This is going to be super geeky, so bear with me, and I’ll try to keep the concepts understandable.
Thread is a mesh protocol that runs on the same frequency (so can run on the same radios) as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This is a cousin to, but not identical to Nest Thread. It’s been around for a few years but hasn’t really been used for anything practical up until now. But it’s supposed to be an open standard and there are a lot of big players joined onto the advisory group. Even the Samsung smartthings V2 hub was released with specs that said it was “thread-capable“ (most likely via the Bluetooth radio which hasnever been used for anything) but then silence after that.
Now Apple’s new $99 HomePod mini has working thread inside.
And (drumroll, please) third-party manufacturer eve just announced that they are going to reconfigure some of their existing HomeKit devices, including their door sensor, to use thread via a firmware update. Which probably means switching the internal radio from Bluetooth to thread, although they haven’t said that specifically.
“Support for HomeKit over Thread takes the entire Eve platform to the forefront of smart home innovation, and we’re thrilled to be among the first to bring this cutting-edge smart home technology to HomePod mini users’ homes.”
“By enabling Thread on their devices, Eve delivers a meaningful value today, and lays the groundwork for a scalable, robust smart home ecosystem,” added Sujata Neidig, vice president of the Thread Group. “This progressive approach improves their customers’ experience now, and helps ensure they’ll enjoy a dependable and seamless smart home for years to come.”
And (break out the kazoos! ) in case you missed it, thread is also one of the protocols announced for use with project CHiP. (Whose working group includes Apple, Amazon, Google, and smartthings, along with the zigbee alliance)
Which could, although not necessarily has to, mean that there will be project chip certified Wi-Fi devices and project chip certified thread devices using the same messaging protocol. (it doesn’t have to mean that, though: project chip could end up working like Zigbee profiles do now. With not all devices using the same message structure.)
But whether that last bit happens or not, actual live thread devices happening is a big deal and the fact that they are happening through a firmware update is even bigger news, although most people won’t notice that part.
Here’s the basic Takeaway for consumers:
Thread should mean that your smart home devices work faster, more securely and with less issues than ever before; especially compared to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices.
And here’s a good Geeky-but-no-math-required overview of Thread:
Thread is a mesh network that doesn’t require a hub. That’s been done before (ZLL, for example), but it’s still interesting. And thread covers more device classes with better security than ZLL.
What does this mean for smartthings? Well oddly, it might be one reason why Samsung is moving out of the home automation hardware business. If all of this happens on the current project timeline, project chip for both Wi-Fi and thread, and Apple, Google And Amazon all adding thread to their HA devices, It could be a very different HA world by Christmas 2021. There will be those things that work with thread or project chip certified Wi-Fi, in a race to the bottom on price, and there will be cool platforms that provide UIs, voice assistants, and rule engines. Usually as a means of selling other stuff, including smart phones. HomeKit, obviously. Alexa routines. Whatever google’s equivalent of Alexa routines turns out to be. And…?
You can see which side of the equation Samsung would probably like to be on.