Why Matter is the essential free upgrade your Google Nest or Amazon Echo needs

Here's why Matter matters to smart home

Matter TV
(Image credit: Matter TV)

Matter is a new standard for smart  home technology and Google is embracing it wholeheartedly. It's going to make a big difference to the Google Home app and to Nest-branded hardware.

Google's senior director of the Google Smart Home Ecosystem, Michele Turner, sat down with The Verge to explain why Matter matters. And the main theme of the chat was that Matter will take away the pain points, those little irritations that make your smart home just a little bit annoying. Matter's goal is to fix the smart home.

This isn't just a Google technology. It's an industry standard with widespread support. It'll be coming to all of Google's Nest smart speakers and displays via an over-the-air update, and Google says it'll also update its Google Home smart speaker, Nest Wi-Fi, Nest Hub Max and Nest Hub 2nd Gen so they can operate as Matter routers using the Thread protocol. Thread is a way for smart home devices to talk to one another without needing a central hub.

How Matter will change your smart home

According to Turner, the first change you'll notice is much faster setup when you buy new smart home kit. This is a real pain in the neck with a lot of smart home kit, so that one is very welcome indeed.

Turner says the second change is that you'll have much better performance and reliability from your local network, with massively reduced latency: as Turner puts it, "if it's not as fast as a light switch, what's the point?"

And thirdly, Matter will embrace everything. "As much as we love having everybody using the Google Assistant, the reality is people have iPhones and Android phones in their homes," Turner told The Verge. "Some of them want to use HomeKit... being able to have multi-admin really work well between these ecosystems is going to be a big benefit for users."

The feature of Matter that I'm most excited about is what Google calls the "proactive home". It takes the learning features of the Nest thermostat and applies them across your whole smart home ecosystem, so for example your smart home will learn your routines and do things accordingly, whether that's turning on your smart lights or notifying you of unusual activity.

I'm a big fan of smart home tech but I'm also well aware of its limitations and irritations and manufacturers' tendency to overhype things, so I'm glad to see that Turner isn't promising an overnight revolution: Matter is going to take time to roll out, and the proactive home is something we'll get incrementally rather than all at once. What Matter is offering is a better foundation for your smart home tech: simpler, faster and not limited to a single tech firm's platform. Which sounds pretty smart to me.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).