The Thread Group, an industry group originally led by Google’s Nest and founded with backing from vendors including ARM, Silicon Labs, Freescale and Samsung exactly a year ago, released Tuesday (July 14) its debut technical spec: Thread Version 1.0.
Established to develop reliable, secure and low-power mesh networking protocols for the Internet of Things in the home, the group said that its new specs — which passed rigorous interoperability testing — are available, starting today, to group members.
The Thread Group also announced that Qualcomm Technologies, a leader of AllSeen Alliance, is joining the Thread Group Board of Directors. AllSeen is an open-source IoT alliance developing IoT application layers.
In addition, Silicon Labs — a founding member of the Thread Group — announced Tuesday the roll-out of Thread’s commercial protocol stack and development tools, both ready for use by customers building Thread-based IoT devices.
Altogether, the Thread Group is gathering momentum, laying a foundation for much needed unity in IoT, and rolling out the networking layer designed to interoperate with a broad range of IoT solutions.
Among various industry alliances jockeying for position in the fragmented IoT market, the Thread Group, with its specs in place, will shift gears to the certification of commercial Thread IoT products and market education.
The addition to the Thread Group Board of Qualcomm, a leading IoT advocate and the world’s largest smartphone chip vendor, is big news.
Asked if Qualcomm’s recruitment implies a future “AllSeen-Thread” partnership, Chris Boross, Thread Group president, told EE Times, “It isn’t specifically tied to that.” However, he added, “the Thread Group will continue to pursue partnerships with other industry groups” developing their own application layers for IoT.
A case in point is an announcement earlier this year. The Group is now collaborating with the ZigBee Alliance to develop connected home products. The partnership has opened doors for the ZigBee cluster library application protocol to run on Thread. “Thread is designed to work with and support many different application layer protocols,” said Boross.
In the past year, the Thread Group has diligently worked with members, “whose number has grown from the original seven to more than 160 companies today,” said Boross. They have collaborated in “testing interoperability” and “fine-tuning” Thread’s specifications for wireless mesh networking protocols, he explained. “The specification is finally ready and available for use by those building real Thread products.”
A bevy of Thread products are expected to reach the market late this year. In September, the Thread Group is launching a product certification program. The Group announced Tuesday that it has retained Thomas Sciorilli to lead the program. Sciorilli comes with broad experience and credibility in running industry groups. He served as technical operations director for the Wi-Fi Alliance between 2008 and 2012.
Sciorilli will oversee testing and ensure that “Thread products work together effortlessly and securely right out of the box,” according to the Thread Group. The Thread Group has developed and supplied tools to test Thread products to a third- party test house, which will be responsible for independently running the tests and certifying Thread products.
Once certified, Thread products can bear the Thread logo.
Keep the Group’s scope narrow
Now that the version 1.0 specs are out, EE Times asked the Thread Group president about plans for Version 2.0.
Boross made it very clear: “We are trying not to become another standards body.”
“We have intentionally kept our scope narrow,” explained Boross. The Group will keep its networking protocol “application layer-agnostic.” The goal is to keep it stable for interoperability reasons, he added.
“Our charter is the promotion of Thread, and market education,” not pumping out new versions of the spec every six months, he explained.
Since the Group released late last year the Thread technical information to members, “The board has maintained active dialog and interactions with both builders and users [of IoT devices],” said Boross. Member feedbacks are reflected in the 1.0 specs.
In a nutshell, Thread is “a secure wireless mesh network” for the home and its connected home appliances. It’s expected to be used in such applications as access control, climate control, energy management, lighting, safety and security. Thread devices are designed to work together to form a cohesive mesh network.
Commercial protocol stack
Silicon Labs has become the first to roll out Thread commercial protocol stacks and its development tools. ARM and Freescale are expected to follow suit.
Silicon Labs’ customers with registered EM35x-DEV development kits will be able to receive today — at no charge — Silicon Labs’ Thread software stack and sample application. The kit based on Silicon Labs’ EM35xx wireless SoC platform is “a common platform for both ZigBee and Thread development,” according to the company.
Silicon Labs takes pride of its record in supporting ZigBee through its EM35Xxx wireless SoCs. With the launch of a Thread stack also designed to run on the same IEEE 802.15.4-based SoC platform, Silicon Labs is effectively giving customers “an upgrade path” from ZigBee to Thread. “Our customers need no new hardware and they can do it via over-the-air upgrades,” explained Skip Ashton, vice president of software engineering at Silicon Labs.