Last week, the Thread Group has announced its intention to expand into the commercial building and professional sectors. The consortium, which has developed a wireless networking mesh for connected homes, wants to extend the reach of Thread into buildings, in order to unlock valuable new use cases for its members.
“This is a natural step in the evolution of the Thread networking protocol, and we’re excited that industry interest in building a Thread solution for the commercial building domain has been so strong,” said Grant Erickson, president of the Thread Group. “This expansion will enable members to build Thread-enabled solutions that will serve a variety of use cases, not just inside the connected home but also beyond, into the commercial and professional sectors.”
The group will continue its efforts to drive adoption of the Thread networking specification for the connected home, and will leverage this technology for the commercial building and professional sectors by adding extensions to the existing specification. The new extensions will address use cases such as enterprise security and commissioning options, and enabling and managing large Thread subnets. These updates will be beneficial to a range of commercial building professionals including installers, network engineers, application commissioners and end-users operating system components.
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, who is also principal engineer at Nest, Google’s smart home sister company.
Nest, however, was criticized by The Information back in April for promising and then not delivering on a whole series of security products, amid highly publicized internal unrest. It was even suggested that the Thread standard might be the major technical hurdle to the delayed product releases. The standard came under increasing scrutiny, many even calling into question its label of “standard”, as the company struggled to make it as compatible as they might like.
Then in May Nest published the source code for its implementation of the new OpenThread protocol under a three-clause BSD license, allowing anyone to reuse, modify or redistribute it in source or binary form. The move simplified the work of manufacturers hoping to add Thread functionality to smart home devices. Now the challenge is to ensure the protocol can be scaled up and adapted to the commercial building setting.
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,” he said.
The Thread Group was formed by Nest in 2014 to develop an IP-based reliable, low-power, secure and scalable mesh networking solution to be the foundation upon which any application layer can run. The group initially focused its efforts on the connected home, and numerous members and other alliances have expressed interest in deploying Thread into adjacent markets. With this expansion, the group will continue its focus on low power mesh-IP solutions, broadening its scope to enable to new use cases both inside the home and in potentially more lucrative commercial settings.
Our recent report on this commercial market The Internet of Things in Smart Commercial Buildings projects that the combined global market for the Internet of Things in Buildings (BIoT) will grow significantly over the next five years, rising from $23.5Bn in 2015 to $75.5Bn by 2021, at a CAGR of 20.7%.
Indeed, the Thread Group's member roster includes a number of leading companies that focus on the commercial building and professional sectors, including Big Ass Solutions, Schneider Electric, OSRAM, Crestron, Siemens, EBV, Philips Lighting, and more. Many of these companies have committed to sharing their IP and engineering resources in order to bring the Thread solution to market for commercial buildings.
"OSRAM joined the Thread Group at the sponsor level because we believe in the technology's potential for both the connected home and commercial building markets, and we're very pleased to assist with the expansion of the Thread protocol for the professional market," said Arnulf Rupp, Senior Director at OSRAM. "Thread boasts numerous technical advantages over other networking solutions in the market, and we see the profound impact that this technology can have on the commercial building and professional sectors."
To offer engineers and developers as much flexibility as possible, the Thread Group has committed to complete backwards compatibility in its commercial solution. This will address the extended and more in-depth design and development of commercial buildings. While Nest’s worries still linger, the Thread Group seems to be pushing ahead into the commercial world, leaving Nest to work out its problems at home.
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