What is Matter?
Nope, this isn’t a post from Neil DeGrasse Tyson about physical substances that occupy time and space.
Instead, we’re talking about “Matter” the smart home interoperability protocol supported by Apple, Google, Samsung, and Amazon. For consumers, Matter is the agreement by all major smart home companies to ensure that their products are all compatible with each other.
Remember in the 90s and early 2000s when every cell phone used a different charger? Matter is basically the smart home equivalent of making sure that doesn’t happen again. This way, your Amazon Alexa will still work with non-Amazon devices.
Starting in December, Amazon is going to roll out Matter over WiFi to 17 of its Echo devices. This first round of updates will only be applicable to Android phones, smart plugs, smart bulbs, and smart switches.
It’s going to be a very slow process, but Amazon plans to roll out Matter to iOS early next year.
“Chicken Or The Egg” Dilemma
For the casual Alexa user, Matter might not sound like a big deal. After all, to non-engineers (AKA most of us) it sounds like it should be fairly easy to just make different devices play nice with each other.
But, in reality, rolling out Matter is so tricky that one Amazon engineer described it as “an effort unprecedented in scale and complexity.” Part of the reason why implementing Matter is so difficult is that it creates a “chicken or the egg” dilemma.
This means that Matter requires updates for both software and hardware products simultaneously across dozens of different providers and services. In other words, older hardware products might not be compatible with new software and vice versa.
It’s exceedingly complicated to update both software/hardware at the same time while also developing new smart home products.
Peace Among Frenemies
Considering the number of conflicts that erupt in even the smallest of group projects, things are going incredibly well for this massive technology collaboration.
So far, at least 190 products are Matter certified and this number should slowly increase with each year. On Amazon’s end, it has announced “Works With Alexa For Matter” requirements to ensure the highest quality for its customers.
So far, 30 Amazon devices are currently set to embrace the updated operating standards, which should account for 100 million smart home devices globally.
Looking forward, Matter means that you won’t have to worry as much about going all-in on one company’s products to power your smart home. Instead, you’ll be able to mix and match your favorite products, even if they come from a competing company.