Open Source 'Matter' Hopes To Make Sense Of The Fractured, Messy Smart Home Sector
from the simplify-all-the-things dept
If you’ve spent any meaningful time trying to build a “smart home” you’ve probably run face first into no shortage of problems. Gear is expensive, frequently complicated, and more often than not different devices don’t play well together. It’s a sector filled with various walled gardens by gatekeepers looking to lock you into one ecosystem, placing the onus on consumers to figure out which devices work with other devices and ecosystems, forcing the end user to spend countless calories trying to fix interoperability issues when they inevitably arrive.
The resulting mess has slowed adoption by those who (quite understandably) find dumb home tech (ordinary door locks, for example) to be the smarter option.
While various standards have tried to unify the space, they’ve not been particularly successful. In part because the central control of all these devices has been fractured across different standards and technologies (Zigbee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth) all jostling for primary control despite none of them working particularly well. Enter Matter, a new open-sourced connectivity standard created by over 200 companies that’s attempting to bring some sanity to the space.
Matter is an emerging communication protocol leaning on numerous existing technologies — Thread, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ethernet — with the goal of letting all of your smart home devices communicate with each other locally, without the need for a controlling gateway and hub. The Verge has a great breakdown on how the standard hopes to accomplish this (namely by being IP-based and integrating with existing technologies):
“Its unique feature is it?s an IP-based technology, meaning it uses the same mechanisms to communicate as the internet. So, there is no dependency on bridges or hubs, and yes, you will (eventually) be able to get rid of all those white boxes hooked up to your modem.
To simplify adoption, Matter will start as an application layer on top of existing IP technologies, including ethernet, Wi-Fi, Thread, and Bluetooth (for device provisioning). This means Matter is not reinventing the wheel; it?s adding better technology to the highways our smart homes are driving on.
Granted this isn’t our first rodeo with these kinds of efforts, as this old XKCD comic attests:
This time though there seems to be an underlying understanding that simplifying this mess is in everybody’s interests, from the biggest companies looking to sell more smart home gear, to the smaller players developing innovative new solutions. As such Matter is being directly supported not just by Amazon, Apple, Google/Nest, and Samsung, but a long line of other smart home and IOT companies like Wyze, Ecobee, iRobot, and others. Matter should find its way into products starting sometime near the end of next year, at which point you’ll be able to see if the underlying promise materializes.