The Thread Group and the Open Connectivity Foundation are the latest industry groups in the internet of things space to partner in hopes of bringing some unity to a fragmented market.
The two industry consortiums this week announced they plan to work together in their efforts to drive interoperability between the tens of millions of devices, systems and sensors that make up the internet of things (IoT) for the connected home.
The two groups work on different levels of the IoT. The Thread Group is developing a low-power, secure and scalable IPv6-based wireless mesh network layer that is designed to enable IoT devices to connect more easily to the internet and each other, while the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) is developing an application layer that would run on top of the network.
The goal is to create a framework that covers users from the connectivity of their devices to the interactions between applications, according to Thread Group officials.
"Thread Group members identified and prioritized OCF as a strategically important application layer to run over the Thread wireless mesh network," Thread Group President Grant Erickson said in a statement. "In order for consumers to put their faith in the connected home, their experience must be simple, reliable and effortless. This agreement takes us one step closer to our common goal of ensuring that consumers will have smart home devices that seamlessly work together out of the box, regardless of their brand or function."
The IoT is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. Estimates of the number of connected devices worldwide coming online over the next few years vary among analyst firms and vendors, but Cisco and Intel officials predicted that number will hit more than 50 billion by 2020. The connected home will include everything from refrigerators and televisions to surveillance cameras, thermostats and light bulbs.
The Thread Group and the OCF are among a number of industry groups working to ensure those devices and systems can communicate with each other. Other consortiums include the AllSeen Alliance and the ZigBee Alliance. The rise of the different standards efforts—most of which came onto the scene over the last two-plus years—has worried some industry officials that fragmentation could slow down the development of standards and hamper adoption of the internet of things in the home.
There has been some movement over the past year or so to bring the disparate interoperability efforts more closely together. A year ago, the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) and Industrial Internet Consortium said they planned to work more closely. Soon after, the Thread Group and ZigBee Alliance announced plans to partner to enable ZigBee's application layer protocols to run over Thread-based networks.
The Thread Group was launched in 2014 by, among others, Samsung Electronics, ARM and Google's Nest unit, which makes such devices as smart thermostats. The same year, the OIC was founded by Intel, Samsung, Dell and others, and late last year, the group acquired the assets of the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) Forum in one of a number of the moves in the industry to consolidate and align the efforts of standardization groups.
The UPnP had been around since 1999, addressing network connectivity and adapting its efforts as the industry has evolved. In February, the OIC changed its name to the Open Connectivity Forum and added Microsoft and Qualcomm to the group.
Currently, the Thread Group has more than 240 members and the OCF more than 200, with a healthy a crossover of members between them.
"We work every day to unlock the opportunity of IoT that interoperability will enable," OCF Executive Director Mike Richmond said in a statement. "But this collaboration with Thread is special. With Thread, we are able to provide both of our members with a joint solution that enables companies to more easily develop solutions for the connected home."