So new year, new me is the popular term heard on the cusp of a new year. In the same vein on the tech site, now might not be the time to pick up any new gadgets to build out your smart home or to add to an existing one. And the reason we say this is Matter. If you don’t know what Matter is, and why it does matter, we’ll dive into a brief explanation and why you should wait until 2023 to continue with your smart home tech.

The Back Story

Before we get into what Matter is, and why we suggest you wait for it, let’s provide a little context here about some troubles and negative experiences faced with our current state of smart home affairs. The main one of them is that while there is a great about of choice of devices out there, they all don’t place nicely with each. Now, this is an oversimplification of it, but essentially that is the essence of it.

To give an example, let’s say you want to build out your smart home while shopping for different devices, like the light bulbs from company A, doorbell from company B, smart speakers from company C, various sensors from company D, and so on. While you might have chosen the various products from these companies based on their features, prices, and other factors, the simple truth is each device might only work with their company’s suite of products or maybe at best one other company you selected. The chance of all the various devices you selected working together is slim and leaves you with a haphazard smart home that is more frustrating than convenient. And that is just individual devices. Then there are whole ecosystems that you have to decide. Based on that decision, you may only be able to choose certain other companies’ products you’ll be able to use to have any resemblance of a seamless experience.

The big ones include Amazon and Alexa, Google with their Google Home experience, and Apple with HomeKit. There are other hubs like Smartthings (you’ll still need one of the big three on the voice assistant side) and a whole lot more with varying levels of easy to difficult to set up. But we’ll focus on the big three. I myself started off with Smartthings, Ring for cameras/outdoor lights, and a few Google speakers and displays. That right there is 3 different apps to manage it. Over time this has ballooned to about 17-18 apps to manage my smart home and I’ve been sick of it sense haha. As it stands currently I live in the Google ecosystem and have over time transitioned my cameras, displays, speakers, and voice assistant to Google. But I still do have other companies’ devices that do various things outside of what Google provides and there are some products I would like, but they only work with say Apple Homekit or Amazon. But here is where Matter can help

So What Is Matter?

Matter, formerly Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP), is a proprietary standard for home automation that is royalty-free, with manufacturers only incurring certification costs. Announced on 18 December 2019, Matter aims to reduce fragmentation across different vendors, and achieve interoperability among smart home devices and Internet of things (IoT) platforms from different providers. The project group was launched and introduced by Amazon, Apple, Google, Comcast and the Zigbee Alliance, now Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA). Subsequent members include IKEA, Huawei, and Schneider. Matter-compatible products and software updates for existing products are expected to be released in late 2022.

From Wikipedia

Okay so if you read the quote above, you might still be like well what is it? Essentially a truckload of companies figured out that instead of making you buy their products and then locking you into only getting other smart home products that work with just their ecosystem…….that maybe it would be better if they actually allowed their devices to talk and work with other devices no matter what company it was from. Again another oversimplification but one that is the essence of what Matter is.

Now as companies either update the software of their existing products or as they bring out new ones, they will be certified to work with Matter. When you see this logo on the box, you’ll know it will be easy to set up and work with what you have a home now or as you’re building out your new smart home. You won’t have to choose only certain products since you know it works with what you have. You can not build out or add products on the features, prices, or preferences you want knowing it will work just fine. Below is a video I think is kind of cheesy, but provides a nice explainer of Matter, take a look.

So What’s Next?

Well now that you know some of the existing problems, and how Matter could make things better, what’s next? As I mentioned in the title I recommend waiting. Matter was officially announced a month or so ago, and while some companies have started updating the firmware of their existing device to support Matter, there isn’t a whole lot of current device just yet that are Matter ready or compatible. It’s going to take tech companies a few months to start releasing new devices with the Matter certification into the stores, so as we go into 2023 start looking for those labels on the boxes. Literally coming up the first week of January is the annual CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and we definitely expect smart home companies to be talking about Matter for their products. We’ll also definitely be asking this of any smart home company that we talk to while we’re there that very questions.

Building a smart home during the last few years has definitely been a challenge, but new year, new smart home is upon us. Here’s hoping that in 2023 we’ll see this space become much easier and interoperability with Matter leading the charge!

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