Qualcomm joins Thread as IoT dance heats up

The AllJoyn framework Qualcomm developed could complement Thread's networking protocol

A networking protocol that could be whizzing around your home's airspace in a few years came one step closer to reality on Tuesday.

The Thread Group released its Internet of Things network specification to a membership of more than 160 companies that have rallied around the Google-backed organization since its founding about a year ago. And in a development that could lead even more vendors to adopt Thread, it announced that wireless technology powerhouse Qualcomm is now a member and on its board of directors.

With an array of different standards competing to be the main language for connected home devices, Thread is one protocol that could become a common denominator. It's designed as a way to form secure, low-power mesh networks out of short-range links among devices like thermostats, lightbulbs and security cameras.

Now that the specification has been released to Thread's member companies, they can start developing software stacks and devices to use it. The Thread Group plans to start certifying those products in September and expects to see them on the market in the fourth quarter.

Thread is strictly for networking, so different application layers can be added on top of it for higher-level functions like discovering a device's capabilities. The Thread Group and the ZigBee Alliance are already working together on one such arrangement, making the ZCL (ZigBee Cluster Library) application layer work with Thread.

The Qualcomm-developed AllJoyn software framework, which is now overseen by the AllSeen Alliance, could also be added on top of Thread, according to Thread Group President Chris Boross. A partnership with AllSeen might make Thread an easy networking choice for manufacturers of AllJoyn devices.

Still, the Thread Group is not choosing sides: IoTivity, the framework backed by the Open Interconnect Consortium and Qualcomm rival Intel, also could go on top of Thread, Boross said.

Last October, Thread had said it expected to start certifying products in the first half of this year, but it took a little longer than expected to make sure the specification was bulletproof, Boross said. The group has already brought together vendors together to test interoperability, Boross said. With a specification going out just a year after the organization's launch, the work has gone faster than most standards efforts.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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