Now that Matter 1.0 has been officially ratified, the new smart home standard is heaving closer to becoming an honest-to-goodness reality for those of us on the ground with today’s announcement that Samsung’s SmartThings app — the homebase application for the company’s ecosystem of smart products — will soon (a relative term; Samsung says “in the coming months”) allow you to incorporate Matter-compatible devices to its ecosystem and Google’s simultaneously.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following Matter, which promises to be the One True Standard that unites all smart home ecosystems under one glorious tent. Products conforming to its spec will be required to use the Thread wireless protocol, which, much like Zigbee and Z-Wave, relies on the formation of a self-healing mesh network to ensure consistent connectivity for all devices.
Where it differs is compatibility: Devices equipped with Thread radios, it’s promised, will work with smart home platforms that support the new standard, which happens to be all the ones that, well, matter—Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung have all signed on. So has seemingly every big name in smart home devices, and the first Matter products have already arrived. That includes the Apple HomePod Mini, most Eero routers, and some devices from Eve and Wemo.
If we already knew about this compatibility, then what’s the big deal with this announcement? The key difference is in how the SmartThings and Google Home ecosystems interact with one another when it comes to Matter devices.
Let’s say you’ve bought yourself a shiny new Wemo plug with Thread. You set it up with the SmartThings app, but of course, you need to command it with Google, so you open your Google Home app to add it, when lo and behold, the Google Home app prompts you to let it control the Wemo plug, along with any other Matter devices that currently exist in your Samsung virtual home but not in the Google one.
It’s certainly compelling, because although Matter has a lot of promise for removing current unintuitive barriers—right now, connecting a device to Google Home involves creating an account with that product’s manufacturer, adding the device to your network, then linking that account to your Google home—you’ll still need to add each individual device to an ecosystem to start. Without this enhancement to the Matter multi-admin functionality, you’ll l need to then add each device to the next ecosystem’s app, manually. This would remove that barrier—assuming it works the way Samsung implies.
Some important caveats here: Samsung has only announced this feature for the Android versions of each app, and while we’d assume it would make its way to iOS, that’s not definite and we don’t know if or when that might occur. Also, we don’t know exactly what it will look like to add Matter devices to Apple Home or the Amazon Alexa app, nor can we say whether this will be a feature unique to the Samsung and Google apps.
The smart home setup changes should come to the first Android phones in a few weeks, while Samsung’s Galaxy handsets and tablets won’t see it for some months. We’re excited to see how it works in practice, of course.
Wes Davis is a reformed touring country musician with a longstanding infatuation with technology that began with a Commodore 64, continued with navigating file systems in MS-DOS and writing fantasy novels on a Macintosh Performa 550. Now, his days are occupied with cycling, fatherhood, networking tech, and fixing what ain’t broke with smart home gear.