Smart home technology is a boon for many consumers, but it's also an absolute mess from a development standpoint. Thread, a new protocol backed by Samsung, Nest, and other heavy hitter electronics companies, seeks to solve this problem by combining the best parts of other smart home hardware.
The Thread Group announced its plans today (Jul. 15), highlighting Thread's potential to power secure smart home products that don't put undue strain on mobile batteries. At present, the only brand that uses Thread is Nest itself. The company, recently purchased by Google, produces smart thermostats and smoke detectors.
Thread highlighted four points that will set its protocol apart from existing smart home products: reliable networks, secure networks, simple connectivity and low power. However, in reality, only two of these features are unique. Other smart home protocols, including Zigbee and Z-Wave, also run on reliable networks and connect with other devices at the touch of a button.
Security and low power drain are intriguing, though. ZigBee and Z-Wave, two of the most popular smart home frameworks, have security holes that few companies seem interested in patching. This isn't a huge problem when it comes to smart thermostats, but presents a much bigger problem for smart door locks or smart water valves.
Power drain is also a concern with existing protocols. Not every smart home app puts undue stress on smartphone or tablet batteries, but it's generally up to individual manufacturers to ensure unobtrusiveness. Thread would, in theory, keep operating battery costs down.
Other companies on the Thread bandwagon include ARM, Big Ass Fans, Freescale Semiconductor, Silicon Labs and Yale Security. While having these companies onboard does not guarantee a quality product, it indicates that Thread at least has the breadth of expertise necessary to meet its development goals.
For now, expect Nest to continue using Thread with additional products coming out as the protocol develops. Whether the company will convince the majority of people to embrace smart home tech is another question altogether.
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