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Led by Nest, ‘Thread’ for Home Automation is Most Promising IoT Standard Yet

Thread Group, launched today by Nest, Big Ass Fans, Yale and major chip makers, presents mesh network for 6LoWPAN; millions of deployments in the field already via Nest Weave.

Nest, Big Ass Fans and Yale Security are the three device manufacturers behind Thread, a new smart home technology for home automation. (no, the Thread icon isn't a crooked ampersand. It's a needle and thread.)
Julie Jacobson · July 15, 2014
Wi-Fi we’ve discussed already: high power burden and a single point of failure in the router.

ZigBee Pro requires a network manager to carry traffic, and it’s “not amazingly Internet friendly,” Boross says.

ZigBee IP comes close, says Boross, “but it doesn’t really seem to focus on the residential/CE market. It’s more around smart meters. There is a limit to the number of nodes and the routing protocol is not very efficient for node-to-node communications.”

Z-Wave is trapped with a single silicon vendor and “meshing is sort of hit-or-miss,” according to Boross. “It needs a network manager and it’s super-low-bandwidth.”

Bluetooth? Well, that didn’t come up in the conversation, nor was it mentioned in Thread’s comparison chart. Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE) is ubiquitous, low-power, and soon mesh-networkable, thanks to technologies like CSRmesh.

Responding to my question on the matter, Boross called BLE mesh an “interesting space. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

On Applications, Interoperability and Big Ass Fans

As mentioned, Thread is a networking technology only. It is not a home automation protocol per se, but it is optimized (indeed created) for the connected home.

Companies like Nest have already created apps for it. Few others have launched 6LoWPAN products and services beyond GreenWave Reality, whose smart bulbs are sold by Home Depot under the TCP brand. GreenWave recently exited the hardware business to focus on product development and cloud services.

We can imagine that Nest will lead the charge in application-level development. The company, after all, has its own Thread-compliant home automation protocol and will likely enlist others to talk natively with its thermostats and smoke detectors.

In fact, that’s how Big Ass Fans came to be a founder of the Thread Group. The two companies had been working on integrating smart thermostats with smart fans – a natural marriage.

While Big Ass Fans will be shipping its Smart Ass Fans with SenseME technology soon – it was developed before talk of Thread—the company also will work towards Thread compliance. 

Thread compliance, however, does not ensure interoperability at the applications layer.

“Writing applications and device profiles is outside of our scope,” says Boross. “We expect product and service providers to figure that out for themselves.”

He suggests that “potentially, device profiles could be leveraged from Z-Wave and ZigBee” for Thread.

For his part, Yale’s Kraus says, “We try to be agnostic. We will continue to sell ZigBee and Z-Wave products.”

He adds, however, that with the success of Thread, “I’m sure ZigBee and Z-Wave will raise the bar.”

Thread Roll-Out

Since it doesn’t address home-control applications, Thread really isn’t a consumer-facing designation, at least “not at this point,” says Sujata Neidig, consumer business development manager for Freescale and VP marketing for the Thread Group. “The point is to address product and service providers.”

Thread officially launches today, with membership applications available soon.

Interested parties can review membership benefits and register here.

Detailed technical documentation and member meetings can be expected later this year.

Currently the group is developing a product certification program, which is expected to be open to members in the first half of 2015.

The organization expects to have “some sort of presence” at CES 2015 in January.

You heard it here: This one is a winner.

Can Wi-Fi or Bluetooth Supplant ZigBee or Z-Wave for Home Automation?
Home Automation Game Changer: Bluetooth Mesh Networking Comes to BLE Smart Dimmers
On Google, Nest and Home Automation: ‘This Changes Everything’
Analyzing Nest’s $555M Acquisition of Dropcam (Discussion of Weave)
GreenWave Reality IPv6 Connected Lighting Solution Employs 6LoWPAN
GreenWave Reality Shifts Biz from IoT Devices to Home Automation Services
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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics

News · IoT · Nest · Thread · Yale · Z-Wave · ZigBee · All Topics
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