Nest OpenThread launches to bring open-source into the IoT

Chris Davies - May 11, 2016, 10:00am CDT
Nest OpenThread launches to bring open-source into the IoT

The attempt to get all parts of the Internet of Things speaking the same language continues, with Nest today announcing OpenThread, an open-source implementation of Thread. The Thread networking technology – launched in 2014 and backed, among others, by ARM, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments – builds on existing wireless standards like 802.15.4 and supports IPv6, but uses a mesh network for greater resilience and performance

It’s already been picked up by a number of companies developing connected products. As well as Nest’s own smart thermostat and smoke alarm, Big Ass Fans has cooling products that use Thread, and Yale Security uses it for the upcoming Linus Lock.

Google’s OnHub router, meanwhile, has a Thread-compatible radio, while application protocols like ZigBee and Nest’s own Weave can run over Thread networks.

Until now, Thread has been closed-documentation and, though royalty-free, has required paid membership of the consortium of companies in order to access.

With OpenThread, there’s now the option for the open-source community to join in, with a common language and set of networking standards rather than having to develop their own.

It’s not the first time Thread has seen a tweaked implementation in this way. ARM, NXP, and Silicon Labs – among others – all have their own Thread implementations, but each is certified by the Thread Group so as to be interoperable. That’ll be the case with OpenThread too, and while any manufacturer or chip provider will be able to use it, they’ll need to be a Thread Group member to actually ship a certified product.

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The jumble of wireless standards, network types, protocols, and other minutiae of the Internet of Things has, unsurprisingly, led to a fair amount of confusion among both would-be users and manufacturers hoping to compete in the space.

Few companies have been so ambitious as to try to create every single component an IoT installation might require, and yet the experience of trying to connect different devices from multiple vendors can be fraught with incompatibilities and issues no one firm will generally take responsibility for.

Some attempts to rein in that confusion have been blunter than others. Revolv‘s hub, for instance – which was acquired by Nest and then, controversially, shut down – had among its promises a total of seven programable radios which, its creators suggested, could end up translating between the various standards in play.

If OpenThread – and, more broadly, Thread as a whole – takes hold, it could potentially fill in some of those gaps in the IoT and smart home experience. Among its benefits are a more straightforward process of connecting a device to the mesh network, along with encryption built-in, and low power requirements.

All the same, it’s unlikely to go unchallenged by some of the existing competition, which includes Bluetooth LE, WiFi, ZigBee, and others.

MORE OpenThread at GitHub


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