Building Matter Smart Home Devices 101

by Jun 24, 2024#IoT, #HomePage

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Building Matter devices with the new Matter protocol has become a very exciting moment in the IoT industry, where main industry players are working toward the same goal of connectivity and plug-and-play interoperable devices for smart homes.

The Matter protocol is the next frontier in IoT, with a trusted ecosystem, the highest encryption standards, and a commitment to secure users’ privacy and confidentiality.

The Matter smart home standard is creating a unified connectivity ecosystem backed by Google, Amazon, Apple, and many others. This multi-vendor collaborative smart home environment creates device compatibility and accelerates the development and adoption of smart home use.

WHAT IS THE MATTER STANDARD PROTOCOL?

The Matter protocol is an IP-based application layer and data model that unifies devices operating with different IP protocols to communicate across different platforms. It operates on top of the IP network stack (transportation).

Matter is a common layer to connect many devices on top of Matter’s supported network protocols. Matter devices are discovered, commissioned, and provisioned over an IP protocol (IPv6-based networks) such as Wi-Fi, Thread, or Ethernet for operation and Bluetooth for setup (commissioning).

Matter Application Layer (Source: Connectivity Standard Alliance (CSA))

Matter Application Layer 

Matter 1.3

With the release of Matter 1.3 in May 2024, the standard continues to push the boundaries of smart home technology by introducing support for an array of new device types and enhancing user experience with improved energy and water management capabilities. This update significantly extends the interoperability and functionality of Matter-enabled devices, making smart homes more intuitive and environmentally conscious.

New Supported Matter Devices:

  • Major Kitchen and Laundry Appliances: Matter 1.3 brings smart capabilities to essential household appliances. Microwave ovens allow users to control cooking times and power levels and receive notifications like ‘food ready’ or ‘end of cycle.’ This release also supports advanced features for ovens and cooktops, such as temperature control and mode settings for different cooking methods. Laundry dryers are included, complementing the previously supported washers, with functionalities to set drying modes and receive status updates.
  • Enhanced Water and Energy Management: The specification introduces tools for better management of energy and water usage, aligning with modern needs for sustainability. Homeowners can now integrate electric vehicle charging equipment with adjustable settings for efficient energy use and leak and freeze detectors to prevent water wastage and damage.

Entertainment and Media Enhancements:

  • Matter 1.3 enhances media device functionalities, improving how televisions and other display devices interact within the smart home ecosystem. New features support richer notifications and more interactive media experiences, allowing seamless integration of entertainment devices with other home systems.

User Experience and Technical Advancements:

  • Scenes and Command Batching: These new features allow users and developers to create more dynamic environments. Scenes enable the setting of predefined device states that can be activated simultaneously, and command batching reduces communication delays, enhancing the responsiveness of devices within the network.
  • Developer and Network Enhancements: Improvements in network commissioning include better device reporting and diagnostics, which are crucial for maintaining robust and secure connections across Matter devices.

Matter continues to evolve with these significant updates, ensuring that users receive cutting-edge functionalities and contribute to a more sustainable and efficient living environment.

Matter 1.3’s focus on integrating major home appliances and enhancing energy management paves the way for the next generation of smart homes, where convenience and conservation go hand in hand.

Matter 1.2 Device Types

Matter 1.2 Matter specification was released in October 2023. It supports nine additional device types, enhancing interoperability, simplicity, and security. These device types are:

1. Refrigerators: Beyond monitoring temperature, it’s compatible with deep freezers, wine, and kimchi fridges.

2. Room Air Conditioners: These are now supported, differing from previously included HVACs and thermostats.

3. Dishwashers: Features include remote start, progress notifications, and alarms for various operational issues.

4. Laundry Washers: Users receive notifications like cycle completion. Dryer support is forthcoming.

5. Robotic Vacuums: Alongside standard features, they have cleaning modes and detailed status updates.

6. Smoke & CO Alarms: These offer notifications, alarm signals, battery alerts, self-tests, and concentration sensing for CO.

7. Air Quality Sensors: These sensors report on multiple pollutants and provide AQI data based on their location.

8. Air Purifiers: They leverage Air Quality Sensor data and include filter status notifications, among other features.

9. Fans: Now a distinct device type, they offer various modes, airflow direction changes, and speed adjustments.

Matter 1.0 Application Device Types

The Matter 1.0 specification was released in September 2022. The Matter Device library specification defines the requirements for Matter Device types and lists Matter Smart Home devices with different functionalities included in the specification:

Lighting

  • On/Off Light
  • Dimmable Light
  • Color Temperature Light
  • Extended Color Light

Smart Plugs/Outlets and other Actuators

  • On/Off Plug-in Unit
  • Dimmable Plug-In Unit
  • Pump

Switches and Controls

  • On/Off Light Switch
  • Dimmer Switch
  • Color Dimmer Switch
  • Control Bridge
  • Pump Controller
  • Generic Switch

 Sensors

  • Contact Sensor
  • Light Sensor
  • Occupancy Sensor
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Pressure Sensor
  • Flow Sensor
  • Humidity Sensor
  • On/Off Sensor

Closures

  • Door Lock
  • Door Lock Controller
  • Device ID Device name
  • Window Covering Controller

HVAC

  • Heating/Cooling Unit
  • Thermostat
  • Fan

Media

  • Basic Video Player
  • Casting Video Player
  • Speaker
  • Content App
  • Casting Video Client
  • Video Remote Control

Generic

  • Mode Select

Utility Devices

In the Matter specification, utility devices are special-purpose devices designed to deliver foundational services within a Matter network. Unlike full-fledged application devices, utility devices underpin essential network functionalities such as over-the-air (OTA) updates, power source reporting, introducing non-Matter protocols via the Aggregator, and bridging other devices with the Bridged Node.

Some notable examples include the Root Node, which outlines device capabilities; the Power Source, detailing power information; the OTA Requestor/Provider for managing OTA updates; the Aggregator for incorporating non-matter protocols over Matter networks; and the Bridged Node, representing a non-matter device bridged onto the network.

Utility devices serve as the backbone of a Matter network. They allow manufacturers to allocate functionalities across various endpoints on a device, thereby solidifying the network’s infrastructure and intrinsic features.

MATTER STANDARD PROVIDES SEAMLESS CONNECTIVITY

The Matter standard is very convenient for consumers, allowing any Matter-enabled app to interact with any device in any Matter ecosystem. This common application layer delivers device interoperability.

Consumers can confidently purchase Matter smart home devices and connect them to any ecosystem or controller (control app). Matter devices can be easily set up (plug and play), paired with the home app of choice, and controlled through voice assistance.

MULTIPLE ECOSYSTEMS CO-EXIST WITH MATTER

Matter multi-admin features allow end users to choose which ecosystems to use. Users can connect devices to more than one ecosystem, extending device control and simultaneous controls from multiple controllers without relying on cloud-to-cloud. In addition, users can control Matter devices within any ecosystem.

MATTER BRIDGE AND ROUTERS

Matter devices can communicate directly with other devices (Wi-Fi or Thread) and control devices from an app, bridge, or router. For example, devices working with Zigbee, Z-Wave, or BLE mesh can interact with Matter using a Matter bridge and interact with each other using a Matter border router.

Matter allows any non-Matter network device (Zigbee, BLE mesh, Z-Wave) to integrate with a Matter fabric (ecosystem), exposing devices to nodes in the Matter fabric. Matter bridges perform the translation for device communication to take place.

Matter bridges are a key component of the Matter standard, allowing existing devices to function in the Matter ecosystem and create interoperability. Old devices running on existing technologies can work with Matter.

MATTER FABRIC

A Matter fabric or ecosystem is a trusted network in a home that enables device communication through a common set of cryptographic keys.

Bridges follow the Matter standard commissioning to join a Matter fabric with other networks (Zigbee, Z-Wave, etc.), discover the Matter-supported devices following a specified method, perform a matching process, and add endpoints in Matter. Finally, the controllers in Matter control the device in the other network (Zigbee, Z-Wave, etc.).

MATTER CONTROLLERS

IoT developers can build controller functionality into any device. For example, a smart home can have more than one controller. As users purchase different devices and technologies with special features, these devices will have their own controllers. A device might also be controlled by several controllers.

For example, a user might use a Google Home app (multi-admin feature) to control an Alexa device. Integration of services will simplify customer experiences and bring a lot of innovation to the market. (Note: Mobile phones are initially only for setting up devices and do not work as controllers.)

FABRIC COMPABILITY

The Matter standard unifies smart home ecosystems and devices, creating compatibility. Matter does not require the product to have an app to operate, allowing devices to be natively integrated into Google Home, Home Kit, or other ecosystem apps. However, if products have unique capabilities, developers can build native Matter apps to differentiate their services (specialized services apps).

Bridge functionality is being developed to bring older devices to Matter. Using bridges (hubs) provides the translation that supports Matter and provides continuity for those devices. Manufacturers are in the process of developing unified SDKs to create bridges that incorporate older devices into Matter. 

The Matter alliance is open to any company interested in developing new device types (segments). It invites companies to build apps and devices and includes them in developing specifications and test cases to prepare them for future releases. 

Bridges, border routers, and devices are usually System on Chip (SoC) solutions with Matter SDKs, security features, and support. IoT industry players are developing SDKs that are ready for the latest Matter specification (Matter 1.3).

MATTER DEVICE COMMISSIONING

Adding or commissioning devices (client) to the fabric entry point is done through a commissioning device API call and a return request that asks the user to establish proof of possession (scanning a Wi-Fi QR code or entering a product code).

The user accesses their account in the ecosystem platform, selects the home, and grants control of the device to the ecosystem platform. This process allows the user to access and manage devices from an ecosystem network (e.g., a Google Home app or Apple Home) on iOS or Android.

This process does not require users to add their Wi-Fi or Thread credentials, as the ecosystem app handles this. Bluetooth Low Energy streamlines commissioning as a simple process. NFC is also working on onboarding.

MATTER MULTI-ADMIN COMMISSIONING

It is possible to control and manage a Matter device from the developer’s app by commissioning the device (commission request) to the developer’s custom fabric. This is possible thanks to Matter’s multi-admin commissioning feature, which allows the simultaneous sharing of devices with other ecosystems/fabrics and apps. The commission request specifies the services and metadata about the device in the callback method. Additionally, Matter devices can be shared with more platforms and apps through commissioning methods to call client apps acting as commissioners.

Sharing devices with multiple fabrics allows users in a home to interact with different ecosystems and the same Matter devices.

BUILDING MATTER SMART HOME DEVICES AND MATTER APPS FOR SPECIFIC FUNCTIONALITY

There is a significant opportunity now for developers to create apps that work in the open Matter-enabled ecosystems and provide new or superior services to users. In addition, many product managers are building Matter devices and apps that work in all major ecosystems.

Device makers can build an app for their devices. However, products don’t need an app to operate in Matter, as they can be natively integrated into Google Home, Home Kit, Amazon Alexa, or other ecosystem apps. On the other hand, building a specialized services app benefits products with unique features.

Developing Matter devices means developers build one SDK for a product and deploy it everywhere—accelerating development (time to market) and reducing development costs and complexities, as functionality is reduced to a specific ecosystem. Matter’s open-source SDK is available to IoT developers so they can start working and contributing with code if considered.

You can start working with Matter’s open-source SDK on GitHub.

DEVELOPING MATTER SMART HOME DEVICES WITH UNIQUE FEATURES

Product developers continue to focus on differentiating their products. Matter standard brings many opportunities that require consideration of some aspects. First, products must have the right SoC with transmission power and receiver sensitivity to ensure reliable connectivity.

Consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated and require intelligent and intuitive solutions. We refer to Matter smart home devices with machine learning capabilities that offer smarter solutions, voice control, data-intensive, and other functionality. However, these products require faster hardware that is energy efficient and operates at the edge (IoT edge).

Environmental awareness is another aspect relevant to consumers, pushing manufacturers to build long-lasting IoT devices with low battery waste (lower battery replacement and longer recharging intervals) and high memory capacity that can handle firmware/software updates over-the-air (OTA).

One of the strong differentiators of Matter smart home devices is the security standards of encryption and secure end-to-end communication. These standards offer trusted connections, device identity mechanisms, access control mechanisms, and data security. These components provide confidentiality and privacy for users.

In 2023, the Aliro protocol was launched–a point-to-point protocol that employs asymmetric cryptography and credential data definition, ensuring security across diverse hardware and operating systems.

Device attestation and verification are key components of Matter’s security features. The Matter standard also features a compliant distributed ledger with a rigorous certification program, making it a trusted ecosystem. In addition, the Matter protocol specification has defined integrations of security functionality.

Builders of Matter devices must also consider choosing a System on Chip (SoC) with incorporated security features and PSA security certification to offer consumers a trusted experience.

BUILD ANDROID MATTER APPS WITH GOOGLE HOME

Google is committed to Matter development and has built end-to-end tools to integrate devices with Google, including developing Matter apps, building automation, testing and analytics, and other resources.

Matter APIs can commission devices with Google Home and access the Google ecosystem, Google Home App, Google Nest Devices, and Android Smart Home control. Matter APIs also help users connect and share devices with other apps and platforms and connect other devices to Google Home.

The Matter protocol is built into Google Play Services. It allows developers to build native Android Matter apps using the Google Home Mobile SDK to link a device with their app, share them with other apps, and participate in multiple Matter ecosystems. The following video shows a sequence diagram illustrating how Google uses its sample application for Matter to achieve smart home interoperability.

Although this article is not focused on the technical aspects of development, readers interested in a technical presentation can visit the following webinar from Silicon Labs on building Matter devices with Google.

Matter Application Clusters

Clusters are central to how Matter smart home devices function and interoperate [2]. A cluster is a structured grouping of commands and attributes designed to activate a specific capability or feature within a Matter device. For instance, clusters can bring to life capabilities such as “on/off control” or “temperature measurement.” These capabilities are executed through commands, which facilitate the control and retrieval of data, and attributes, which report data. An illustrative example would be the On/Off cluster, which comprises commands like On, Off, and Toggle; attributes such as OnOff; and events like StartUpOnOff.

Clusters take on roles of either server, client, or both. While server clusters reveal a device’s functionality, client clusters offer the means to control other devices. The type and capabilities of a Matter smart home device dictate the clusters it supports. Furthermore, the specification establishes which clusters are mandatory and which are optional for each device type. Some clusters, like Basic and Identify, are ubiquitous across many device types. In contrast, others, such as the Pump Configuration and Control, cater to more specialized functionalities.

Every single endpoint in a Matter device is populated with a suite of interrelated clusters. In a broader perspective, clusters act as modular containers, bundling together the functional capabilities of Matter devices. This modular approach, underpinned by a consistent set of commands, attributes, and events, ensures that diverse Matter devices from different manufacturers can work together harmoniously and efficiently.

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