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What is Matter? The Google, Apple and Amazon-backed tech to unite the smart home

What is Matter? A new smart home tech standard that’ll take the guesswork out of buying devices. Here are the main players, how it works and when Matter will arrive

It kind of went under the radar, but at Google I/O, the company announced its plans surrounding Matter. It’s a new smart home standard supported by several of the major tech firms and aims to simplify the process of adding smart devices to your home. Apple and Amazon are also part of the alliance, formerly known as Project CHIP (Connected Home over IP), and Samsung’s SmartThings will also support.

The idea is to provide the underlying tech for manufacturers so consumers buying the best smart home devices – like lightbulbs, locks, cameras and everything in between – can do so with confidence it’ll work in tandem with their existing smart home set-up.

Let’s delve a little more into what Matter is and how it will work.

What is Matter?

The official Build With Matter website explains it best. It’s an “industry unifying standard” that’ll provide reliable and secure connectivity and a commitment to ensuring that any supported devices will continue to play nice with each other today and tomorrow.

The alliance says Matter will focus on “creating more connections between more objects, simplifying development for manufacturers and increasing compatibility for consumers.”

Matter Smart Home

So, in plain English, it seems like a win-win for everyone. No competing standards consumers are obliged to stick with, an easy way for third-parties to ensure compatibility for their new products. The platform is open source, meaning anyone can work with it without paying a licensing fee. As a result, devices from multiple brands will simply work together.

Who is involved with Matter?

Matter is an alliance of technology companies all shooting for the same goal: Smart home simplicity. The three key players are Amazon, Google and Apple, but Samsung has already promised its own SmartThings platform will be compatible with Matter. More than 170 other companies are also involved with the scheme, some of which you can see below.

The “collaborative breakthrough” is also working closely with the Connectivity Standards Alliance (formerly known as the Zigbee Alliance) to ensure those standards are met.

Matter smart home companies

Will Matter work with voice assistants?

With Apple, Amazon and Google involved, you’d better believe it. Matter-approved tech will work with Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. Matter is IP based so it’s easy to connect via Wi-Fi and Thread network layers (Apple’s HomePod mini supports Thread too), while it’ll also support Bluetooth low energy.

What is Google up to with Matter?

Google is the first of the major companies to reveal its plans surrounding Matter. During I/O it announced many of its existing devices, such as the Nest Wi-Fi, Nest Hub (2nd-gen) and Nest Hub Max, as well as the thermostats and smart speakers will act as Matter ‘hubs’. So, if you’ve got one of those, any of the new devices adopting the standard will be compatible.

In a blog post, Google explained: “Android will be one of the leading operating systems with built-in support for Matter, letting you quickly set up devices with Google and link your favourite Android apps,” Google wrote in a blog post this week. “You’ll only need a few taps to set up your Matter devices, and you’ll have lots of ways to instantly control them such as Matter-enabled Android apps, Google Assistant, the Google Home app, Android Power Controls and compatible Google devices. It also allows over one billion Android devices to enable simple setup and control all Matter-certified products.”

When will Matter devices arrive?

Google is bringing Matter support to existing devices retroactively in a future update, but we don’t yet have a set date for that update, or when the first devices will arrive. The idea is to get the first certified Matter devices out into the wild by the end of 2021. As yet, no devices have been announced with support for the platform, save those Google is updating. We’d expect Amazon, Apple and Samsung to also retroactively upgrade some devices with all future launches supporting the standard.

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