Thread Group ready to start approving IoT devices that talk to each other

The Nest-backed industry group has launched product certification for its wireless mesh protocol

The Alphabet-backed Thread Group is now certifying products that use its networking protocol for connected devices, marking a big step toward a home Internet of Things that can communicate.

Thread has backing from big industry players including Samsung, Qualcomm and ARM Holdings, and its wireless mesh protocol could become the networking system for products that use a wide range of IoT software platforms. The Thread Group and partner UL have started testing products to see if they work together easily out of the box, and the first certifications are expected later this month.

Products with the Thread logo could include lights, locks, fans, air conditioners, thermostats and other devices that might work better in unison than by making their own decisions about when to turn on and what settings to use. For example, a thermostat that talks to a ceiling fan can tell it when to start or speed up to maintain a certain climate in the house.

Making it easy for devices to send data packets to each other is one of the main steps needed to make a set of products around your home into a complete system, though not the only one. There are other frameworks, such as AllJoyn and IoTivity, with competing ideas about how devices can learn about each other and work together at a higher level.

Thread is based on technology developed at Nest Labs, now part of Google holding company Alphabet. Members of the Thread Group, now 220 strong, can use the protocol without paying royalties. The group released its specification to members in July so they could start developing products.

Thread devices use a short-range, low-power wireless standard called IEEE 802.15.4 and form mesh networks among each other to communicate throughout a home. Software frameworks like AllJoyn, which devices can use for tasks like discovering each other's features, can fit on top of Thread. The Thread Group is already working with at least one industry group, the ZigBee Alliance, to make the ZigBee Cluster Library application layer work with Thread.

Freescale Semiconductor, a founding member of the Thread Group, says it's already working with companies that are developing would-be Thread products. Those companies, including Procter & Gamble and manufacturing services provider Jabil, are using a Thread software stack from Freescale to develop products based on the company's chips. Freescale expects the software stack to be certified later this month as one of the first things Thread signs off on.

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Stephen Lawson

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