors, turning off furnace, etc.

I can give you a similar example – think of traditional specialized Deaf notification systems. They are closed systems. If you have a flasher from a specific brand, you are required to stay with that brand. They do not work with other products. I’ll give you an example. Lets say there’s a specialized Deaf flasher system named RossFlash. I bought a RossFlash alarm clock to flash the lights to wake me up. If I want a doorbell, I must buy a RossFlash doorbell. If I want more such as baby cry signaler, phone ringing signaler or more flashing devices, they all must be from RossFlash. If I saw something from a different deaf flashing system, such as SherylFlash that I like because RossFlash does not have, and I want to use that, it will not work. You are forced to stay in a closed RossFlash system. If it just so happens that RossFlash stopped making products, you are stuck with what you have. If a device broke and needs replacing, or if you moved and wanted to expand, needing 1 or 2 more devices, you are stuck and cannot expand. You now have to abandon and invest in a new system.

The point of Matter is that it is designed to be a standard for all new products to communicate and work with each other. You buy anything that has Matter logo on it, you know it will work with everything you have that also supports Matter. The great thing is that 170+ companies has signed up to participate, and that includes many major companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, and Samsung, who typically does not play nice with each other. Before, if you had a Ring doorbell (which is owned by Amazon) and you have a Google display (Google Nest Hub), they couldn’t connect and you cannot view the ring doorbell camera. You would have to use the Amazon hub display. Because of Matter, you should be able to view on any display hub (Google, Amazon, etc) a video doorbell from any branded doorbell. This makes things much easier for you and removes barriers.

Matter standard should have been released this year in 2021, but it has been delayed to 2022 because the committee working on Matter has not completed the certification process and the SDK, among a few other things. Once it releases, all products that supports Matter should have the Matter logo on it. Existing products right now should be able to be compatible with it. For example, Philips Hue has announced that the hue bulbs will work with Matter. Nest has said their thermostats will work with Matter, except for the first generation ones. But do not worry, many of the existing smart home products should still work well for a long time. Matter is not meant to replace the existing smart home products, but work with it.

One of the great things about having open systems such as Matter where everything works, is that you know that no matter what you have, you know it will work. For example, I have 4 different smart lights here. LIFX (my favourite, and used primarily for flashing), Philips Hue, Wiz, and Inovelli LED strip. They will all flash if I need to. It does not matter that they are all different branded companies. If I plan to renovate my basement and want to add another light bulb to flash for whatever notifications I needed, but one of those went under next year (closed) and does not make bulbs anymore, that will be fine with me. I can always try something else, such as Sengled or Inovelli’s Ilumin bulbs, and it’ll work just fine, flashing along with the existing lights I have. No problem! If I see a new device, such as a new smart microwave that can trigger automations and flash lights for me if it finishes microwaving, sure. I can do that, no problem at all! Remember my example above if I used RossFlash flashing system, I will never be able to do that!

Be Smart!

Published by Ross LaVallee

Deaf, smart home enthusiast. Plays around with smart home technology to see how much can be squeezed out of it to benefit the Deaf / Hard of Hearing community for accessibility uses.

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