Samsung, ARM, Nest and other companies are coming together to build a new smart home device radio and network standard. While there are already a number of solutions in place with existing smart home devices like WiFi, Bluetooth variations and ZigBee, the group hopes its new Thread network protocol will provide the best future solution for consumers and manufacturers.
Thread is a low power, mesh network protocol that is being built from the ground up as an efficient way to connect up to 250 smart home devices. According to Nest's Chris Boross, WiFi requires too much power, and Bluetooth doesn't offer the truth mesh like network smart home devices require. He also says that Z-wave isn't practical seeing as how it is controlled by one company and ZigBee suffers from a number of issues including a fragmented and confusing ecosystem.
Like any standard, the difficulty is getting it accepted among manufacturers, and it sounds as though the group still has some work to do in that field. Thread is based on radio technology used by ZigBee devices (802.15.4), so it is apparently possible for smart home gadgets on that protocol to run Thread with a software update. However, ZigBee isn't popular on smartphones and tablets, which is a major issue for Thread at this point, meaning the rest of the manufacturers will need to build in 802.15.4 chips for it too really catch on.
Out of the gate, most control hubs already have ZigBee and if the standard catches on, Samsung could start to include support in its future handhelds and tablets to push the standard through even further. While a new standard like this may just add to more consumer confusion, at least at first, it may also lead to a better connected smart home. Nest thermostat is already running a version of Thread and we could start to see more Thread based products by the end of the year.