Why Does matter Matter?

We haven’t been covering smart home developments very much on Display Daily, but during CES I saw a number of references to support for ‘Matter’. So I thought I’d investigate to see if it actually mattered.

The Matter* initiative is from the ‘Connectivity Standards Alliance’ (CSA) was launched in the late spring of 2021 and has a strong list of supporters and adopters. The Internet of Things (IoT) has seen growth but has been hampered by ‘walled gardens’ that have become ‘islands’ of connectivity. That’s bad for growth. Consumers do not trust their smart devices to ‘handle their information respectfully’. That has to change if the IoT is to grow as it could.

csa logo.609aeff4aac16

The CSA is the new name for what used to be called the Zigbee Alliance. That moves the organisation away from the name of a particular technology – Zigbee is just one of the technologies, now. (I first wrote about Zigbee in 2010, although it had been around since it was first conceived in 1998, It was originally just a particular low power radio system. Since then, Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) have developed a lot and there is an interesting comparison of the two approaches here).

CHIP and the Connected Home

The aim of the CSA is to help to drive the ‘Connected Home over IP’ (or CHIP). CHIP was announced at the end of 2019 to develop a standard for connectivity using internet protocols. The first devices to appear are in lighting, HVAC and access control as well as window controls, TVs and access points. The project took a ‘code first’ approach to enable rapid implementation and the first ‘feature complete base specification’ was completed and ratified in May 2021. That’s pretty quick for a standard to be developed.

network topologiesThis is the kind of network topology envisioned and supported by the CHIP project

The key words for the development of the standard were simplicity, interoperability, reliability and security – there’s nothing not to like there. The connectivity has been branded as ‘matter’ – the consumer brand for ‘Project Chip’. The technology should allow new functions and interoperability. (For more on the background, there’s a Youtube video here that has a lot more detail).

Industry Support is Key

Key to the success of this kind of initiative is the support of key industry players. That is to say, it’s required, but not sufficient. Without such support, it will fail, and with it, it might fail. CSA has support from key smart home product companies including Amazon, which spoke in support when the Matter brand was launched. Because Matter works over wi-fi as well as other networks, including ‘Thread’, it can be used by voice control systems that can control smart home devices. Thread is part of Matter and is a low-powered, IP-based smart home mesh networking protocol. Products supporting Thread were announced at CES.

Key is that Matter can be implemented without throwing away what the consumer already has. Comcast was another supporter at the launch as were Google, Samsung Smart Things and Philips Hue. Philips Hue said that it planned to make all existing and future Philips Hue products compatible with Matter. That’s an impressive level of support.

CSA Matter SupportersThe CSA has an impressive list of matter supporters

(since this list I have seen GE Appliances, Electrolux and Haier listed as members, too. There are 180 or more companies involved)

Amazon has also said to the Verge that it will be

“upgrading almost every plug-in Echo smart speaker to support Matter, including most Echo and Echo Dot speakers and every Echo Studio, Echo Show, Echo Plus, and Echo Flex.”

Target devices

A key point of Matter is that it is designed to allow operation on multiple different makers’ protocols, even simultaneously a feature it calls ‘multi-admin’. The aim is to allow single connections of new devices that work with all control apps, rather than needing multiple logons and setups. The protocol uses BLE for commissioning. There’s a powerpoint deck here that shows how Matter interconnects.

Matter logo proc

For developers, the Matter system should enable lower cost and simpler connectivity without the need to support multiple different changing software environments. The CSA also said that builders and real estate providers to implement Matter to allow facilities management to operate much more simply and without the worry about future interoperability issues.

So, what is this to do with displays? Well, directly with respect to devices, not a lot. However, smart Displays and TVs are becoming the faces of smart homes and although it has long been the desire of TV makers to become the ‘centre of the smart home’, I’m not convinced this has happened. In fact, Samsung said at CES that it will have a new ‘Home Hub’ controller tablet (with an 8.4″ display) later this year. Support for and the development of the Matter ecosystem could be a significant enabler of this if it is to happen. If it does all work out the way the CSA hopes, Matter will definitely have mattered. (BR)

*I’ve used upper case here, although the logo uses lower case, just to indicate that I’m talking about the standard.