This might surprise you but I think the new Matter smart home standard is the best thing that’s happened with Apple HomeKit yet. And just because I like sharing multiple surprises, you might not know how much HomeKit has influenced that standard. That may be the best thing for smart home consumers. Both of these insights come after I watched Apple’s WWDC 2022 keynote event on Monday. The company illustrated its influence while also showing a look at upcoming improvements in the Apple Home app.
I’ll tackle these in order starting with my opinion that Matter is a great thing for HomeKit. Yes, the standard that will let connected devices work together across any supported smart home ecosystem is a plus for everyone. But I think it helps Apple the most.
Why? Well, I think back to the first few years of HomeKit when there simply weren’t enough devices to choose from. Part of that situation was the direct result of how Apple implemented HomeKit security.
The first attempt required specific hardware, which required device makers to include another chip in their products and added to the cost. Thankfully, Apple relented and modified the HomeKit security requirements to allow for a software implementation. That’s when we started to see more companies bring HomeKit-compatibility to their products and, of course, more actual products for consumers to choose from.
It wasn’t until sometime after that when I felt I could build a cohesive smart home using HomeKit devices. And last year I made that switch to HomeKit. I haven’t looked back with any regrets and I’ve tried most of the available platform options. The range includes Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings as well as others such as Hubitat, HomeBridge, and Insteon to name a few.
With Matter support opening up non-HomeKit devices on Apple’s platform, the sheer scope and number of supported devices will greatly expand. Apple may end up seeing some people switch to HomeKit for the full Apple experience. And even if not, current HomeKit users will benefit from a growing number of device options.
Am I suggesting everyone should just use Apple HomeKit because it’s the best? No, not at all. It’s currently the best for me and my family. If another platform works well for you, your family, and the devices that you want, you should choose that one. I will say that my overall user experience and satisfaction with HomeKit exceeds the others I’ve tried.
It’s not perfect but it’s closer to perfect for us than anything else. Integrations are seamless, device stability is superb, and the system is easy to use while still being powerful. It’s also the only smart home ecosystem that my family has actually used throughout my years of testing various devices. They say it’s simple, intuitive, and helpful.
And that leads me to my second point: All smart home users will benefit from Apple’s influence on Matter, gaining a bit of that positive experience. Yes, Matter is a group project with many of the smart home brands participating. And I know that many of them contributed to Matter. But this statement about Matter, made by Corey Wang, Producer, Human Interface at Apple, really got my attention:
“And to ensure we stayed true to our values, we contributed HomeKit, our smart home framework, as the foundation of this new standard. So it’s built on the same core principles and maintains the highest level of security.”
There are two parts that stand out to me. First, the “[W]e contributed HomeKit, our smart home framework, as the foundation of this new standard…” suggested that much of Matter is built upon HomeKit. I questioned this at first, thinking this was just an Apple statement of self-importance.
But Stacey reminded me that like Matter, HomeKit has always run locally; something you can’t say about the other big smart home platforms. And device provisioning has always been via QR codes, removing some of the clunkiness other ecosystems have used. This all goes back to when Apple open-sourced HomeKit back in 2019.
The security aspect of the statement also jives with how Matter security works. And it’s always been a core part of the HomeKit platform. So much so that device makers didn’t want to deal with it in the early HomeKit days for reasons previously mentioned.
So while I have no doubt that Amazon, Google, Samsung, and others have greatly contributed to Matter, the standard looks more like an Apple implementation. That means some of the pain points non-HomeKit users face in their smart home will go away. Or at least they’ll be minimized to a large degree. That’s good for consumers and the smart home industry in general.
Keep in mind, however, that Matter is more of a baseline for device makers and developers to work from in the smart home future. Everyone can still build features and services on top of what Matter supports. So you might, for example, add a HomeKit video doorbell to your non-HomeKit home and it will work just fine. If you want Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video feature for added data privacy, though, you’ll need to run that camera on the HomeKit platform. Services such as that are what I think might get Apple more HomeKit users in the future.
I haven’t overlooked those people, by the way. Apple did show offer upcoming changes to the Home app to better support Matter and devices from other ecosystems.
Icons are being redesigned to better represent device types, for example. Devices will be shown in groups based on that type as well. New control sizes will allow you to see more devices on the screen of your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV as well. And new customization options for the iOS lock screen will let you place HomeKit widgets front and center: You won’t have to unlock your phone to see or change the status of your devices.
Essentially, Matter is a win all around for Apple, HomeKit users, and even to a lesser degree, non-HomeKit users. Greater device compatibility will bring more choices for how to equip your smart home and you’ll get some of that HomeKit experience even if you don’t have an Apple device.
Eric L. Edberg says
I’ve been interested in HomeKit for quite a while but have avoided all Apple products. I’m interested in obtaining an Apple device as a smart home controller though since I do like products that just work.
What is a cheap Apple device that can host HomeKit, and matter devices locally in a stand-alone device?
I’ve read that newer Apple TV supports their home OS and HomeKit devices, and may support matter in the future.
Can you help us Android/Linux by discussing and/or recommending what Apple HW to obtain to implement home automation?
I currently have both Home Assistant and WebThingsIO home controllers but am concerned that my wife won’t ever be able to manage or use them by herself due to their complexity.
Thanks for your comments…
JD Roberts says
The best hub for HomeKit is the $99 HomePod mini. And it will also act as a thread border router, which is nice. Even if you never use it as a smart speaker, it should give you the HomeKit hub capabilities you need.
As it happens, I just did a long post in the comment section on the last podcast from this site on resources for transitioning to HomeKit from another system if you’re interested in seeing that:
JD Roberts says
I forgot to mention that the HomePod mini is not a standalone device, however. You do need to have either an iPad or an iPhone both to set it up and use the app: there is no android version of the HomeKit app.
So while I often recommend HomeKit as a starter home automation system for those who are already using iOS devices, if you are full on into android and don’t have an iPhone or iPad already, I think it’s too expensive to add one.
If you only want to use android, I’d drop the thought of using HomeKit. Home assistant yellow is supposed to offer matter options, but it’s still in pre-release, and you never know for sure what will be delivered. But I think that may end up being the best android choice. They are holding an online presentation on the 15th of this month to talk about using matter with home assistant, so that might be worth checking out.
The new IKEA Dirigera hub and app, due for release this fall about the same time matter is released May end up being a good android alternative, as they have said that their new app will be able to control other Matter devices and it is going to be a thread boarder router.
Other than that, it’s hard to say right now. We may need to wait until matter is released to see what the android options are.
Lawrence K says
My biggest gripe with Homekit has been its Security. Yeah its great, but its too secure. For example, IKEA, Hue, Sengled and Aqara are all Zigbee partners that are homekit compatible but to be in homekit you have to have a separate brand specific hub for both. If you use Alexa or Google, you can use any brand’s device with any brand’s.
I’ve recently been playing around more and have paired most of my devices to my Ikea Tradfri gateway. Every bulb and plug shows up in Alexa and Google and Home assistant just fine.
I am curious too if IKEA’s new Dirigible, 🙂 , hub being matter based will expose every branded device to Homekit and the like. I’ll probably order a few for Christmas gifts if they do.
JD Roberts says
“ am curious too if IKEA’s new…hub being matter based will expose every branded device to Homekit”
Based on Apple presentations, nothing that isn’t HomeKit-certified will be part of HomeKit.
BUT—Matter-certified devices, including devices brought in through a Matter bridge like the new IKEA hub, WILL show up in the Apple Home app side by side with your HomeKit devices and will be controllable there.
Siri will also be able to control the Matter devices.
What we don’t yet know (unless Stacey does) is if, using the Apple Home app, you will be able to add nonHomeKit but Matter-certified devices to a HomeKit automation or not.
In other words “controllable in the app” doesn’t necessarily mean “controllable in a HomeKit automation.” It might just mean using the app’s device tiles.
We do know routines will not be shared across apps. If you create an automation in the HomeKit app you won’t see that automation in the Google or Alexa app even though you’ll see the same devices and can use all 3 voice assistants with those devices.
So we’ll just have to wait and see what happens when you create a routine. Again, unless Stacey has already heard.
Lawrence K says
During last years WWDC Integrating Matter with Homekit session (not the keynote), they expressly stated, Matter is not Homekit, Matter devices wont need to be homekit certified.
Ikea’s Tradfri line is all Zigbee, not-matter obvi. But like Hue, the Bridge will be Matter. A Matter bridge without devices is pointless. With that I assume it will be a matter bridge for IKEA’s zigbee line to make Tradfri Matter compatible. Thus all other zigbee attached.
I haven’t seen any plans for Ikea to switch to wifi or thread for their tradfri lineup.
Time will tell.
JD Roberts says
This is a joke, but I like it. 😉
What the major partners contributed to Matter:
Amazon: we brought everyone together.
CSA/Zigbee: we provided the messaging architecture.
Apple: We contributed the bridging architecture and the privacy models.
Google: We picked the name.
Kevin C. Tofel says
=) That said, you know Thread is a major component of Matter. For those not in the know, the Thread protocol is a open standard, device-to-device, low-power mesh networking technology protocol. It doesn’t need a hub/gateway to work, and supports AES encryption by default.
Heck, even Apple saw it’s benefits when it joined the Thread working group back in 2018. Thread is impressive in battery use; Nordic Semiconcuctor published a white-paper(*) recently comparing Zigbee and Thread over 11 different transmission testing scenarios using CR2032 and CR123A batteries. IIRC, even being device-to-device, Thread still won 7 of those 11 tests.
(*): “Battery life estimation for Thread and Zigbee SEDs nWP-039”
Having Google and Amazon, among others, digging into apple’s homekit networking code and helping it perform faster, more robustly, and redundantly with many hubs is good.
Joe Nickence says
I think Matter is going to be a bigger deal not only to IoT, but to XR in addition. I have that gnawing feeling that Apple’s adherence to “it just works” is going to surprise a lot of people when they FINALLY announce their presence in that area officially.
JD Roberts says
When IKEA announced the new thread-enabled Dirigera hub they specifically said that the existing tradfri gateway will not be upgraded for either Matter or Thread. Once Dirigera is available, the Tradfri gateway will have a three-year end of life.
Also, Dirigera will get a new IKEA app which will not work with the tradfri gateway. So all the matter stuff will be in the new app. ( this was all covered in the article on this site about the IKEA announcement.)
The point of my previous question is that it might be like Siri Shortcuts now (pre Matter): there are devices that work with Siri because they work with Siri shortcuts, but they don’t work with HomeKit.
We know that matter bridges like IKEA Dirigera will be able to bring some of their connected devices into the Apple home app. But we don’t know whether that just means they will show up as device tiles or whether it means you’ll also be able to use them in HomeKit automations. At least I don’t know that yet, and I haven’t seen it on any of the blogs, but maybe Stacey knows.
We do know that everybody has said that not all features will be available for all devices in all apps. There may be some that only appear in a device’s own app.
So I’m just waiting to hear whether an automation in the HomeKit app will be able to mix HomeKit certified Devices and Matter Devices that are not HomeKit certified.