Now that I’m done reviewing the latest Matter devices from Nanoleaf, it’s time to turn my attention back to Home Assistant. Since I haven’t taken a deep dive on this open source smart home platform in a few years, I recently set it up on a spare Raspberry Pi. Aside from a simpler setup experience, I’m liking the new dashboard, which this week added new user interface designs for a number of devices.
But what I really wanted to sink my teeth into next is Matter support on Home Assistant. It’s in beta, and there are disclaimers that things can break when using it. However, after getting some hands on time with the Matter beta, I’m impressed!
To add the Matter beta to my Home Assistant instance, all it took was a single click from this support page. By clicking the “Add Integration” button, Matter support was added.
Interestingly, at least to me, is that this integration installs a Matter server on the local server, i.e.: my Raspberry Pi.
In a sense, this turns Home Assistant into a Matter controller of sorts. While my Pi doesn’t have a Thread radio, it can communicate over Wi-Fi to other Thread routers using Matter specified data.
After that, I followed the standard Matter process of linking or sharing my currently commissioned Matter devices in my smart home. Note that currently, you have to use the Home Assistant mobile app; you can’t add Matter devices in the web dashboard.
To attach Matter devices to another platform, Apple HomeKit uses a sharing code while Google Home provides a QR code or a pairing code. Using these with the Home Assistant mobile app pulled them into this platform’s “fabric”.
Surprisingly, I hadn’t heard that term before, but it makes sense. Here’s how the Home Assistant’s Matter page describes it:
“Each Matter network is called a fabric. Each home automation controller that controls Matter devices has its own fabric. You can add devices directly to the fabric of your Home Assistant instance, or share them from another fabric (ie Google, Apple) to Home Assistant’s fabric.”
Regardless of the nomenclature, I quickly provisioned three Matter devices and set them up in Home Assistant in a “Matter” area for testing:
Controlling any of the Matter devices with the Home Assistant dashboard or mobile app works just as well as in Apple Home or Google Home. Response times are quick and I haven’t had a single issue with any commands.
I can even change the light colors and color temperature of the two Nanoleaf Essentials Matter products; something that wasn’t possible just two months ago. This functionality was added in the March software update for Home Assistant.
Here’s the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter bulb dialog, for example:
As I noted towards the beginning of this article, I’m quite impressed so far by the Matter beta in Home Assistant. Perhaps what’s really astonishing is the pace of progress here. While we’ve seen other device makers and platforms postpone Matter implementations, Home Assistant is chugging forward with increased momentum.
Aside from the updated Matter support I’ve shown, there’s also a new Thread panel to view your Thread networks; I mean “fabrics”, for example.
Matter bridges are now supported as well, so if your Philips Hue Bridge has the Matter update, you can connect it to Home Assistant over Matter. No, I haven’t yet gotten this update on my bridge, which currently requires a developer account.
I can even see the JSON data from my Matter devices and Thread networks. On my other platforms, Matter is a basically a black box, so I appreciate this informational insight.
From where I stand, Matter is currently more exciting on Home Assistant than it is on the other platforms I use.
Yes, it helps when you’re talking about an open source project with a technically talented and passionate community. Regardless, it feels like Home Assistant is running laps around the “big names” in the smart home space right now.