IoT standards group releases Thread, a new protocol that allows developers to build connected home products

The Thread Group, which is backed by Google, yesterday released its IP-based wireless networking protocol specification, revealing exactly how the standard could work in manufacturer's devices. 

Nest Labs, Google's smart thermostat firm backs The Thread Group ©Nest

Compliant chips and software stacks are available from ARM, Freescale and Silicon Labs and the first thread certified products will be available for consumers in late 2015, the group said yesterday.

The self described not-for-profit is backed by tech heavyweights - all of which have varying motivations to get the standard out to market. These include ARM, Nest Labs, Qualcomm, Samsung, It has 160 members since forming in October last year.

Yet another IoT standards group

Thread is one of several IoT standards groups that have been created to unify the IoT and push adoption of a common standard that allows connected devices to talk to each other. However, the release of its specification signals that this group means business. Manufacturers previously put off joining the standards body until it saw the technical details will no longer be on the fence. 

In contrast, Cisco, for example, recently announced it had founded the Wireless IoT Forum – the fifth of its kind to be formed within the last 18 months.

It is the second group Cisco have created to push one standard for connected devices. The switch firm also helped create the Industrial Internet Consortium with GE, IBM and Intel last year. 

Other consortia include the Linux Foundation’s AllSeen Alliance in 2013; the Open Interconnect Consortium launched by Intel, Samsung and Broadcom and the UK’s Hypercat, which is a core standard group leading the work being done to make Milton Keynes’ the UK’s 'smartest city'. 

However, the fact that Thread has already released its specification with two chipmakers on board could spell its success.

Peter Highton, Freescale's head of motorsport and automotive development, recently told Techworld that the main challenge for standards groups boil down to membership size.

He said: “The bigger these groups get, the slower these standards start to appear in terms of iterations”… “Over the years, as more people join, you find that unfortunately the decision making slips.” 

Developers and engineers who plan to use the protocol for their product can take part in the Thread product certification program which will launch in September. Thread-certified devices will bear the Thread logo.

What does Thread offer?

Using IPv6 and 6LoWPAN as its foundation, Thread claims to offer advantages over existing wireless standards.

These include “self-healing” mesh networks that can scale to hundreds of devices with no single point of failure; ensuring devices are ready when people need them, the Thread Group said.

It also boasts a secure encrypted network that it describes as “banking class” and closes “identified security holes found in other wireless protocols.”

Perhaps most importantly, its low power credentials will boost its adoption by consumers. The firm said that existing 802.15.4 wireless devices would be able to run Thread with just a software update.

Find your next job with techworld jobs