Google's Nest announces open source implementation of Thread

Counting as backers Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Texas Instruments, among others, Nest Labs released Open Thread, an open source implementation of the Thread networking protocol.

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Nest learning thermostat

With OpenThread, Nest is making the technology used in Nest products more broadly available to accelerate the development of products for the connected home. As the thinking goes, as more silicon providers adopt Thread, manufacturers will have the option of using it rather than creating their own, and consumers will have a larger selection of compatible, connected products to choose from.

"Thread makes it possible for devices to simply, securely, and reliably connect to each other and to the cloud," said Greg Hu, head of Nest Platform and Works with Nest, in a press release. Because Thread is an IPv6 networking protocol built on open standards, millions of existing 802.15.4 wireless devices on the market can be easily updated to run Thread, according to Nu. "OpenThread will significantly accelerate the deployment of Thread in these devices, establishing Thread as one of the key networking technology standards for connected products in the home."

Some experts in the field also point out that IPv6 offers advantages like better security and set-up. Both ZigBee and Thread reside on top of 802.15.4, and ZigBee and Thread announced a deal about a year ago to collaborate and allow the ZigBee Cluster Library to run over Thread networks.

ARM, Atmel, a subsidiary of Microchip Technology, Dialog Semiconductor, Qualcomm Technologies and Texas Instruments are joining Nest in contributing to the ongoing development of OpenThread. In addition, OpenThread can run on Thread­ compatible radios and corresponding development kits from silicon providers like NXP Semiconductors and Silicon Labs.

"Nest products set the bar for how connected devices should work so it's exciting that Nest is releasing OpenThread to the open­source community," Jeffery Torrance, vice president, business development, Qualcomm Technologies, said in the release. "As a company with a longstanding history of actively supporting and contributing to open technologies, OpenThread allows us to work with other like­minded corporations and individuals to deliver a best-­in-­class implementation of Thread that can be widely used for the advancement of a connected and secure home."

It hasn't always been clear how Qualcomm would work with Thread, since it spearheaded the development of the AllJoyn protocol for the Internet of Things and subsequently signed over the source code to the Linux Foundation, which formed the AllSeen Alliance in 2013. But AllSeen Alliance Senior Director for IoT told FierceWireless on more than one occasion that he wanted to see groups come together under the open source banner and reduce fragmentation, and it appears that is what's happening to a degree. Earlier this year, the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) was formed to unify the IoT industry; that effort included Qualcomm and Intel.

Nest points out that existing application protocols and IoT platforms like Nest Weave and ZigBee can run over Thread networks to deliver interoperable, end-to-end connectivity.

The Thread Group, which opened membership in October 2014, has more than 30 products submitted and awaiting Thread certification. Besides Nest products, devices like the OnHub, a router from Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), are shipping with Thread-compatible radios. Google acquired Nest Labs in January 2014 for $3.2 billion, with NestLabs continuing to operate under its own brand identity.

Attendees of Google I/O, which runs May 18-20 in Mountain View, California, can view a demo of OpenThread in the Nest Sandbox. The initial version of OpenThread is being distributed by Nest on GitHub at  

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