Trying to Use Matter

I tried to use Matter with Home Assistant. It didn't work.

Trying to Use Matter

Matter has been all the rage lately. Well, at least the hype of it anyway. I'm never one to miss a great bandwagon, or is it just FOMO? Maybe it is just that I love technology and playing with new stuff. Whatever the reason, I thought I'd give Matter a try. I figured now was as good a time as ever since Home Assistant just released their state of the Matter blog post.

I bought a TP-Link Tapo (affiliate link) for this test and was really excited to see it all work and to hopefully better understand how it works. Before I get into what happened, let me take a moment and talk about what Matter is, for those that don't know.

The easy way to describe Matter is that is a connectivity protocol that allows all kinds of different devices together, without the need for a vendor-locked-in cloud.

The Connectivity Standards Alliance defines Matter as:

One protocol to connect compatible devices and systems with one another. Smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. And with Matter, they are.

If you want to really dig into the Matter protocol, you can download the specification here.

Home Assistant summarized their current state as follows:

  • Matter works, including Thread devices via Thread border routers from Apple and Google.
  • The Thread border router in Home Assistant is operational but not integrated until the next release, Home Assistant 2023.3.
  • We’ve expanded the documentation for Matter and Thread to cover most asked questions and include videos on how to add Matter devices to Home Assistant.
  • Users using a Home Assistant Yellow hub can enable an experimental Thread border router.
  • Users on other systems can get a Thread Border Router using a Home Assistant SkyConnect.
  • Announcing SL Web Tools. It allows users to use their browser to update Zigbee/Thread sticks based on SiLabs chips, like the Home Assistant SkyConnect.
  • We’re open sourcing our automated build scripts to create reproducible firmware builds for Zigbee/Thread sticks based on SiLabs chips.

Let me highlight the most important points.

  1. Matter DOES work, but only if you have all the prerequisites.
  2. The border router integration is not available until HA version 2022.3. As of this writing, we are still on 2023.2.
  3. You can use the Home Assistant Yellow built-in radio OR the SkyConnect USB dongle to use Matter. You must enable experimental multiprotocol support in either the Yellow or with SkyConnect. THIS IS NOT REVERSIBLE at this time so it is not recommended to do this on a production system.

So why did this fail for me?

Since I am still on 2022.2 of Home Assitant, there isn't an option to "Add Matter Device" as noted in the instructions for the Android App. There is a workaround though, and that is to go to Settings->Devices & Services->Integrations, click the Configure button, and then click the Commission button. This is all done in the companion app.

Ok, so that worked--until I saw the dreaded "MATTER IS CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE" message. There are minimum requirements that must be met in order to do all this, and I was well within those.

  • For Android, the minimum version is 8.1, and the most recent version of both the Google Home app and the (full) HA Companion app, downloaded from the app store.

What now? I need to check and make sure my Google stuff in the phone all0ws adding matter devices. This can be checked by going to Settings > Google > Devices & Sharing. There should be an entry there for Matter devices. I didn't have that either. Ugh!

At this point, I was stuck. It was time to reach out to support. I jumped into the Home Assistant Discord server Matter channel and asked about this. The working theory (as of this writing) is that you need a Google device in your network in order for the Google app to know you can do matter stuff. I have an early-generation mini on my network but that didn't help. They mention for Thread to work, you need a version 2 Nest Hub. For devices on wifi, you just need a Google device. I suspect my early generation device doesn't know anything about Matter and therefore doesn't meet the requirement.

What do I do now? Nothing. I could go out and buy a new Hub or something like that, put it in my network, and voila. Instead, I'm going to give this a bit more time to mature before I try again. By a bit more time, I mean a month or so. Once I get an idea, I keep messing with it until I figure it out.

This is not the end......

Make sure and watch my video on this topic to see the saga unfold.