Things are looking good for the Matter smart home standard (knock on wood)

If you’re not familiar with the importance of matter for smart homes, we’ve got a primer for you below, but to sum it up: simplicity. It’s a universal protocol that will allow accessories to work on any major smart home platform, doing away (in many cases at least) with the question of whether something is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit or Samsung SmartThings.

Since it was announced, there have been questions about how widely Matter will be adopted and whether it will roll out smoothly. Or at all. There have already been some delays – it was originally supposed to launch in 2020 and then mid-2022. The good news is that based on recent developments it is likely to reach its current Fall 2022 target and become de facto in the home sector. smart.

Go deeper: Why the Matter smart home protocol is a big deal

The wire barriers are falling

The Eero Pro 6E Wi-Fi Router on a Desk

The Thread Group recently announced the release of Thread 1.3.0, the first version of the technology to enable planned support for Matter. What is yarn? Again, there’s more to our Matter explainer above, but essentially it’s a Zigbee-based wireless protocol that allows smart home accessories to form their own mesh network. Each Thread product operates as a low-power “edge router”, which means less reliance on hubs or Wi-Fi. By extension, Thread devices tend to respond faster.

In theory, there’s no reason why you can’t link Nanoleaf lights, an Amazon Echo, and a Nest Hub Max on the same Thread network.

Thread is intended to be the main infrastructure for Matter, although the latter can technically operate over Wi-Fi, Ethernet and Bluetooth. This makes Thread 1.3.0 a crucial milestone. It will take a while for most devices to get the update, but in theory there’s no reason why you can’t link Nanoleaf lights, an Amazon Echo, and a Nest Hub Max on the same Thread network in close proximity in the future.

Meanwhile, general industry support for Thread is gaining traction. It’s already in products like Nanoleaf panels, Eero routers, and Apple’s HomePod mini, and both Amazon and Google have committed to bringing it to existing smart speakers and displays. These products are essential for many smart homes, making it a low-risk decision for other vendors to jump on board.

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Apple doesn’t seem to be dragging its feet

Apple Announces Matter Support for HomeKit at WWDC 2022

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

Apple is one of the founders of Matter alongside giants like (but not limited to) Amazon, Google and Samsung. Despite this, and its support for Thread on the HomePod mini and Apple TV 4K, there is concern that Apple could put up artificial barriers that defeat the purpose of the standard. The company is infamously resistant to others playing in its walled garden, either because it can deflect sales or threaten the security of platforms like HomeKit.

Those barriers are still a threat, and I’d bet an Amazon Echo would have more than basic functionality through the Apple Home app. However, there are signs that Apple is taking its commitment to Matter seriously, which is critical for the standard to succeed.

For one, Apple made a point of highlighting Matter during its keynote at WWDC 2022 in June, pledging support this fall. The company rarely spends much time talking about smart home tech during press events, so talking specifically about Matter – with a short-term release date no less – is a message to the public and developers alike.

More recently, Apple said it would “introduce a new architecture for an even more efficient and reliable experience” in the iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 versions of the Apple Home app. While unconfirmed, this looks a lot like Matter, which would presumably require new code to accommodate the protocol and added device types it was supposed to allow. HomeKit has long suffered from blind spots, for example not offering support for vacuum cleaners – something Alexa and Google Assistant have dealt with for years.

Calling Matter specifically at WWDC highlights its importance to both the public and the developers.

Apple may see this as a chance to catch up in the smart home race. HomeKit has many fans, but its market share and vendor support has lagged behind Amazon and Google, hampered by factors like HomeKit’s security demands. With a more level playing field, Apple’s influence in the phone and tablet industries may finally come to fruition.

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Matter release date coincides with other release windows

Google I/O 2019 Nest Hub Max Face Match

Media coverage often misses the fact that Amazon, Apple, and Google are owed (if not late) for new smart speakers and displays. Amazon’s last big announcements were in September 2020, and except for the 2nd Gen Nest Hub, Google is in a similar spot. It is not normal for the formation of any of the companies to be so static. Apple’s smart home lineup has actually shrunk to just the Apple TV and HomePod mini, as the original HomePod was canceled in March 2021 after poor sales. Rumor has it that the company is working on at least one new HomePod model.

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While supply chain issues have undoubtedly affected the situation, it seems likely that companies are also preparing to upgrade to Matter and Thread. We might even have seen Matter products in 2021 if the pattern was ready in time.

Amazon, Google and Apple are expected to update their speakers and displays soon. Just in time to coincide with Matter’s fall release.

Also, it’s worth noting that tech companies like to sync new software with new hardware releases if there’s a chance the two will coincide, and prefer to ship hardware in the fall to tap into holiday sales. Matter’s Fall 2022 target is likely no coincidence considering its supporters, and no company is going to want to give the competition an edge by delaying an important compatibility feature.

Are you waiting for the Matter before buying more (or any) smart home accessories?

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Could Matter still be derailed?

A kitchen lit up with LIFX smart bulbs and light strips

This cannot be ruled out. Building a standard that everyone can agree on is a challenge in any industry, and Matter has been suspended twice. It would be enough for one of the main supporters to decide that the current specs interfere with their plans – say, as hypothetical examples, because they restrict options or consume a lot of power in battery-operated accessories.

If I were setting up a smart home right now, I would avoid buying anything that doesn’t support Thread and/or promising a Matter upgrade.

For all the reasons we’ve mentioned, however, it looks like the pressure is building to get Matter out the door, and the announcements have aligned with where the protocol should be so close to launching. If I were setting up a smart home right now, I would avoid buying anything that doesn’t support Thread and/or promising a Matter upgrade. Two years from now, the lack of these things could seriously damage your setup.

Keep reading: 7 Improvements Smart Home Tech Really Needs to Thrive

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