It’s a Matter of standardization: new wireless protocol provides a connected foundation for smart devices

As smart, connected devices become more integrated into our everyday lives, the Matter wireless connectivity protocol aims to unify the fragmented Internet of Things ecosystem 

It shouldn’t be hard for your smart home devices — from lightbulbs and doorbells to thermostats and door locks — to work well with one another.

Yet trying to seamlessly connect smart home devices manufactured by different brands can sometimes feel like working as a translator at the United Nations. 

“Smart home brands have their own unique ecosystem and the products from one typically don’t work with another,” said Johnsy Varghese, who leads product marketing for our SimpleLink™ Wi-Fi® product family. “The challenge for manufacturers has been having to create two or more SKUs or software profiles to support each of these different ecosystems.”

To address this challenge, many industry-leading technology companies – including Apple, Google, Amazon and Samsung – came together with TI and other semiconductor manufacturers in 2019 as part of the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) to establish a common language for the smart home. Matter, which launched on Nov. 3, is a connectivity standard that will make it easier for smart home developers to create products that operate seamlessly across most smart home platforms of their customer’s choice. Not only will this make it easier for consumers to integrate products into their smart home ecosystem, it will put the tools in the hands of technology companies to build smarter products that improve energy consumption, comfort and safety.

As a board member of the CSA since Matter was conceived, our company has brought more than 20 years of experience in connectivity and low-power electronics, alongside our SimpleLink wireless MCU portfolio of devices running over both Thread and Wi-Fi, to help drive the development of Matter forward.

“This is the first time that major technology companies have come together to work on solving the smart home device interoperability problem,” said Marian Kost, who leads our Connectivity business. “And not just the major tech companies, but also semiconductor manufacturers and smart home product developers who have all been working together to make it much easier for users to create a smart environment.”

Enabling seamless interconnectivity

On top of the challenge of interfacing with different companies’ device ecosystems, software developers have also had to navigate an array of connectivity protocols, from Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi to Zigbee® and Thread.

“We’re seeing more companies integrate wireless connectivity who haven’t incorporated it into their designs before,” said Nick Smith, Connectivity marketing manager. “Ten years ago, a refrigerator maker didn’t have to worry about connectivity protocols, but now they’re facing all of these new challenges around security and hardware design that historically they’ve not had the expertise to deal with.” 

Our company is helping original equipment manufacturers and engineers through the connectivity learning curve and enabling them to quickly integrate Matter using our new Matter-enabled software development kits for Wi-Fi and Thread SimpleLink wireless microcontrollers (MCUs). Engineers can use the new software and wireless MCUs such as the CC3235SF and CC2652R7 to create ultra-low-power and secure, battery-powered smart home and industrial automation IoT applications that seamlessly connect with devices across proprietary ecosystems.

By standardizing networks on the Internet Protocol, Matter combines the advantages of both Wi-Fi and Thread technologies and smoothly manages their interaction to enable a simplified connectivity interface for developers and customers.

“Matter offers flexibility to choose the underlying protocol that works best for the developer. For example, Wi-Fi is widely adopted in homes today, offers high throughput for streaming, and provides a natural connection to the cloud, Johnsy said.  Thread enables a mesh network and consumes much lower power, which is helpful for battery-operated devices.”

Enabling greater energy efficiency

What does reduced fragmentation really mean for the homeowner aiming to build out their smart home?

To start, they’ll have a greater choice in ecosystems and products to use, and a less complicated user experience for setup, security, convenience and more. The lower barrier for entry into creating a smart home environment will help more homeowners take the leap into connected, automated systems that make their lives easier and help our world become more energy-efficient.

For example, with Matter, an HVAC system can naturally communicate with a security system, which enables homeowners to manage their smart home devices through a single interface. This will allow the system to modulate the use of the HVAC based on information from the security system regarding whether the user is home or the house is empty.

Grundfos, a global pump manufacturer, has leveraged Matter-enabled TI technology to launch a line of HVAC pumps that can share data with other smart home devices to improve energy consumption. If the doors are locked or appliances are turned off to indicate that no one is home, for example, the pump can enter a standby state to save energy.

“As a global leader in advanced pump solutions and water technology, we are pleased to be a part of the alliance to drive Matter forward in the HVAC business. At Grundfos, we strongly believe that collaboration will be key to reaching our innovation and sustainability goals,” said Anders Johansson, SVP and Head of Group Technology & Innovation, Grundfos Holding A/S. “Our collaboration with TI to bring low power, Matter-enabled radio solutions to the market will play an important role in delivering comfort to our end users and reducing energy consumption in HVAC systems.”

Making smart homes more secure

Beyond improving interconnectivity between IoT ecosystems and protocols, Matter provides a more secure connection across Matter-certified devices through enhanced verification and security.

“Matter simplifies the development for manufacturers significantly by pre-specifying a number of security layers,” Marian said. “There’s a huge amount of security expertise within the Connectivity Standards Alliance, and whoever chooses to use Matter will benefit from how that knowledge has been applied in developing this protocol.”

Designers of Matter-enabled Wi-Fi applications can leverage our dual-band, multilayer security approach to protect device data without additional external components.

Taking Matter forward

In May last year, our company provided the first working demonstration of Matter connectivity, powered by our SimpleLink wireless MCUs for Wi-Fi and Thread.

When it comes to the future of Matter and the IoT, our technical experts expect that reduced fragmentation will support the growth of smart ecosystems far beyond the individual home.

“We’re really excited to be a part of this initiative, Nick said. “We’re focused on putting the right tools in the hands of our customers so they can take advantage of the development of this new protocol to build really exciting products.”

Source: Texas Instruments

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