Sunday 23 November 2014

Now Google takes aim at your home

Noel Randewich

Published 16/07/2014 | 02:30

Google bought thermostat maker Nest in January
Google bought thermostat maker Nest in January

Google Nest Labs unveiled an industry group to encourage makers of smart home gadgets like locks and light bulbs to use Thread, a new standard for devices to communicate on a network.

The attempt by Nest, a smart thermostat maker that Google bought in January for $3.2bn, to lead the way on how future household devices speak to each other, underscores the importance Google puts on areas like cars and the home.

It follows similar initiatives by Qualcomm, Intel Corp and other technology companies.

The new Thread Group includes Samsung Electronics and chip companies ARM Holdings, Freescale Semiconductor and Silicon Labs. Big Ass Fans and lock maker Yale are also members of the group, which will certify Thread-compatible products.

Thread is a networking protocol with security and low-power features that make it more suitable for connecting household devices than others, such as Wifi, NFC, Bluetooth or ZigBee, said Chris Boross, a Nest product manager who heads the new group. Nest's products already use a version of Thread, he said.

The radio chips used for Thread-compatible smart devices are already in many existing connected home products that use ZigBee, like Philips Hue smart light bulbs.

Those Zigbee devices could potentially be updated with software from their manufacturers to work with Thread after a product certification programme starts next year, Mr Boross said.

"Around that time I imagine that Thread-compliant products will start hitting the market, but people can start building Thread today," he 
said.

In June, Nest said it partnered with Mercedes-Benz, Whirlpool Corp and light bulb maker LIFX to integrate their products with its thermostats and smoke detectors.

Its Thread Group goes even further and adds to a growing field of companies and industry consortia trying standardise how household connected devices from different manufacturers interact.

Last week, Thread Group member Samsung Electronics also joined Intel and Dell to form a new consortium.

Earlier in July, Microsoft became the 51st member of a competing group called 
AllSeen Alliance, which is led by Qualcomm and also includes Sharp Corp and other consumer electronics manufacturers.

Irish Independent

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