HomeKit or Nest? Here’s Why It No Longer Matters

Smart home tech was supposed to bring easy automation to the spaces we live in. But unfortunately, each major player in the market tried to force consumers only to use their products, and it quickly became a bewildering mess of compatibility issues and brand loyalty.

This is about to change for the better. At IFA 2022, we saw a Google Nest Hub control an Eve Apple HomeKit smart plug thanks to Matter, a new smart home standard that could eliminate compatibility issues for all future smart home tech.

Matter in Action: What We Saw

Eve had several examples of new Thread-based smart home tech at its IFA 2022 booth. Thread, an open-source wireless mesh communication system, works with the Matter standard to let you do things like this:

The Eve team was quite protective over the demo as it’s a very early implementation of Matter, but this is legit. A working example of a Google Nest Hub controlling an Apple HomeKit-based Eve smart plug. While it is a great win for Eve to be among the first to show this off, the implications go far beyond any manufacturer.

When rolled out, Thread will mean third-party smart home and Internet of Things designers will no longer have to choose a particular ecosystem to work in. I’m hesitant to make grand, sweeping statements, but as a reporter who has covered smart home tech from many angles since the start, this feels like a really big moment.

Why Matter Matters

To understand why Matter is so important, we need to cover the basics.

When any two smart home devices interact, they use a shared communication protocol. There must be some type of secure handshake, along with an instruction or request. This can happen via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or other short-range radio formats. However, many communication protocols don’t get along, and this was by design in many cases.

Thread is a newer mesh networking protocol that allows each device to be a mini-router of its own. It is highly reliable, has very small power requirements, and crucially, is an IP-based system meaning it can communicate with the wider internet without issue.

Matter is a software layer that can use Thread as the basis for an open-source communication system. It’s backed by all the big players, including Google, Amazon, and Apple. Companies providing the raw tools to create smart home hardware should also be adopted widely across the embedded engineering world.

While there are in-depth guides to the Matter standard, the concept is simple. Matter devices can communicate with each other, regardless of the ecosystem they were initially designed for.

Matter Will Soon Be in Your Home

The Matter demonstration on a busy trade show floor was impressive simply because it’s the first time we’ve seen it do something with existing tech. The Eve smart plug we saw already uses Thread and will update to use Matter when it releases later in 2022.

The final step is for manufacturers to ship products that use Matter, and it could still fall short at this final hurdle despite widespread support. Nevertheless, it’s getting close, and the hope is very real. Maybe a smart home free of complication and difficulty is just around the corner.

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