Matter-based smart homes are just around the corner, and you might wonder if this means the old new standard, new hub cycle is about to take effect. There will still be a hub, but you might not even notice it’s there.
Matter Is Moving Smart Home Beyond the Hub
If you’ve been in the smart home game for any length of time, you’re more than familiar with the smart home hub model.
Hubs both serve as a way of controlling your smart home gear and as gateways for smart home devices to communicate with the rest of your network and the greater internet.
In some cases, a hub is just for a particular ecosystem. You need the Philips Hue Hub, for example, to link together all your Philips Hue smart lights and accessories for neat effects like syncing your lights to your PC or using the Hue Sync Box for colorful real-time ambient lighting while watching TV.
In other cases, hubs aren’t eco-system-restricted and serve to link together multiple products from multiple vendors like the Aeotec Smart Home SmartThings Hub. Because of the versatility of such Swiss-Army-knife type hubs, historically, it’s been quite easy to argue that a proper smart home needs such a hub.
For really serious smart home enthusiasts with very diverse smart home ecosystems (and older smart home hardware in the mix), it’s likely to remain true that a dedicated smart home hub will remain a necessity.
But the Matter smart home protocol is moving the smart home market toward a hubless existence where consumers are no longer required to go shopping for a dedicated hub for their smart homes unless some compelling use case pushes them to do so.
In the Matter home, you’re free to mix and match your hardware, your devices, and even the software interface you use to control them all.
Manufacturers Are Building Matter Hubs Into Their Products
It’s not entirely true to say that there is no hub in the Matter smart home universe. In fact, Thread border routers fulfill the hub function.
The key difference, and one that is both consumer-friendly and bodes well for the widespread adoption of the Matter standard, is that the Thread border routers are built into a myriad of devices that people are already buying on their own merits—and not because they’re actively shopping for a Matter hub.
Companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Nanoleaf are actively building Matter smart home hubs, or Matter controllers, into various products like smart home speakers, Wi-Fi routers, and smart lights. In fact, you might already have a Matter controller in your home right now and not even realize it.
Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
This sneaky little sphere isn’t just a speaker and voice-assistant home-base, it’s a Matter smart home hub, too.
All of Amazon’s eero mesh routers, Wi-Fi 6 and up, have a Matter hub built-in, including the eero Beacon, eero 6, eero Pro, and eero Pro 6. The fourth generation Echo speaker is also a Thread border router, so if you’ve recently purchased one, you’re Matter ready.
Google has a similar spread of router and smart speaker offerings. The Nest Wi-Fi routers will function as Matter hubs, as will the second generation Nest Hub and the Nest Hub Max.
Apple’s second-generation Apple TV 4K sports a built-in hub, as does the HomePod Mini.
While different smart lighting companies have signed on to support Matter—the Philips Hue Hub will update to support Matter but won’t be a Thread border router—Nanoleaf has jumped in feet first with Matter hubs built into its Elements, Shapes, and Lines Light Panels.
These are just examples of products that are already prepped for Matter and will have day-one support. As time goes on, we’ll continue to see Matter controllers built into consumer smart home products, all offering a seamless way to introduce Matter into your home—no stand-alone hub purchase required.