Thread Group: Q & A

After a recent comment request from the press on the news that The Thread Group have announced a new protocol for connected devices in the home, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share some of the insights we pulled together for the piece.

The format of the Press comment was a simple Q & A, and went as followed:


Q: What does The Thread Group mean for the IoT industry?

A: The Thread Group is mainly about taking existing technologies such as IEEE 802.15.4, 6LoWPAN and ZigBee and making them fitter for the Internet of Things, specifically here in a home environment.

These technologies are already in production in many IoT products already, but so far, implementation was driven mostly by research institutions and early adopters.

The Thread Group is taking this to another level however. By grouping a number of big players who are currently deploying IoT devices on a commercial level,  combined with their significant experience in the mass consumer market, this puts them in a good position to improve the software stack to better fit some of the challenges that will no doubt test them along the way.

Q: Will it kickstart the space or stall it?

A: It will not kickstart it per se, as other alliances already kickstarted the space a little while ago (e.g., the IPSO Alliance), but it will certainly intensify the competition and drive open protocols to the next level.

Q: Are we set for a standards battle?

A: Definitely. The Thread Groups proposition is essentially to improve existing leading proprietary standards such as Zigbee, or at least the technologies they are based on. If successful, the Thread Group could potentially integrate with the existing players, but also, in the long term, replace them.

Moreover, by pushing 802.15.4 the Thread Group is also driving attention away from Bluetooth based standards (e.g., Bluetooth 4.0 aka BLE) that Apple are investing a lot in. Yes, Bluetooth lacks some of the features required by IoT use-cases; such as mesh networking, but it is pretty clear that the Bluetooth consortium will not give up on mesh networking solutions – rumours are intensifying (CSR Mesh)

Q: Do you see Apple ever joining the Thread Group?

A: Hard to say really, but rather unlikely. Apple is known to be either leading consortia or not participating in them at all (e.g., the NFC Forum). They are heavily involved in the Bluetooth alliance which is de-facto trying to come up with a similar proposition and fixing Bluetooth for the IoT. The simple fact that a lot of effort was put on battery consumption (i.e., one of the hardest problems of the IoT at the network level) is a good example that lead to Bluetooth 4.0 also known as Bluetooth Low Energy.


Further remark: Web of Things Element

It’s important to understand however that this proposition does not cover all the layers but mainly up to the transport layer. The actual application layer still isn’t fully covered and would need to be, in order to achieve real interoperability. This is what initiatives such as the Web of Things or CoAP are working on.

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