The Thread Group, an Internet of things standards consortium launched last year by such major tech players as Samsung, ARM, Freescale Semiconductor and Google's Nest Labs, wants to make it easier for startups to join the group.
The consortium, which now has more than 80 members after kicking off in July 2014, recently announced the Thread Innovation Enabler Program for innovative startups with ideas for products that support the group's Thread protocol. Through the program, companies selected will be given free membership as a contributor for up to 18 months as well as other benefits.
On the Thread Group's Website, officials wrote that the program "recognizes that much of the innovation in the Connected Home will come from small start-up companies who can't necessarily afford membership fees. We want to help these small, innovative companies launch Thread-enabled products."
The Thread Group is one of several industry groups that are working on open specifications to enable the tens of billions of devices that will make up the Internet of things (IoT) to more easily connect and communicate with each other. Among the other groups is the AllSeen Alliance, which was formed in December 2013 and is developing the AllJoyn-based software platform. The Open Interconnect Consortium, which was founded by such vendors as Intel, Samsung, Dell and Atmel the same month that the Thread Group launched, in January unveiled the preview release of its open-source Iotivity software framework.
The Thread networking protocol is designed to be low power, resilient and open, enabling others to easily design and build devices that leverage it, according to consortium officials. It's based on IPv6 over Low-power Wireless Personal Area Network (6LoWPAN) and is built on the existing 802.15.4 standard. Thread creates a wireless mesh home network that supports more than 250 devices, with each having a direct path to the Internet, according to the group.
It's aimed at the connected home market.
The Thread Group is taking submissions from startups for the Thread Innovation Enabler Program, which kicks off this quarter. Companies looking to be considered must be pre-Series A funded—projects that are being crowd-funded through such services as Kickstarter and Indegogo will be admitted—are planning a product or service for the home that leverages the Thread protocol, and are planning to ship their products in the second half of this year or the first half of 2016.
The consortium will select one startup per quarter, with each selected company getting a free contributor membership for 18 months, free Thread certification for one product, listing on the group's Website, free access to member meetings for one person, and the possibility of being included in the Thread Group's press and marketing efforts.
Companies can join the Thread Group as a contributor for a $15,000 fee (a sponsor membership costs $100,000, while an affiliate membership costs $2,500).
Along with the startup program, the Thread Group also announced that Somfy, which develops home control products, and Tyco, which builds fire protection and security offerings, have joined the consortium's board of directors. Somfy's and Tyco's interest in joining is a testament to the direction the Thread Group is going, according to Chris Boross, Thread Group president and technical product marketing manager for Nest.
"The two companies' deep understanding of what consumers care about most in their homes will be an asset for the Thread Group as we continue to grow and define the connected home," Boross said in a statement.