Makers of Internet-connected devices aren’t short on innovative ideas for tracking and automating even the most mundane of household tasks. But, so far, they’ve struggled to connect the disparate parts of this growing group of gadgets. That could soon change.
Today, a group of manufacturers and developers in the home-automation space announced the development of Thread, an IP-based networking protocol that lets consumers and product developers connect up to 250 devices on a low-power mesh network that offers each device direct Internet and cloud access. The open-platform protocol supports IPv6 technology and uses 6LoWPAN as its foundation—allowing existing popular application protocols and other platforms to run on its network.
“Existing wireless networking approaches were introduced long before the Internet of Things gained ground,” Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google and an adviser to the Thread Group, said in a press release. “The Thread protocol takes existing technologies and combines the best parts of each to provide a better way to connect in the home.”
Thread is designed to accommodate a variety of hardware, including appliances, access control devices, and climate control, energy management, lighting, safety, and security systems.
Currently, a variety of networking protocols exist for use by makers of home appliances and other smart devices. Thread addresses common inconsistencies and issues among them, including the inability to carry IPv6 communications, battery-draining power requirements, and hub-and-spoke models that bring down the entire network if one device fails.
Thread’s founding team, dubbed the Thread Group, is led by the Google-owned Nest and includes representatives from ARM, Big Ass Fans, Freescale Semiconductor, Samsung Electronics, Silicon Labs, and Yale Security, with the goal of guiding the protocol’s adoption.
Nest Lab's Chris Boross, leader of the Thread Group, told VentureBeat that his company’s smart thermostats and smoke alarms are already running a version of Thread. And, in an interview with Gigaom, he said that fine-tuning of the protocol will allow manufacturers to begin building Thread-based products by the end of the year. He added that the group will begin certifying devices in mid-2015.