Meet Matter: The IoT badge aiming to simplify the smart home

Chris Davies - May 11, 2021, 11:54am CDT
Meet Matter: The IoT badge aiming to simplify the smart home

Get ready to look out for a new name and logo as you shop for the smart home, with the Zigbee Alliance rebranding and launching a new name, Matter, for Project CHIP. The revamp sees the old alliance name retired in favor of the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), intended to reflect a broader array of ways for things like connected bulbs, smart locks, cameras, and more to talk among themselves.

The Zigbee Alliance has been around for a while now, pushing the low-power, mesh-supporting network technology. While it may not be a consumer-recognized brand, Zigbee is actually found in a fair amount of smart home devices. Hue bulbs, for example, rely on it for their intercommunication, much like numerous remotes, locks, and other devices.

You can even find Zigbee on Mars at the moment, with the Ingenuity helicopter using the wireless tech for its link to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

While Zigbee may be well-traveled, as time has gone on it has become clear that no single communication standard will dominate the market. Instead, multiple different wired and wireless standards exist, and multiple different companies want to use their own proprietary connection types.

The CSA will try to bring them together as much as possible, it said today, and at least from the list of names onboard that does seem a more achievable goal. Amazon, Apple, Google, IKEA< Signify, SmartThings, and Comcast are all onboard, along with Lutron, Somfy, NXP, and ASSA ABLOY along with many others.

Goodbye Project CHIP, hello Matter

Key to the transition is the arrival of Project Connected Home over IP – aka Project CHIP – which is also getting a rebrand today. Now known as Matter, the brand by which it will launch in stores by the end of the year, it’s intended to be a badge by which smart home and IoT device interoperability can be checked. That, the CSA hopes, will cut down on “will gadget X work with ecosystem Y?” confusion in stores.

Initially developed by Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Google, SmartThings, and the Connectivity Standards Alliance, and subsequently joined by IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Schneider Electric, Signify, Silicon Labs, Somfy and Wulian, Matter has some decent buy-in from device-makers at least. The platform promises IP-based connectivity with built-in security, initially via ethernet, WiFi, and Thread, with Bluetooth Low Energy used for easier initial setup.

The upshot should be devices that can be controlled within multiple ecosystems simultaneously, as well as interoperability between devices from different brands. “The Matter mark will serve as a seal of approval,” the CSA says, “taking the guesswork out of the purchasing process and allowing businesses and consumers alike to choose from a wider array of brands to create secure and connected homes and buildings.”

For example, a Matter-compliant device could work with Amazon Alexa, a SmartThings hub, and with Google Assistant devices. Existing devices will be in many cases brought along for the ride, too, such as Signify’s Hue bulbs. Final certification is expected in late 2021, across everything from lighting and electrical, HVAC, access control, security, smart shades, TVs, and more.


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