Targeting IoT Interoperability: Matter Hopes to Provide a Secure Solution
As smart home technology continues to flourish among tech consumers, Matter, the new connectivity standard hopes to enhance interoperability in a wide range of smart homes devices and internet of things (IoT) systems.
Previously called project connected home over IP (CHIP), Matter is an IoT connectivity standard currently being developed by notable companies in the Matter working group of the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA).
The CSA aims to provide a hitch-free communication experience across many smart home and commercial devices, including light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and door locks.
Examples of smart home devices compatible with Matter. Image used courtesy of Silicon Labs [video]
Though this standardization project has been in the works since 2019 and the first consumers' end-devices hope to roll out by the end of 2022, why does this new IP standard "matter"?
In this article, we'll attempt to determine what makes up Matter and how it might be scalable for smart home systems.
Matter Targets IoT Interoperability Challenges
From Amazon's Alexa to Apple's Siri, smart home devices and systems have shaped how consumer electronic devices and appliances operate with the user.
Thanks to communication protocols such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, users could wirelessly afford to switch on bulbs or open their doors using smart home technologies.
As it currently stands, one challenge facing the IoT era of devices is the lack of communication between different devices. For example, an Amazon Alexa smart home device may not be compatible with a Google Assistant smart home device.
With that challenge in mind, Matter promises to be a game-changer by providing interoperability across smart home devices.
With Matter, a smart home system like Apple's HomeKit could be operated using an iPad and conveniently performed using a Samsung smartphone.
Securing the IoT Ecosystem
Despite the urge and push to enable interoperability across devices manufactured by different brands, it may pose privacy challenges.
Example IoT security risks. Image used courtesy of Business Process Incubator
While the Matter standard aims to enhance seamless communication and compatibility across smart devices and IoT systems, a secure ecosystem is necessary to keep in mind.
Apart from authentication, the smart home devices running on Matter for connectivity would incorporate Silicon Labs' Secure Vault to address security threats posed to the connected devices.
Additionally, the IP would encrypt the data streams transmitted during connection from the source to the destination. Standard cryptographic algorithms would also be employed in an attempt to achieve a robust, secured ecosystem.
Opening Up to More Protocols: Thread, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave
When it comes to wireless communication and connectivity in electronic devices, designers usually consider which protocols to employ for scalability and efficient operation.
One of such protocols is Thread. The Thread protocol is generally geared toward creating a reliable wireless mesh network for low-power endpoint applications and devices.
Additionally, it is an IPv6-based wireless mesh network protocol, claims to be energy efficient, and promises to be a key player in the state-of-the-art scalable smart home systems. A particular standout spec of this protocol is that it is compatible with low-power IEEE 802.15.4 devices.
A comparison of Thread versus another protocol, Zigbee. Image used courtesy of Texas Instruments
Overall, Matter is based on connectivity via IP protocols. Apart from Thread, there is Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Z-Wave, which have often been employed in smart home devices, are also some wireless protocols compatible with Matter.
However, though Zigbee is also compatible with IEEE 802.15.4 devices, a bridge or over the air update (OTA) is needed to operate with Matter.
All in all, with the collaboration of companies in the Matter working group of the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA), the open-source Matter standard project hopes to provide an avenue to have a robust, efficient, and secure smart home ecosystem.
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