MY TAKE: Can Matter 1.0 springboard us from truly smart homes to the Internet of Everything?

By Byron V. Acohido

Ever feel like your smart home has dyslexia?

Siri and Alexa are terrific at gaining intelligence with each additional voice command. And yet what these virtual assistants are starkly missing is interoperability.

Related: Why standards are so vital

Matter 1.0 is about to change that. This new home automation connectivity standard rolls out this holiday season with sky high expectations. The technology industry hopes that Matter arises as the  lingua franca for the Internet of Things.

Matter certified smart home devices will respond reliably and securely to commands from Amazon AlexaGoogle Assistant,  Apple HomeKit or Samsung SmartThings. Think of it: consumers will be able to control any Matter appliance with any iOS or Android device.

That’s just to start. Backed by a who’s who list of tech giants, Matter is designed to take us far beyond the confines of our smart dwellings. It could be the key that securely interconnects IoT systems at a much deeper level, which, in turn, would pave the way to much higher tiers of digital innovation.

I had the chance to sit down, once more, with Mike Nelson, DigiCert’s vice president of IoT security, to discuss the wider significance of this milestone standard.This time we drilled down on the security pedigree of Matter 1.0. Here are the main takeaways:

Pursuing interoperability

Connectivity confusion reigns supreme in the consumer electronics market. From wrist watches to refrigerators and TVs to thermostats, dozens of smart devices can be found in a typical home. Each device tends to be controlled by a separate app, though many can now also respond to one proprietary virtual assistant or another.

And then there’s Zigbee, Z-Wave and Insteon. These new personal networking protocols have caught fire with tech-savvy consumers hot to pursue DIY interoperability.

The tech giants saw this maelstrom coming. Google, Amazon, Apple, Samsung and others have spent nearly three years hammering out Matter. 1.0. What they came up with is an open-source standard designed to ensure that smart home devices from different manufacturers can communicate simply and securely via an advanced type of mesh network. 


“Matter will create a level of interoperability that makes it so that a consumer can control any Matter-compliant device with whatever virtual assistant they might have,” Nelson says. “It’s going to become a product differentiator because it’s going to create so much value for them.”

This fall, certain brands of smart light bulbs, switches, plugs, locks, blinds, shades, garage door openers, thermostats and HVAC controllers will hit store shelves bearing the Matter logo. If all goes well, soon thereafter Matter-compliant security cameras, doorbells, robot vacuums and other household devices will follow.

Industry work groups already have started brainstorming future iterations of Matter that will make IoT systems in commercial buildings and healthcare facilities much more interoperable – and secure – than is the case today. Beyond that, Matter could bring true interoperability and more robust security to smart cities and autonomous transportations systems. Someday, perhaps, Matter might help to foster major medical breakthroughs and much-needed climate change mitigation.

Preserving digital trust

It’s not too difficult to visualize how imbuing true interoperability into advanced IoT systems, starting small with smart homes, can take us a long way, indeed. It’s also crystal clear that to get there, security needs to become much more robust.

Matter seeks to achieve this right out of the gate by leveraging and extending the public key infrastructure (PKI) — the tried-and-true authentication and encryption framework that underpins the legacy Internet.

PKI preserves digital trust across the Internet by designating a Certificate Authority (CA) to issue digital certificates, which are then relied upon to authenticate user and machine identities during the data transfer process. PKI also keeps data encrypted as it moves between endpoints.

Matter sets forth a similar approach for preserving trust, going forward, of the data transfers that will take place across advanced IoT systems. An extensive process for issuing a “device attestation certificate” for each Matter-approved device has been put into place. DigiCert, which is a globally leading provider of digital trust and happens to be a leading Certificate Authority, recently became the first organization approved to serve much the same role when it comes to issuing Matter attestation certificates.

With respect to Matter, DigiCert has met the requirements to be designated as the first Product Attestation Authority (PAA.) This boils down to DigiCert taking extensive measures to create, preserve and distribute, at scale, an instrument referred to as a ‘root of trust.

Nelson described for me how these roots of trust are at the core of each certificate issued for every smart device that meets the Matter criteria.

Observes Nelson: “The root of trust creates an immutable identity . . . So when you have a Yale lock trying to connect to an Amazon virtual assistant, the first thing it does is look to see if there’s a trusted signature from a trusted root. If it’s there, it greenlights the communication and now two secure, compliant devices can interoperate. So these roots of trust become the magic of secure interoperability.”

It’s encouraging to see security baked in at the ground floor level of a milestone standard; Matter could pave the way for the full fruition of an  Internet of Everything that’s as secure as it ought to be. For that to happen, wide consumer adoption must follow; hardware manufacturers and software developers must jump on the Matter band wagon. I’ll keep watch and keep reporting.


Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.

(LW provides consulting services to the vendors we cover.)


Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone