TP Link Tapo P110M Matter Smart Plug scaled

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As I have written a few reviews of devices that support Matter I thought it would be beneficial to write an article covering what Matter actually is.

Matter is an open-source, IP-based networking protocol that enables smart home devices to communicate locally without relying on the cloud or proprietary ecosystems like Amazon Alexa, Google Home/Nest, or Apple HomeKit.

The goal of Matter is to solve the fragmentation problem in the smart home industry by getting brands and manufacturers to build Matter compatibility into their devices. This will allow smart home products to work together seamlessly, regardless of the ecosystem or brand.

Matter was launched in October 2022 by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), a consortium of over 200 companies involved in the smart home industry, including Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung SmartThings, IKEA, and Signify (Philips Hue).

Key Benefits of Matter

The key benefits of Matter for consumers are:

  • Simplicity: Easy setup directly within a mobile app instead of needing proprietary hubs or bridges.
  • Interoperability: Devices will work together locally regardless of brand, removing walled gardens.
  • Choice: Consumers will have more freedom to choose smart home devices based on features rather than ecosystem restrictions.
  • Security: Matter uses state-of-the-art security techniques like DTLS and encryption.
  • Reliability: Local connectivity removes reliance on cloud services, improving reliability.

For brands and manufacturers, Matter reduces R&D costs related to supporting multiple smart home ecosystems while still allowing differentiation above the connectivity layer.

Supported Ecosystems & Hubs

TP Link Matter 1

The biggest smart home platforms – Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit – have all committed to supporting Matter devices.

This means Matter-certified devices will work locally with:

  • Amazon Echo speakers
  • Google Nest Hub displays
  • Apple HomePod speakers

As well as hubs like:

Many Matter devices will also have Thread mesh networking capabilities allowing them to connect directly with compatible Thread border routers.

Thread Support

Thread is a low-power mesh networking protocol which Matter leverages for direct, hub-less device-to-device connectivity.

Thread networks support up to 250 devices connected simultaneously with encryption, making it ideal for homes.

Border routers that enable Thread networks include:

  • Google Nest Wifi Router
  • Apple HomePod Mini
  • Amazon Echo (4th Gen and newer)
  • Samsung SmartThings Hub

So Matter devices with Thread can connect directly to those routers without a smart home hub required.

How Matter Works

Matter uses IP-based networking, with connectivity options including Thread, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet.

It uses a device-focused architecture with four key components:

Matter Devices

These are hardware devices like lightbulbs, switches, sensors, locks, and bridges that are Matter-certified.

Devices have a Matter software stack which handles networking, messaging, and translating between Matter and proprietary ecosystems.

Matter Clients

The Matter client provides the user experience and controls the Matter devices. This is an app on a smartphone, tablet, or voice assistant.

Matter Commissioning

This is the initial setup process for onboarding Matter devices. Users can simply scan a QR code on the device using the Matter client app.

Matter Administrator

This is responsible for managing permissions, ownership transfers, software updates, and monitoring the status of Matter devices.

Commissioning Process

The commissioning process for adding new Matter devices is designed to be extremely simple:

  1. User downloads the Matter client app and creates an account
  2. User powers on new Matter device
  3. Device broadcasts commissioning information via Thread/Wi-Fi
  4. User scans device QR code using Matter app
  5. Device paired with Matter app over IP network

Once added, the device will work locally with other Matter devices without needing the cloud.

Current Limitations

As Matter just launched in October 2022, there are some current limitations:

  • Limited number of launched devices so far
  • Most existing smart home devices need firmware updates to support Matter
  • Full features and specs not yet utilized
  • Some promised integrations not yet available

However, the number of Matter-certified devices is expected to grow significantly in 2023 and beyond.

The Future of Matter

While Matter has great promise to fix smart home fragmentation, it will take time.

There are still unanswered questions around how well Matter will co-exist with proprietary ecosystems, whether companies will fully embrace open standards, and if Matter alone can deliver a seamless smart home experience.

But overall, Matter has the potential to finally bring simplicity, compatibility, and freedom of choice to the complex smart home industry.

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