Smart Home

Matter is finally live. We asked a few members why they joined the smart home standard

One expert said the decision was a “no-brainer.”
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Francis Scialabba

· 4 min read

Three years, multiple delays, and a rebranding later, the Matter standard is finally here, promising a new era of compatibility for smart-home tech.

Matter is a connectivity standard that enables different smart-home products and systems—from smart lights to speakers to fridges—to all work with one another, regardless of their brand. 

“As much as we love having everybody using the Google Assistant, the reality is people have iPhones and Android phones in their homes,” Michele Turner, senior director of Google Smart Home Ecosystem, told the Verge in May. “Some of them want to use HomeKit. We just don’t have that kind of compatibility today for users. And I think that’s hard. Being able to have multi-admin really work well between these ecosystems is going to be a big benefit for users.”

The push to bring Matter to the forefront of the smart home was led by the Connectivity Standards Alliance, an industry group that includes influential names in the smart-home space like Apple, Google, Samsung, and Amazon.

But the big names aren’t the only companies that have signed on: There are over 272 total members of the group, all of which played a part in developing, marketing, and testing the standard before its release. We caught up with two of these organizations—home-automation company Nabu Casa and smart-lighting company Nanoleaf—to learn about why and how they joined the standard.

Smart standards

Execs at both companies said they saw Matter as an opportunity to unite many devices under the same standard without sacrificing interoperability with legacy systems and products. With Matter, the ecosystem lock-in dynamics that caused many consumers to buy smart-home products from just one or two companies could become a relic of the past.

The CSA offers three paid tiers of membership: Adopter, participant, and promoter, the highest tier. Annual fees are $7,000 at the lowest level and $105,000 plus a one-time fee at the highest, and include benefits beyond product certification, such as participation in working groups, participation in the development of the standard, and, at the highest level, a seat on the board of directors. There is also a free “associate” tier, but participants need to pay a per product fee to  get Matter certification.

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The Toronto-based Nanoleaf was involved with Matter from its inception in 2019, when it saw the potential that Thread—a low-power mesh networking protocol used for device setup in Matter—could have for its smart lights, according to Nathan Dyck, chief product officer at Nanoleaf. It’s a member of the participant tier, paying $20,000 to have a role in advising and coding the standard.

“In 2019, when Project CHIP was announced, we saw everyone there. And we knew Thread as a technology made sense, because it’s as flexible as wi-fi. But the application wasn’t there yet; no one was adopting it,” Dyck told us. “We really see Thread in particular as a key technology for battery-powered sensors, and really the smart home of the future.”

For his part, Nabu Casa founder Paulus Schoutsen, said it was a “no-brainer” to integrate Matter, given that Nabu Casa’s main product, Home Assistant, an open-source home automation platform, was built on integrating with different standards like Zigbee and Z Wave, legacy protocols that are now integrated with Matter.

Nabu Casa originally paid $7,000 in April granting it adopter status, before increasing its contribution in June to qualify for the participant tier, which enables the company to sit in on working groups, help with the code for Matter, and the ability to develop, test, and certify its products.

Schoutsen said that having players like Amazon, Google, and Apple have a stake in the standard’s success made it easier to see Matter come to fruition. Schoutsen and Nabu Casa were part of a working group that was focused on software and fixing software bugs within Matter, coordinating with companies like Google on coding and developing rules in the standard for smart-home companies.

Ultimately, Dyck said that changing over to Matter is the end result of a line of changing protocols and standards. Nanoleaf has used Zigbee, wi-fi, cloud-to-cloud connections, Bluetooth mesh, and now Thread, via Matter, to automate lights in the home.

“I definitely subscribe to the fact that this will be the one that wins out because I haven’t seen the degree of adoption,” Dyck said. “There’s just been so much buy-in already from so many big, big movers. That hasn’t happened before.”

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Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.