The new Internet of Things (IoT) protocol, Thread, is drawing substantial industry interest, according to a progress report from its backers, and also has advanced to the point of the industry's first beta phase of Thread-based silicon.
Thread Group launched in July amid much hoopla -- owing in large part to the fact that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is a member by way of Nest Labs , and that Google's interests tend to generate hoopla. Thread is a low-power, self-healing mesh protocol aimed at home networking that's derived from IEEE 802.15.4, IETF IPv6 and IPv6 over low-power wireless personal area networks (6LoWPAN). (See Thread Group Spins New IoT Networking Protocol).
In addition to Google/Nest, Thread counts Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), Silicon Laboratories Inc. (Nasdaq: SLAB), Freescale Semiconductor Inc. , Yale Security and Big Ass Fans among its founding members. Since its introduction, more than 800 companies registered with the group to get more information about membership -- and last week at an open house event at Google HQ that drew more than 300 attendees, the opportunity to officially join was extended to them, says Chris Boross, president of Thread Group and technical product marketing manager at Nest.
"It was a really good cross-section of the 800-plus companies interested -- various players and brands doing bits and pieces in this space," Boross tells Light Reading, noting that the purpose of the event was also to further educate interested parties on the details of the protocol. "If you're building a Thread product, you can start now."
Thread Group already has been through several interoperability events with three different software stacks and is developing a product certification program, Boross says, and plans to begin releasing technical documentation in phases in November. The plan is to release 1.0 version of the Thread spec on June 1, 2015, he says.
Meanwhile, Silicon Labs saw enough interest in Thread-based chips from its customers to begin what is the first publicly announced beta (with as-yet undisclosed participants). Greg Fyke, director of marketing for Silicon Labs, attributes the early momentum and interest in Thread to the fact that the protocol is based on existing standards and that it is IP-based.
"This is pretty unprecedented," he says. "I think what distinguishes this from many other new networking protocols is that we're not completely reinventing the wheel here. It's built for existing silicon, and Thread itself is built on a foundation of standards and decades of experience. And there's been a long pent-up demand for an IP-based standard based on mesh networking."
It remains to be seen what impact Thread could have on the service provider sector, especially considering that it's strictly an in-home protocol. But Boross maintains that Thread Group is friendly to other networking technologies that may be favored by service providers, and that Thread implementation ultimately could affect the types of products and services cable operators, telcos and other home security/home networking provider hopefuls are able to offer.
"If you look at the MSOs that are installing equipment in people's homes and providing services like home automation, home security and home monitoring, Thread has some potentially great benefits for those companies to deploy products and services in the home," he says. "Obviously we want Thread to be really well adopted, and we think there are some benefits to using Thread, but we don't see it being the only wireless network in your home. We see it working alongside other technologies like WiFi and other technologies that support IPV6."
— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, Light Reading