If you're about to buy some new smart home kit or a new router, hang on a moment. A new smart home standard is in town, and it really matters. And not just because it's called Matter.
We've covered Matter before, but that was before it actually launched. The official launch happened earlier this week and it's going to have a huge effect on smart home tech.
Matter is a new language for smart home devices to talk to one another. And that's huge, because at the moment there are lots of different ecosystems that don't talk to one another – which isn't very smart. Matter is a protocol for interoperability, so provided a device supports Matter it'll be able to talk to other Matter-enabled devices whether they're on HomeKit, Google Home, Alexa, Samsung SmartThings or any other platform.
What Matter won't do is replace existing smart home tech. Your Hue lights will still connect over Zigbee or Bluetooth; your smart home security cameras over Wi-Fi. What Matter will do is make them more sociable. Smarter, even.
The tech firms that say Matter matters
There are nearly 300 companies on board with Matter already, including Apple. Google, Samsung and other huge names. They agree that the easier it becomes to connect different smart home devices, the more smart home devices they'll sell. So if you can get Siri to control not just HomeKit but Google Home, or ask Alexa to do something with a Samsung SmartThings device, we'll be happier and buy more stuff. Which is entirely true.
So what does this mean for your smart home purchases? First of all, it means you should really take Matter compatibility into consideration before you buy anything. There will be a Matter logo on the packaging and promotional materials for any new devices that support the standard.
Some of your existing devices may be upgraded via firmware in the near future. Amazon and Google say they'll upgrade their existing smart speakers and displays, and many, but not all, smart home firms say they'll upgrade existing devices to give them Matter compatibility. The names include Ikea, Hue, Wiz, WeMo, TP Link, Eve and more. But that'll depend based on the capabilities of the device, and it's unlikely that really old kit is going to get an upgrade.
I'm excited about this, because lack of interoperability between different smart home platforms is a pain. If Matter delivers what it promises, and I really hope it does, it could be the best thing to hit the smart home since Hue lights.