Since May, there has been more news about the matter specification.

Matter is an application layer specification, which originates from the project chip released at the end of 2019. It is the latest attempt to introduce interoperability into the smart home market. The goal is to enable users to connect and cooperate with each other when purchasing two matter certified devices. After achieving this goal, consumers can safely buy smart home devices from different manufacturers, and manufacturers do not need to add required functions for each large or even small market customer.

Simply put, buyers do not need to determine whether the nest thermostat is compatible with apple homekit or whether the Amazon echo device can control the third-party smart door lock. They just need to look for the matter approval stamp on the device to ensure interoperability. For smart home product manufacturers, products can be built through unified standards to simplify the development process. At the same time, the matter specification is an IP based standard, which also provides a common and built communication foundation for developers.

“The smart home industry has reached an unprecedented major consensus behind it”, which is the biggest highlight of matter.

After Amazon, apple and Google launched the project chip project, other 10 board members of ZigBee alliance immediately joined: IKEA, Legrand, NXP semiconductor, resideo, Samsung smartthings, Schneider Electric, signify (former Philips Lighting), silicon labs, Somfy and Nanjing IOT. A new working group has also been established within ZigBee alliance to develop a new smart home application layer specification.

Since the beginning of 2020, some major manufacturers have invested special personnel and resources for the project to accelerate the market release of specifications. By October 2021, the scope of the specification has been determined, and the number of companies participating in the development of the specification has increased sharply to more than 210. According to ABI research, the matter specification is expected to be approved and released in the autumn of 2022, and the smart home devices and appliances compatible with matter will be launched on a large scale for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Figure 1: development progress of matter specification

Jonathan Collins, research director of ABI research, spoke highly of the prospect of the matter specification and believed that when other attempts were in trouble, the reason why matter was able to break through and show the potential for success could be summarized as four points: the support and driving force of the market, technical methods, clear and limited initial scope, and the potential for future development and expansion.

Development bottleneck of smart home

In the past decades, smart home technology has developed from a niche market to a more mainstream market. But the fundamental reason that restricts the development of smart home system is also obvious, that is, market fragmentation. According to the Research Report of ABI research, some smart home enterprises have taken advantage of and promoted this fragmentation in order to protect and simplify their control over their own solutions, or to maintain their control over the investment in smart home development, which has split the market and limited the attractiveness to the partners and markets involved.

Figure 2 shows the penetration rate of one or more smart home devices in global households. The data looks good. However, a problem that has been “hidden” is that the penetration rate of a multifunctional and complete smart home system that can monitor and manage a series of devices and applications is much lower. Even if the equipment works in the same system, the function is still limited.

Figure 2: penetration rate of smart home (source: ABI Research)

The following three points are considered by ABI research as the key factors restricting the better integration of equipment into the system:

• platform specific integration: OEM manufacturers always need to devote a lot of resources to specialized and scattered work to integrate the smart home platform of each ecosystem. Therefore, a device developed for Amazon Alexa requires additional development and testing processes to integrate with systems such as Google home. With the expansion and maintenance of the system, the cost of the product in the life cycle will be doubled.

• connection complexity: OEM manufacturers should consider not only the wireless connection method suitable for product functional requirements, but also the target ecosystem. Smart home has competition from many different short-range wireless protocols, including private protocols, Z-Wave, ZigBee and Bluetooth.

• security: the selling point of smart home devices is their connection and function, not their operational security. There are no specific standards on how to manage devices safely and how to extend their security in the whole smart home system. Facts have proved that consumers’ concerns about device security vulnerabilities and system privacy have hindered the development of the smart home market.

As mentioned above, matter focuses on the application layer and puts forward standards at the key point of system integration and control, that is, the smart home management platform. However, in the initial specification, matter is only limited to eight categories of equipment: lighting power supply, access control, television, safety and security, shutter / curtain, access point / bridge, HVAC control and controller (among various equipment and interfaces).

The reason why these equipment types are selected in the first edition of the specification is that these equipment have the largest market demand and wide penetration rate, as well as the potential that the equipment can be integrated into the initial system, such as access control with intelligent lock, garage door control, security sensor, touch panel and alarm. However, the video of camera and smart doorbell is not included, which is an obvious omission. Relevant parties plan to add applications including video, tabletop kitchen electricity, health care and health, environmental measurement, etc. to the later version or matter iteration specification.

Figure 3 shows the large scale of the smart home market, listing the number of new connected devices installed and used in homes around the world over the past decade. It is estimated that from 2022 to 2030, more than 20billion wireless connected smart home devices will be sold worldwide, and a large part of the device types will meet the matter specification. In the next few years, most of these products, as well as other products, such as consumer robots and intelligent appliances, will also support the matter specification.

Figure 3: smart home hardware shipments (2021-2030) source: ABI research

Multi Protocol Wireless SoC chips are favored

Smart home wireless connection is the core of smart home application and matter specification. To comply with the matter specification, OEM manufacturers must rethink product design, manufacturing and life cycle management. Fortunately, leading chip suppliers are providing new multi protocol support through the integration of 802.15.4 protocol, especially the thread function except Wi Fi and Bluetooth. With the strength of supporting more than three wireless protocols on a single chip, they support and promote the matter transformation of the smart home market.

Take NXP iw612 as an example. It supports Wi Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2 and 802.15.4 protocols (thread and ZigBee). The product is developed to support and simplify the adoption of matter in smart home OEM manufacturers. This is a typical single chip three protocol product, rather than packaging multiple chips together. The introduction of such devices will provide better control for smart home device developers and simplify their product development.

Silicon Labs’ latest bg24 and mg24 series 2.4GHz Wireless SoC also conform to this trend. The two new series of products have the industry’s first integrated ai/ml accelerator, supporting matter, ZigBee, openthread, low-power Bluetooth, Bluetooth mesh network, proprietary and multi protocol operation, high-level industry security certification, ultra-low power consumption, and the largest memory and flash memory capacity in the silicon labs product portfolio.

In January this year, Infineon announced the launch of the new airoc cyw30739 ble and 802.15.4 system on chip to help enterprises quickly bring high-performance, low-power matter products to the market. Ble and 802.15.4 Protocol combinations complement each other, and improve the performance of smart home products through seamless interoperability. At the same time, they can also support end-to-end encrypted communication between various devices in the matter network.

In China, bl606p is the first chip in Bo Liu intelligent edge computing. The single antenna integrates Wi Fi, BT and ble5 0, ZigBee, thread and other multi-mode protocol chips also support the matter specification. Based on the same risc-v development environment and tools as bl602/bl702, it is convenient to switch and combine IOT connection and AI edge product categories, and can form the aiot chip platform of smart home.

Lexin technology esp32-c2 integrated 2.4GHz wi ­- FI and ble 5.0272kb SRAM supporting long distance can support Internet of things devices to use ble distribution network, and then connect to the cloud platform. In the future, customers will also be able to enable matter support in products designed based on esp32-c2.

As the flagship product of the latest generation of tailing microelectronics, tlsr9 series also supports a variety of IOT standards and Industry Alliance specifications on a single chip, including traditional Bluetooth (br/edr), low-power Bluetooth (LE), long range Bluetooth, multi antenna indoor positioning (aoa/aod), Bluetooth mesh (ble mesh), ZigBee 3.0, apple homekit, thread, matter and 2.4GHz proprietary protocols.

Figure 4: smart home device shipments by agreement source: ABI research

Figure 4 shows the demand scale of various smart home devices for the protocols supported by matter. Although matter makes use of and expands the attraction of Wi Fi and Bluetooth, it also promotes the application and demand of thread on various devices, from low-power and low-cost sensors to voice control front-end devices that serve as border routers. In 2021, only a small number of OEMs support thread technology. By 2030, the shipment of equipment embedded in thread protocol will reach 674million, and the CAGR of demand will reach nearly 50%.

It can be seen that in the next year and a half, a large number of new generation Multi Protocol Wireless SoC chips will be on the market and become the darling of the market. OEMs of smart home products can use a single supply source to reduce the chip size and the number of components to be purchased and managed, thus reducing the complexity and cost of design, production and management of smart home products.

Next steps for OEM manufacturers

It can be predicted that for OEMs that have participated in the smart home market, matter will reduce technical restrictions, so that they can find opportunities to enter the smart home through a single version of interconnected products. For existing manufacturers and new entrants, matter will greatly simplify the technical selection of each product and the life cycle management of these equipment and appliances.

Figure 5: shipment of matter compatible smart home devices source: ABI research

However, ABI research also warned in the report that although matter can achieve unified control, it is unlikely to be extended to the specific and complex control of equipment. Therefore, many large OEM manufacturers, especially those who have established consumer brands, are likely to continue to provide their own applications. In addition, although matter provides high security for communications and devices in the home, it does not involve the field of cloud connection, so some OEM manufacturers will continue to use their own cloud connection to ensure the security between devices and the cloud.

Another noteworthy trend is that with the increasing demand for product differentiation, embedding more powerful intelligent functions in the equipment will create more value for OEM manufacturers – whether it is identifying family members for personalized treatment or adjusting the family environment according to the weather. In short, driven by the matter enabled OEM market, artificial intelligence will be further applied in smart home devices.

Based on this, OEM manufacturers will expect their partners and suppliers to provide not only integrated connection, processing, security hardware and software, but also services and infrastructure to simplify the creation and management of equipment. If chip suppliers can support the new matter specification in their connection, processing and security services, and can provide a simple development environment and management to meet the needs of various smart homes, they will benefit the most from the matter application.

For example, MCU suppliers usually have customized tools and their own integrated development environment, but with the increase of more functions, the traditional resources for compilation or debugging will become more limited. Those chip suppliers that can cover the smart home design of different customers and have the most abundant product portfolio and consistent development environment will gain more advantages in the competition.

Of course, as matter reduces the barriers to enter the market, it will inevitably intensify the competition in the smart home equipment market. As newcomers enter the market, OEM manufacturers have to make new responses to the binding of new customers, product functions, prices and profit models.

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