The 'internet of things' future is nearly upon us, and with smart homes just over the horizon, a consortium of tech firms hopes to create a more efficient network for your devices.
Nest, the firm behind the Nest smart thermostat, and electronics manufacturer Samsung, as well as other tech firms, have partnered up to develop Thread, a new standard over which devices can communicate as part of a network.
The communication protocol hopes to compete with other methods of connection, for instance WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC.
Some devices already contain the radio chips that Thread would use to operate a connected home network, like Philips Hue smartbulbs.
Chris Boross, Thread's head and product manager at Nest, hopes products using Thread will hit the mainstream by 2015.
"Around that time I imagine that Thread-compliant products will start hitting the market, but people can start building Thread today."
Thread has its own website, running the headline: "Thread solves reliability, security, power, and compatibility issues for connecting products around the home once and for all."
Thread manages to one-up the competition like WiFi and Bluetooth because it operates using a 'mesh network' system, which we'll try to break down in simple terms.
A mesh network is a series of nodes that all connect to one another. The advantage of this is that unlike other network layouts, if one node fails, the network still survives, compared to, for instance, a liner layout that would fail entirely if one node was lost. It's what techies call 'redundancy'.
Mesh networking is expensive because of the amount of cabling required to connect every node to every single other node, but not in this case. Since Thread is a wireless mesh network, no cabling is required, creating significant advantage over linear layouts.
Mesh network (wiki)
Think of each node as a wireless router, connected to every single other wireless router in the vicinity, except there's no need for a bunch of ethernet cables running between every single one.
Because data is carried over short hops between nodes, instead of large distances, bandwidth is higher, and the whole system is more efficient and economical.
"It’s hard to get devices to talk to one another. And once they do, the connection is often spotty and power hungry," reads Thread's website.
"Thread changes all that. It’s a mesh network designed to securely and reliably connect hundreds of products around the home – without blowing through battery life."
As well as Nest and Samsung, the Thread collective's roster includes ARM, Silicon Labs, yale Security, Freescale, and the delightfully named Big Ass Fans.