NORA-B1 series (open CPU)
Stand-alone Bluetooth 5.2 low energy modules
13 May 2022
The Matter standard will drive adoption of smart home technology. Here’s how to start building Matter-compliant solutions.
20 billion. That’s how many smart home devices will be sold by 2030, according to analysis by ABI Research, as smart home technology becomes the baseline expectation in modern homes, just like plumbing, electrical wiring, and broadband wireless connectivity before it. Most of these, they predict, will support the Matter connectivity standard, driven by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA).
Unlike similar initiatives that came before it, Matter, formerly CHIP, has the support of the biggest players in the industry, including Apple, Amazon, and Google, as well as energy management solution providers (Schneider Electric), furniture companies (IKEA), and chip makers (NXP). By increasing cross-vendor interoperability of smart home devices, simplifying development, and increasing consumer confidence that the devices they buy will work in their smart home setup, Matter could play a pivotal in reaching that 20 billion figure.
Matter standardizes key aspects of smart home connectivity, establishing a shared set of connectivity technologies, protocols, and security features that ensures that devices essentially all speak the same language and live up to the same expectations.
Tailored to the needs of smart home deployments, the standard includes Ethernet and Wi-Fi, both already ubiquitous in homes today, Thread mesh networking based on the IEEE 802.15.4 radio protocol for low-power, low-cost device-to-device communication, and Bluetooth for device commissioning and configuration. Additionally, it calls for all communication to use the IPv6 protocol and establishes a baseline in terms of security.
At the end of the day, the emergence of a dominant standard would benefit the entire ecosystem. We’ve already mentioned the benefits to end users: increased interoperability and the assurance that solutions from a variety of vendors work together seamlessly. At the same time, it would also relieve device manufacturers from having to choose one communication technology over other competing ones. It also simplifies development by generalizing how communication is managed, regardless of whether Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or Thread are ultimately used.
The wireless communication technologies included in the Matter standard complement each other as well as wired Ethernet connectivity. Wi-Fi offers high throughput wireless connectivity for more data-intensive applications. Thread’s comparatively low cost and power requirements make it the technology of choice for battery-powered devices, while the mesh topology it enables extends their range to ensure reliable coverage across an entire home.
Bluetooth will play a role in commissioning. To commission a Matter device on an existing Thread or Wi-Fi network, it needs to receive the network ID, password, and other details in a secure way. One way this can be done is by pairing the new device with a laptop or mobile phone with Bluetooth using credentials that are typically coded as a unique QR code. Alternatively, the mobile phone used for commissioning can send the Wi-Fi or Thread network ID and password using NFC.
One way requirements of smart home solutions differ is in terms of their power supply. Power sockets and, in most cases, light bulbs have access to a main power supply. Light switches as well as environmental and occupancy sensors, on the other hand, are often battery powered, requiring low-power solutions to achieve long-lasting power autonomy.
For the most part, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning solutions, smart TVs, smart speakers, Wi-Fi access points, and wireless gateways also have access to a power supply. But because they can take on roles in the smart home network beyond their main functionality, they need more processing capacity than smart plugs. As Thread border routers, they can, for example form a link between the building's Wi-Fi and Ethernet network and the Thread mesh network.
Low-power, security-critical devices such as door locks, access control solutions, smoke alarms, window blind controls, alarm panels, and other home safety devices form another subset of smart home solutions that typically need low-power consumption with heightened security requirements.
u-blox has been among the first to announce a wireless communication module based on NXP’s recently released IW612 Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, and IEEE 802.15.4 (Thread and Zigbee) tri-radio chipset. The u-blox MAYA-W2 module supports all the wireless technologies included in the Matter standard as well as Zigbee, which is already well established in smart home deployments.
Highly efficient Wi-Fi 6 makes the MAYA-W2 the ideal connectivity module for Matter-compliant solutions, in particular higher-end ones requiring more throughput and processing power, such as border routers, smart TVs, and personal assistants.
The table below showcases a selection of u-blox’s Matter-ready hardware module portfolio, categorized by common use case requirements. The mapping of smart home device categories to the most appropriate u-blox wireless communication modules is intended to provide initial decision-making support.
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Product Strategy Short Range Radio
Senior Wireless Engineer, Short Range Radio, u-blox