Thread Group Brings IoT Standards Effort to Commercial Space

The consortium, which has developed a wireless networking mesh for connected homes, wants to extend the reach of Thread into buildings.


The Thread Group, one of a number of industry consortiums that has launched over the past several years with plans to drive standardization into the internet of things for connected homes, is now planning to extend its reach into the commercial sector.

Thread Group officials this week said they are targeting the commercial buildings and professional segments as the next landing place for their Thread connected home networking specification. Engineers will add extensions to the specification to make it ready for the commercial world and able to address use cases like enterprise security and to manage large Thread subnets, they said.

There are dozens of internet of things (IoT) use cases for Thread in the commercial world, though three in particular—energy management, security and lighting—stand out, according to Thread Group President Grant Erickson. The key is being able to deploy Thread, which has been designed for homes, in much larger buildings, Erickson said in a video on the group's website. He equated a home to a single floor in a commercial building.

"So the scalability challenge for Thread in commercial environments is scaling out that single home to multiple floors up and down the entire building," said Erickson, who also is principal engineer at Alphabet's Nest business.

The Thread Group was launched in 2014 by Nest—which makes such products as smart thermostats—and other vendors, including ARM and Samsung. The goal was to develop a low-power, secure and scalable IP-based wireless mesh network layer that enables connected home IoT devices to connect more easily to the internet and each other. With the release of the Thread 1.1 spec, there has been interest among the group's 240-plus members as well as other industry alliances in expanding Thread into other areas, officials said. The focus will remain on developing the low-power IP mesh solutions, but putting in capabilities to enable Thread to work in both the home and in the commercial arena.

Among the key tenets will be to ensure that there will be complete backward-compatibility in the commercial offering, they said.

The rise of the IoT brought with it the growing demand for standardized connectivity between connected devices from multiple vendors. For example, a connected light from one vendor would need to be able to communicate with the connected doorbell of another company in order for the light to come on when the doorbell rings. This gave rise to an array of industry consortiums that wanted to create the standard technologies and specifications to enable such communication.

The number of groups—which includes the AllSeen Alliance and Open Interconnect Consortium (which later become the Open Connectivity Foundation, or OCF) as well as established consortiums like the ZigBee Alliance—and their varying standards worried some industry officials that fragmentation could slow down the development of standards and hamper the adoption of IoT in the home. However, over the last several months, there has been movement to reduce that fragmentation. The Thread Group is partnering with the OCF and ZigBee to ensure interoperability, and last month the OFC announced it was bringing the AllSeen Alliance into the fold.

The OCF also is working with the Industrial Internet Consortium.

The Thread Group has a number of companies—including Schneider Electric, Siemens, Philips Lighting and Big Ass Solutions—that build products for commercial and professional spaces, and group officials said those members are interested in bringing Thread to the commercial buildings market.