Presented by Infineon

The seamlessly connected smart home has been promised, discussed and demonstrated from many device makers as early as 1984 at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) convention. Unfortunately, expectations have often outweighed reality, even with the advancements that the Internet of Things and cloud connectivity have brought to the smart home.

Homeowners continue to experience installation, compatibility and security issues as they try to create their own truly connected smart home. It isn’t for the lack of standards. There were many. They just weren’t compatible. That’s why the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) and 280+ companies launched the Matter 1.0 specification — one unified smart home standard — in October 2022.

So, what is Matter and what are its key benefits? How does Matter work? What innovations will come out of this new standard? Will old smart home devices be backwards compatible? This article will address these questions.

Matter 1.0 advantages: The unified standard that solves the current interoperability, simplicity and security issues

For consumers, connecting devices is complicated. Until now, they have been forced to choose between ecosystems, each with limited device choices. They struggle when adding a device from different ecosystems. And they then hope the devices and the home ecosystem have adequate security.

Consumers also saw that ecosystems suffered from lack of devices. Not wanting to deal with the many different ecosystem requirements, device makers had to decide if they wanted to make different flavors of devices for each ecosystem. All the different ecosystems, diverse home products and different protocol choices made implementing a truly connected, secured smart home difficult. As a result, companies like Apple, Google, Amazon and others realized that they needed a common standard to solve this problem, together.

As stated above, CSA’s newly released Matter 1.0 specification addresses these challenges by offering one unified application standard for device makers to follow for many smart home applications including smart locks, lighting, thermostats, security systems, sensors and media devices. Backed by an international community of more than 550 technology companies, including major players like Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, Philips, Infineon and more working together, Matter solves the connectivity and security problems of consumers and device makers.

How does matter work?

Matter’s underlying network technologies are Wi-Fi and Thread. Wi-Fi enables Matter devices to interact over a high-bandwidth local network and allows smart home devices to communicate with the cloud. Thread provides an energy efficient and highly reliable mesh network that is also IP based so even low power devices can also connect to Wi-Fi and the cloud through a Thread Border Router.

How do products get Matter-certified and why does it matter?

As part of the Matter 1.0 release, eight authorized test labs are ready to test compliance with the Matter standard, based on devices that have already been tested for the underlying network technologies, Wi-Fi and Thread. In addition to product certification, test harnesses and tools are available, and an open-source reference design software development kit (SDK) is complete. These tools and testing allow bringing innovative, interoperable products to market, sooner. Furthermore, Alliance members with already deployed devices can update their products via over the air software update to support Matter and add them to the supported products list — once their products are certified.

Imminent Innovations

According to market research firm, ABI Research, by 2030, more than 1.5 billion Matter-certified devices will ship annually. In this period, a vast range of consumer robotics, smart appliances and other emerging smart home device types are expected to be connected into smart homes. Smart home applications in Matter 1.0 include smart locks, lighting, thermostats, security systems, sensors and media devices.

Matter teams are already working on the next set of devices to be included in future releases. The ability of key ecosystems from Apple (HomeKit), Google (Home), Amazon (Alexa), Samsung (Smart Things), Philips (Hue) and Comcast (Xfinity) to work together provides significant motivation for others to join the interconnected Matter community. Other standards linked through Matter include a bridge to Zigbee, as well as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for commissioning. (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. To standardize the messaging, Matter uses Internet’s Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or User Datagram Protocol (UDP).

Data in the right format reduces processing costs and system fragility. With Matter’s improved handling of a variety of data from numerous devices through a standardized data/connectivity protocol, system designers can truly make the home more intelligent by gathering sensor data and performing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) at the edge. When this is done, users can be confident that data inputs and sensor inputs collected from rooms and the exterior locations of the home can provide the most appropriate response to a given set of conditions. Figure 2 shows the types of smart home products that could be interconnected.

Figure 2. Typical smart home products can include legacy products (through bridges or when upgraded) and provide improved system security.

In addition to easily connecting/adding devices to the home network, legacy devices can be integrated using a bridge device, so the devices can become forward compatible. This can occur if the original manufacturer takes advantage of this Matter option. For example, the Matter 1.0 specification defines how to create a bridge between Matter and Zigbee and companies have already announced bridges from ZWave to Matter. Devices in the field that have sufficient and necessary resources can be software updated to meet the Matter 1.0 specification without using a bridge.

For the next updates to the Matter specification, robot vacuum cleaners and smart appliances are leading the way taking advantage of the improved connectivity possibilities. With Matter’s push to simplify the lives of consumers and device makers, more device types will quickly follow. The simplifications for consumers and device makers include:

  • Simplified choices for consumers since they can pick their ecosystem of choice and know devices will be compatible.
  • Simplified product development for device makers as they can build one device that is compatible with all the major smart home ecosystems.
  • Simplified product development because Matter includes an open-source SDK that can be used by any developer.

In addition, Matter raises the bar on IoT device security. Some of the key improvements are built-in device credentials that validate a device’s authenticity and mandated over-the-air software updates to ensure devices in the field can be kept up-to-date against any emerging security threats.

Future innovations

Matter 1.0 will accelerate adoption of smart home solutions by proving interoperability and backwards-compatibility of devices from different brands and operating systems. With Apple, Google, Amazon and other major players providing leadership roles, there will be a significant impact for device makers and consumers.

Having one standard solves the fragmentation of the smart home market, reducing consumer frustrations and simplifying device development. These benefits will be the key to opening doors to drive better connectivity, digitalization and decarbonization in this market. In fact, with a team working on energy for a future release, Matter will be used for energy savings and load shifting in the home.

The Matter initiative and Infineon’s integrated Matter solutions will allow device makers to simplify their product development and consumer acceptance of their products. For consumers, it will allow them to customize, connect and control their smart home experience in a simple and secure way, while optimizing energy usage in the most effective manner. Equally, and perhaps even more important is the security that can be provided through hardware and software layers in an optimized solution. For example, these security layers can be used to avoid the exposure of surveillance cameras, door locks and personal records such as medical data to unauthorized users (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Elements of connected IoT devices include areas that require hardware and software security layers. Yellow areas indicate areas of utmost importance.

The Matter roadmap by early adopters

The CSA Matter group is constantly forming teams on new technology enablement if there is new interest from the member companies. Teams of engineers and developers from the 280+ companies are already working on integrating appliances, IP cameras, robot vacuum cleaners and other common home devices for future Matter releases. In fact, CSA plans on releasing the Matter 1.1 specification in the spring of 2023 and then Matter 1.2 in the fall. Interested company representatives are encouraged to contact CSA and be part of these future improvements.

Infineon remains actively engaged in the Matter development efforts to further extend Matter support across more devices and use cases in the Smart Home and Smart Buildings. On-going efforts include incorporating Matter into the ModusToolbox™ software to make Matter simple and easily available to all customers. Infineon is committed to a roadmap where Matter-enabled devices can be built on any of our existing and future Wi-Fi- and 15.4-based products.

To learn more about developing and designing products based on Matter, visit Infineon here.

Skip Ashton is Distinguished Engineer at Infineon Technologies.

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