Security

Thread Group Reaches 50 Members, But Few Home Automation Movers & Shakers

Led by Nest, Thread Group adds 43 members, mostly start-ups and chip makers, also a handful of established home automation players. Insteon, Jasco and Tyco could move the needle.


Some of the the new Thread Group members could drive the emerging home automation technology forward (from top left): DSC security system from Tyco, GE-branded lighting controls from Jasco, Insteon smart home ecosystem.
Julie Jacobson · December 16, 2014

When I first wrote about Thread in July, I called the Nest-led home automation initiative the “most promising IoT standard yet.

From a technology point of view, and the incredible sway that Nest holds over the entire smart-home movement, I still stand by that claim. The group, which touts a mesh-networking, low-power technology based on 6LoWPAN (IPv6 over 802.14.5), just announced 43 new members, bringing the total to 50.

Membership was opened on Oct. 1 and “companies are joining up at an increasing pace,” says Chris Boross, president of the Thread Group and technical marketing exec at Nest, in an interview with CE Pro.

But I’d sure like to see some more marquee brands in the membership mix.

From the beginning, I questioned the influence of the founding members—ARM, Big Ass Fans, Freescale Semiconductor, Nest Labs, Samsung Electronics (chip division, not CE), Silicon Labs, and Yale Security.

Of the original seven, four make chips and three make consumer products. Of the consumer brands, Yale has connected-home experience and a following with its electronic door locks, but it won’t drive a new home automation standard. Big Ass Fans was just getting into the Smart Ass Fan business (Wi-Fi for now) and Nest is … Nest.

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Given 1) that Thread technology makes sense, and 2) Nest has sold millions of thermostats and smoke detectors using the technology (it’s based on Nest’s own Weave protocol), and 3) lots of companies want to ride the Nest coattails, then there is a good chance that Thread can be a leader on the smart home front.

Indeed, adding 43 members in two months demonstrates momentum for Thread, but let’s face it, people join cool new clubs because they want to make sure they’re not missing out on anything.

Boross concedes, “People do join just to see what’s going on, but also when they’re suitably interested. Some [members] clearly are interested in building [Thread] products.”

Given 1) that Thread technology makes sense, and 2) Nest has sold millions of thermostats and smoke detectors using the technology (it’s based on Nest’s own Weave protocol), and 3) lots of companies want to ride the Nest coattails, then there is a good chance that Thread can be a leader on the smart home front.

Members can join Thread for a mere $2,500 per year as an affiliate, which is a pretty cheap way to stay in the loop. Serious prospects would pay $15,000 to join as a contributor and $100,000 to be called a sponsor.

No new members appear to be “sponsor” companies, and Thread won’t say which members joined at which level, but Boross tells us that more members joined as contributors than affiliates, which suggests they’re quite serious about product development.

Does that matter? You don’t see a whole lot of smart-home movers and shakers in the list of new members.

Among the freshman class, I’ve counted three that could potentially move the needle for Thread: Insteon, Jasco and Tyco (explanations below).

Then again, we don’t know what’s brewing at some of the potentially interesting companies like Energizer, which makes portable lighting products as well as batteries.

And it’s possible that some of the many start-ups in the roster could be the next Nest, Dropcam or SmartThings with tremendous consumer appeal. WigWag, for example, just may pull it off.

Breakdown of Thread Members

Here are some rough-and-dirty metrics on all 50 members, including the founders and the freshman class.

Ingredient technology and services including silicon, developer kits, embedded systems, certification programs: 18 (36%)

Consumer products: 21 (42%)

Start-ups: 6 (12%) – (Not included: LeakSmart, a new initiative for long-established Waxman, and Big Ass Fans, which is only just launching a connected product)

Energy/HVAC/utility related: 7 (14%)

Lighting related: 7 (14%)

Established whole-home automation companies: 4 (8%) (includes Nest)

Major appliances: 2 (4%)

Next Up for Thread

In an important move, the Thread Group has been plowing ahead with certification planning for 2015. The organization is working with both UL and Granite River Labs for the testing and certification process.

In November, Thread began releasing technical documents to new members and the next member meeting will be held in February.

Thread won’t have a presence at CES 2015, although Nest Labs will be exhibiting.

On the protocol development side, Thread is sticking with its original intent of providing the network layer only – IP over 802.15.4 – and still has no plans to touch the applications layers, which define how smart devices communicate with each other.

Boross sees no reason why multiple existing (and future) smart-home protocols such as ZigBee (which uses the same 802.14.5 radio) could not sit on the Thread networking backbone.

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He points to the analogy in the computing industry where communications roles are “heavily disconnected, [with] network stacks from one place and apps from another.”

Boross says some Thread-certified products will be announced at the end of Q2 2015 when certification goes live. We assume that means Nest thermostats and Connect smoke detectors, possibly Big Ass Fans. When asked, he said yes indeed Thread would begin to see some critical mass in 2015.

It’s curious that Samsung consumer electronics has not talked about Thread, even though their chip group is a founding member. Samsung-owned SmartThings would seem a natural fit.

It would valuable to the initiative if some of the newest cool kids on the block, including SmartThings, Wink, Lowe’s Iris, Staples Connect, D-Link (which makes Staples’ newest hub and its own smart devices), Belkin Wemo and Philips Hue would join the parade.

Meanwhile, let the Thread games begin.

New Thread Members

Take a look at the new members. You might discover some new interesting companies and products (I did). This Thursday, I’ll present a rapid-fire tour of the CES show floor pointing out some interesting newcomers and established players as well.

ATMEL
Embedded systems

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CamPoint

California Eastern Laboratories, Inc.
ZigBee and other RF development

CamPoint
Home security camera with video analytics and geofencing, knows when no one is home. $299 for hub and camera, shipping 4/2015. Attach local hard drive or use 8 GB internal SD card. No fees for seven days of rolling cloud storage.

Energizer Holdings, Inc. 
Maker of batteries, portable lighting and feminine care products, among other things. Might Energizer’s involvement in Thread signal a jump into the connected-home business? They could make it interesting.

GainSpan Corporation
Wi-Fi and 802.15.4/ZigBee IP developer

Granite River Labs
Testing and certification

Grid Connect
Chips, board, modules, bridges

Imagination Technologies
Linux and Android development boards.

Insteon
Developer of a popular RF/powerline control technology used in its own wide range of products, including low-cost home automation hubs. While it hasn’t gotten the love that ZigBee and Z-Wave garner, Insteon has had some recent wins being named one of Microsoft’s first smart home partners, and having its protocol embedded in some trendy or once-trendy or could-be-trendy products such as Revolv and WigWag.

Staples Connect promised Insteon in its next-gen hub, but the protocol didn’t make it in the latest model.

Intellihot Green Technologies Inc.
Tankless water heaters

iOT Tech
Remote monitoring and management software for care-givers in the aging-in-place market.

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Keen Home

Jasco
Huge manufacturer of electronic products licensed under the GE brand. In the connected-home space, Jasco is one of the most successful providers of Z-Wave-enabled lighting control products, counting more than one million connected products in homes today. But ... Jasco tells CE Pro that they’ve joined as an affiliate member rather than a contributor, so we’ll see how serious they are about making compatible products.

Keen Home
A pioneer in the new category of smart HVAC registers; recently raised $1.5 million in seed funding and announced partnerships with Lowe’s, SmartThings and Wink.

Kwikset
Automated door locks employing Z-Wave and ZigBee – a competitor of Thread founding member Yale.

leakSMART
Water leak detection and automatic valve shutoff system with notifications, from Waxman, maker of floorcare and plumbing products

Linx Technologies
RF modules

LUX Technology Group
Traditional LED bulbs

Marvell Technology Group Ltd.
ZigBee smart-lighting platforms, Wi-Fi/ZigBee bridge.

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Nanoleaf: Toggle up/down/up to set to night-light mode

Midea Group
Chinese appliance maker that recently received a $203.7 million investment (for 1.29% stake in the company) by Xiaomi, China’s largest smartphone maker. Xiaomi is using its investment to boost development around the smart home.  Midea will be shipping an Internet connected air purifier.

Nanoleaf
Rather strange-looking LED bulb that can be dimmed using an existing switch. The user toggles the switch twice in rapid succession to initiate the dimming, and toggles again to lock in the light level. Toggle three times to set the bulb into nightlight mode. Hmmm. Shipping 1/2015, starting at $35.

NET2GRID
Smart meters, energy management dashboard, supposedly developing lighting controls based on ZigBee, but hasn’t materialized.

Pacific Gas & Electric Company
Perennial progressive utility that has deployed a large number of ZigBee-enabled electric SmartMeters, but – like virtually all utilities – has done nothing terribly interesting with the meters.

Proximetry, Inc.
IoT software solutions

Salto Systems
Access control, networked door locking systems for commercial applications.

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Stack Lighting

Sansa Security
Device- and server-based IoT technologies

Shenzhen Rakwireless Technology Co., Ltd
Wi-Fi development

Skyley Networks, Inc.
ZigBee development

Stack Lighting
Smart bulbs with color temperature optimized for productivity, relaxation, sleep, etc.; learns behaviors for so you “don’t have to flip a switch or fumble for your phone.” Built-in motion and light sensors respond to activity (and non-activity) and ambient lighting. Bluetooth/iBeacon and ZigBee technology built in. (Preorder $150 BR-30 starter kit includes hub + two bulbs; additional bulbs $60 each).

Telegesis
ZigBee development, ZigBee modules, ZigBee USB stick

TÜV Rheinland Group
Certification testing for lighting and other electronics

Tyco
Tyco (NYSE TYC) owns DSC, a leading maker of security systems with home automation capabilities. The company also owns Visonic, another security provider with far less North American reach than DSC and its competitors.

Interestingly, Tyco just made an investment in Qolsys, a start-up alarm panel manufacturer with rich home-control capabilities. The Qolsys panels include built-in radios for cellular, Wi-Fi, security RF bus, Z-Wave and Bluetooth.

Tyco also has as thriving commercial security business.

UL
Testing and certification

Whirlpool Corporation
Major appliances, WiFi water heater, 6th Sense Live technology that manages smart appliances, provides energy monitoring. Water heater works with Lowe’s Iris.

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WigWag

WigWag Inc
Multi-sensor home automation device a la the now-defunct Revolv. The hub includes built-in support for IP/Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z-Wave and Insteon. A multi-sensor includes an 802.15.4 radio for 2.4GHz 6LoWPAN IPv6 communications, on which Thread is built. The device has an IR blaster and receiver, temperature and humidity sensors, motion and light detection, vibration detection, two GPIOs, electronic relay and USB port.  WigWag is still in the preorder phase with a Starter Kit (hub, sensor and proximity tag) going for $199.

ZoneFirst
HVAC zoning systems – no mention yet of automated solutions, but the ZoneFirst home page teases Nest integration. Click on it and you get a 404 error message.

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JULIE JACOBSON
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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


Security · News · Big Ass Fans · DSC · Insteon · Nest · Thread · Tyco · All Topics
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