Bridging Non-Matter Devices to a Matter Network
This is shaping up to be a big year for Matter, which aims to reduce fragmentation across different vendors and achieve interoperability among smart home devices and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms from different providers. It will do this by defining a common application layer using Internet Protocol (IP) that delivers interoperability among devices regardless of the underlying network protocol.
A new Matter device can be controlled and be part of multiple ecosystems at the same time. For example, a light bulb can connect to both Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit. This means consumers will be able to add new products and brands to their smart homes without additional effort trying to figure out if X works with Y. With Matter, it just works.
Silicon Labs is a member of the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) and has in-depth expertise in the underlying Matter IoT wireless protocols including Bluetooth, Thread, and Wi-Fi. Silicon Labs is also one of the largest code contributors in the CSA alongside Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google.
What is Bridging and Why is it Needed?
With a large install base of non-IP based Zigbee, Z-Wave, and other wireless IoT protocols, bridges will be a key aspect of connecting Matter to these devices to integrate the technologies. Although some end devices could meet the requirements (such as sufficient flash and RAM) to be upgraded in-field, it will be simpler, more stable, and a better user experience to bridge existing sensor networks to interoperate with Matter networks. Many IoT companies, including Silicon Labs, will be introducing bridging products that will support both existing and deployed Zigbee/Z-Wave products, in addition to the newer Matter products. Matter uses Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) for commissioning and runs over Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Thread protocols. Before understanding what a Matter bridge is, it’s important to have an understanding of Thread, an underlying network protocol to Matter.
Thread is a wireless networking technology, built from the ground up to be based on the familiar Internet Protocol (IPv6) and the proven IEEE 802.15.4 radio technology, intended to be secure and future-proof. The need to unify IPv6 and 802.15.4 technologies was resolved by the development of a layer that provides smooth adaptation between the IPv6 networking layer requirements and 802.15.4 link layer capabilities. This layer is called 6LoWPAN. The diagram to the right shows an overview of the Thread Stack and Matter as a unified application layer.
A Thread border router connects a Thread network to other IP based networks, such as Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The border router provides services for devices within the Thread network, including routing services for off-network operations, bidirectional connectivity over IPv6 infrastructure links, and service registry to enable DNS-based service discovery.
Silicon Labs provides the solution to build an Open Thread Border Router (OTBR) containing Raspberry Pi device and an example radio co-processor (RCP) application required to build border router software.
What is Unify™ SDK?
Silicon Labs' Unify SDK simplifies IoT infrastructure development including gateways, access points, hubs, bridges, and application processor-based end products. Each Unify SDK component implements an MQTT interface to the unified language which is based on Dotdot. Its a modular, extendible, lightweight, and well-defined interface for system integration. Unify SDK natively runs on Linux but is architected for portability. The Unify-Matter bridge application, which is part of Unify SDK, is based on the Matter Bridge Application software from CSA. The application receives the ZCL commands on the Matter protocol interface and translates to Unify Controller Language data model and publishes to an MQTT interface.
How Does the Matter Bridge Work?
A Matter bridge device extends connectivity to non-Matter IoT devices in a Matter fabric. It enables the consumer to keep using existing non-Matter devices such as Zigbee and Z-Wave devices together with new Matter devices. These non-Matter devices appear as bridged devices to the Matter fabric. The Matter bridge performs the protocol translation between Matter and Zigbee / Z-Wave network devices using Unify SDK. The diagram below shows both connectivity between Thread network and Matter fabric as well as Matter to non-Matter networks like Z-Wave / Zigbee using a bridge device.
The illustration below shows the Matter network as a unified solution for a Smart Home:
Silicon Labs’ Continuing Support
Silicon Labs offers complete Matter protocol solutions for the end-products with Wi-Fi or Thread connectivity, as well as OTBR solution using a combination of wireless SoCs and software. Silicon Labs will be offering both Matter to Zigbee and Matter to Z-Wave bridge solutions with full functional Unify SDK software.