Thread Group, ZigBee Alliance announce collaboration to reduce IoT fragmentation

The ZigBee Alliance and the Thread Group announced a new collaboration they said will allow the ZigBee Cluster Library to run over Thread networks. The groups said their goal is to "jointly provide an interoperable solution to help streamline product development and ultimately improve the consumer's experience in the connected home."

The news represents some of the first steps in the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) industry toward interoperability--which many have said is critical for maturation of the space.

The ZigBee Alliance said its Cluster Library standardizes application functionality for a wide variety of devices used in smart homes and other markets. Under the new agreement between the two organizations, users of the Thread wireless networking protocol will be able to access ZigBee applications.

"By agreeing to work together, ZigBee and Thread are taking a big step towards reducing fragmentation in the industry," said Chris Boross, president of the Thread Group and technical product marketing manager for Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Nest smart home business. "Thread is designed to work with and support many different application layer protocols, and we look forward to working with ZigBee to create a combined solution for the connected home."

However, the two groups specifically noted that "both organizations remain committed to their independence while cooperating to benefit their respective members."

The 802.15.4 ZigBee protocol has been around for more than 10 years, and is intended for low-power transmissions between 10 and 100 meters. It's one of a handful of transmission protocols, along with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, that have been used in smart home offerings and other early-stage applications in the nascent IoT space. ZigBee backers including the likes of Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), Freescale, Philips, NXP and others.

Meantime, Thread was launched last year as a new, IP-based wireless mesh networking protocol designed for the home. Like ZigBee, Thread is also based on the 802.15.4, but is intended to be interoperable using IPv6 technology with 6LoWPAN as its foundation. Backers of Thread include Nest, Arm, Freescale, Samsung and others.

With the AllSeen Alliance, the Open Interconnect Consortium, the Industrial Internet Consortium and others all targeting the growing IoT space, many have worried that the market would quickly be fractured among different and incompatible standards. Indeed, last year AT&T (NYSE: T) IoT executive Chris Penrose explained that there is a "fear" that the competing standards will make it more difficult for devices to talk to each other as more gadgets inside and outside the home get wireless connectivity built into them.

"Everyone is jockeying to see which standard will be it, and there's lot of different bets being placed," he said at the time.

The moves by the ZigBee Alliance and the Thread Group may help pave the way for more intermingling among various IoT standards efforts.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Eweek article

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