Thread’s chances for dominating smart-home networking

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. What is Thread?
  3. Thread’s impact on the competitive environment
  4. Outlook
  5. About Michael Wolf

1. Summary

Thread, the new IP-based wireless-networking protocol, was a big surprise for the smart-home industry — an area that for a long time seemed to have settled on four internet of things (IoT) home-networking alternatives: Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth LE, and Wi-Fi. Going forward, however, Thread appears — on paper, at least — to be the most modern and highly optimized technology for the consumer IoT and smart-home market.

Thread offers enough compelling advantages in the long term that we will see a significant portion of the market evaluate the technology and ultimately adapt it into their products. But while Thread has done as much as possible to inoculate itself against resistance to embracing a new standard, it will require the following to catch on:

  • Flawless delivery on interoperability. Thread’s use of 802.15.4 PHY/MAC and its promise of a single, unified standard profile could walk through the door that Zigbee left open.
  • Strong support from smart-home hardware and service players. They must be convinced of the need for new technology but there’s still room for a modern offering that can deliver on requirements for long-distance, multipoint mesh networks, IP, and low energy.
  • Easy deployment on existing radios. One of Thread’s promises is that it will work with existing 802.15.4 silicon, so it would be a big advantage if it can be deployed with a field-software upgrade for existing radios.
  • More converts among chip companies. Thread’s backers include Google/Nest, Samsung, ARM, Freescale, and Silicon Labs. The latter are both Zigbee chip providers, but Thread will need more switchovers to demonstrate momentum.

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