Nest, Samsung Spin Up Thread Smart Home Communication Standard

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Learning thermostat maker Nest, along with Samsung, ARM and a handful of other companies have teamed up to create a new wireless networking standard for smart home devices they're calling Thread. Instead of relying on traditional WiFi or Bluetooth, Thread uses ZigBee's 802.15.4-based wireless hardware, giving smart homes a network outside of the systems we're already using.

Nest and Samsung want to standardize your smart home networkNest and Samsung want to standardize your smart home network

The other companies that have already signed on to support Thread include Freescale, Silicon Labs, Yale Security, and Big Ass Fans, according to GigaOm.

Thread supports IPv6 with 6LoWPAN, and can support mesh networks with more than 250 devices. Depending on the size of your home, the number of lights and switches, plus other potential smart devices, it's possible to quickly jump over the 250 device mark.

ZigBee currently suffers from horrible fragmentation, so there's a lot of work that needs to be done before more device makers will feel comfortable jumping on board, but with Nest and Samsung both throwing their weight behind Thread it'll have a much better chance of taking off.

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]

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WiFi and Bluetooth are already capable of handling the communication needs for most smart home devices, but the idea of a special network just for those does sound interesting. Unless Nest and Samsung can rope in and control ZigBee's fragmentation, however, Thread probably won't gain much traction.

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Lee Dronick

Is there a license fee to use WiFi, is that why some systems use their own frequency? My HUE lights have their own bridge, as does my wireless TV. Each takes an ethernet port and a transformer brick.


Home automation suddenly seems to be the big game. We’ve had… what, four new major initiatives announced in the last month or two?

On the one side are the IP-based solutions, using Ethernet, WiFi and Bluetooth. Each device is easily accessed on your home network, but large numbers of devices can clog up your subnet with a lot of traffic. Each device also seems to be implementing its own way of working.

Add to that the non-IP based solutions, using ZigBee, Z-Wave, Insteon and Belkin’s WeMo (plus X10 and Infrared controls, if you want to go that far), all attempting to offer a wireless control network away from your regular network. This helps keep the bandwidth clear, but needs a “hub” box if you want internet control. Thread is apparently a standard update to ZigBee.

Then there are the aggregators, which appear now to include Apple’s HomeKit, Staples Connect, Quirky’s Wink, AllSeen and the Open Interconnect Consortium. All are promising an easy means of accessing and controlling all manner of devices. None seem to be working with each other for cross-compatibility.

I’m so terribly confused that I’m likely to stay out of the home automation space entirely, and avoid buying any of them.

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