Does Matter really matter?


Matter – the connectivity standard backed by tech’s heavy hitters – is designed to make the smart home concept more appealing and feasible, but will anyone outside the industry care?

It might seem unlikely that a connectivity standard set up to reduce fragmentation across IoT device ecosystems would be one of buzziest things to come out of tech megashow CES, but it was.

The collaborative project was launched in 2019 by Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung SmartThings and the Zigbee Alliance, and was initially called Project Connected Home over IP – or CHIP. The idea is devices and software regardless of manufacturer can communicate on a specific set of IP-based networking technologies, creating a kind of device certification.

It’s the old ‘plug and play’ concept but targeted towards smart home devices. The intention is to allow any IoT enhanced device to connect to and work with anything else, and seems to acknowledge the messy issues that arise from manufacturers all just doing their own thing in an effort to ‘win’ the space.

As well as pave the way for more innovation, it seems the open source standard was also designed to address the issue of how you sell the idea of the smart home to a mass audience without it sounding either complicated or ludicrous.

A release in 2021, when the standard changed its name to Matter, stated: “The proliferation of connected objects continues to change the way we live, work and play. From homes to offices, factories to hospitals, connected objects enable us to experience our environments in cohesive, interactive ways.

“Yet, for too long, disconnected platforms and disparate development paths have caused confusion for consumers and complicated processes for developers and innovators. Smart objects should be reliable, secure, and work together – this is the shared vision behind Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP), now known as the new standard, Matter.”

Zoom forward to CES 2022, and Matter seemed to have gathered an awful lot of momentum at the quieter than usual halls of the Las Vegas Convention centre.

At first glance its not obvious why – an interoperability standard, indeed one that was pitched four years ago, doesn’t seem like the most headline grabbing thing to come out of tech’s biggest show. It wasn’t even launched at the show – the whole thing is due to drop later this year. But the implications behind what is, when you boil it down, a pretty mundane technical specification, had much of the press all a flutter.

One simple factor is the sheer number of firms that have thrown their weight behind it. There were numerous ‘Matter compatible’ products announced at CES, and at the time of writing the Matter website lists 226 firms or ‘participants’ on its roster. It’s also well served by the presence of tech’s heavyweights on the list – thought that’s nothing new since Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung were there from the beginning.

“The wave of Matter news at CES from our CSA members is a testament to the hard work that has gone into the development and testing of Matter in 2021,” Tobin Richardson, president of the Connectivity Standards Alliance that oversees Matter, told The Verge. “Hundreds of companies and thousands of engineers are at the heart of this global solution, creating a more open and innovative IoT, and I’m really excited by what is to come in 2022.”

Security is also pegged as a key plus to having everything with an IoT chip in your home singing from the same hymn sheet. But the question has to be asked – are these quite technical details, no matter how much merit a developer can see in them, really the key to winning the hearts and minds of consumers?

To put it another way, are the masses going to be moved by the information that there is now is a standard that allows IoT enabled lightbulbs, kettles, fridges and washing machines to more easily talk to each other like they live in the Beauty in the Beast mansion? Is standardised interoperability the thing that is going to convince your average Joes and Janes to rush out and replace all their boring old appliances with smart tech from Samsung and LG?

Like 5G, it sometimes seems there’s a more robust use case provided in the industrial rather than the consumer sphere. In the world of manufacturing firms like BAE will spend millions on analytics platforms based on arrays of sensors and smart machines dotted around the factory floor – but that’s largely in an effort to create the most efficient possible production line, and subsequently increase profits. These are not the concerns of the average family home.

All things in tech are niche and fringe until they aren’t of course, but convincing the average consumer that this stuff is even desirable remains the biggest hurdle for smart home manufacturers. But to be fair to Matter, if it is going to take off its at least got to be easy to use.

And making the smart home simple to understand, simple to use, and feel safe certainly seems to be what Matter promises – what it delivers exactly we shall see later in the year.

Whether or not a groundswell of support for a connection standard would have been the biggest talking point of a CES that had not been bruised and bloodied by the Omicron surge, is another matter.


  1. Avatar Claus Hetting 10/01/2022 @ 2:52 pm

    The whole point is that you will be able to mix-and-match any IoT gadget you like (with the matter compliance) in your house and that the onboarding, UI will be very similar.. you don’t like that idea? Prefer to have ONLY Samsung or ONLY Google Nest or ONLY Philips Hue? I don’t. 🙂

  2. Avatar Keith 10/01/2022 @ 5:13 pm

    My comments are framed from the fact that I’m an early adopter, but it really matters to me. No more faffing around to make sure that the smart device I’m looking at will work with my kit. More importantly, knowing that devices from various (competing) manufacturers will play nice together through the same top level user applications is a great plus.

    I’ve been using early WeMo’s to remotely control aspects of my office, more than an hour away from my home. Now I’m very much taken with Eve’s products… if only they would realise there’s a market for their stuff in the UK. Taken my first step into lighting after a high output older style gas plasma bulb gave up the ghost.

    This stuff is like WiFi until you use it for yourself it’s an academic thing, the moment it makes your life a little easier… Bingo!

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