by Rob Alexander, Principal Product Manager for Matter at Silicon Labs
The rapid evolution and expansion of the IoT over the last decade has resulted in “smart” devices becoming a pervasive part of our everyday lives. Thousands of smart home products exist on the market today, and everything from our light switches to our vacuum cleaners now has the potential to make our lives easier via wireless, network-enabled automation.
The explosion of the smart home industry has not been without challenges for consumers and product developers. Limited interoperability of different smart home ecosystems, convoluted set-up procedures, privacy and security concerns, and high costs prevent consumers from easily creating smart home experiences tailored to their wants and needs. For developers, time spent attempting to overcome these obstacles often translates to increased development costs, delayed product launches, and stifled innovation.
Matter, the home automation connectivity standard designed to address these barriers, has been making waves in the smart home industry since its original release in October 2022. One year later, the highly anticipated release of Matter 1.2 is finally here.
What is Matter?
Matter is an application-layer wireless connectivity protocol designed to facilitate the interoperability of smart home devices developed by different brands. The protocol, collaboratively designed by the over 300 industry-leading members of the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), also seeks to enhance privacy and security standards and establish universal, user-friendly device commissioning procedures. Certified devices are rigorously tested to ensure that only high-quality products receive the Matter stamp of approval.
Since its inception, Matter has intended to improve the user experience of smart home devices. In stores, consumers would know that devices advertised with the Matter logo would work seamlessly with their preferred ecosystem, regardless of the developer. Installing a new device at home would be easy, thanks to Matter’s streamlined commissioning system. After installation, controlling new devices would be simple and convenient, thanks to multi-admin features enabled by Matter. In short, Matter was designed to make purchasing, installing, and using smart home devices easier.
However, the integration of Matter also has enormous benefits for product developers. Matter is open source, and Software Development Kits (SDKs) are freely available online. Chip manufacturers like Silicon Labs also have more tailored Development Kits associated with specific hardware platforms available for purchase. Exhaustive testing and certification guidelines are available to product designers, and a fully equipped Matter testing and certification facility has even been opened in Portland, Oregon. The availability of these remarkable tools enables creators of smart home devices to devote less time to the “nuts and bolts” of product development. This allows product developers to do two things: get simple, in-demand products to market faster and at lower costs, allowing them to remain competitive and reach a broader consumer base, and devote more product development time to innovation, resulting in brand differentiation and more opportunities to demonstrate value to customers.
The existence of an industry-wide standard like Matter that encompasses stringent privacy and security standards and requirements for an excellent end-user experience also allows smart home companies to establish their products as reliable and trustworthy. This not only improves the reputation of the IoT as a whole but gives small-to-mid-sized companies the opportunity to compete with long-established industry leaders in the home automation industry, like Apple, Amazon, and Google.
In the past year, Matter has had unprecedented momentum in the smart home industry. Matter 1.0 was released on October 4th, 2022, after only three years of development, and was deployed at scale within just a quarter of its release. The protocol supported Wi-Fi, Thread-compatible devices, and Bluetooth and included bridging to accommodate other non-IP networks like Z-Wave and Zigbee. The specific smart home devices supported included lights, blinds, thermostats, TVs, access control, safety and security sensors, bridges, and controllers. Matter 1.1 was released on May 18th, 2023; most updates were simple bug fixes, but Intermittent Connected Devices, or “sleepy” devices, were also added to the list of devices included in the protocol. And now, Matter 1.2 has arrived.
Matter has been one of the fastest-adopted protocols in the history of the IoT. Within a single quarter of the initial release, hundreds of Matter-certified products were already on shelves. And it is not only product developers who are paying attention to Matter; within just one year, millions of certified devices found their way into the homes of consumers, and according to Park Associates (an IoT Market Research company), 37% of consumers already rank Matter certification as being “somewhat critical” or “critical” when deciding whether or not to purchase a smart home product.
The exciting arrival of Matter 1.2 means support for an extremely in-demand, marketable category of devices: white goods and air quality devices. New device types include laundry washers, refrigerators, robotic vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, smoke alarms, and more. The Matter 1.2 update also adds new features that improve the user experience for commissioning to better describe the product or its elements.
Matter 1.2 signals CSA’s continuing commitment to further improving the user experience, raising the bar for the security and privacy of IoT devices, and streamlining the Matter certification process. This is by no means the end of the line; new updates to Matter are expected to be released approximately every six months, with more device types – from energy management devices to smart refrigerators –added along the way.
Matter 1.2, and all of its past and future iterations, is actively unlocking the potential for innovation in the smart home industry. As CSA continues to expand and the infrastructure surrounding Matter continues to grow, product developers have a unique opportunity to shape the evolution of the industry standard, collaborate with industry peers, and create high-quality smart devices with never-before-seen levels of quality and functionality. As Matter 1.2 opens the door to a new era of innovation, it’s clearer than ever before that the IoT is transforming our lives for the better, starting with our homes.
About the author
Rob Alexander is the Principal Product Manager for Matter at Silicon Labs and has worked on IoT devices, wireless protocols, and embedded devices for more than 15 years. Previously, he worked as a Principal Architect at Silicon Labs, collaborating with various embedded software teams, customers, and partners, to integrate wireless stacks and applications into the company’s hardware and software. Since 2013, Rob has served as the Chair of the Zigbee Pro Core Workgroup and on the CSA Board of Directors and Thread Group Board of Directors.