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Nest open sources Thread; might lead the Internet of Things explosion

With any luck, Nest will enable a new generation of developers and innovators able to create products and systems that will make your home the Jetson’s flat of your childhood dreams.

Opening the door to innovation and collaboration

Nest has announced they have released an open-sourced version of their Thread protocols, making home automation network technology widely available. With any luck, this will enable a new generation of developers and innovators able to create products and systems that will make your home the Jetson’s flat of your childhood dreams.

Nest launched Thread in 2014, when Google partnered with other connectable home device makers like Samsung, Yale Security, Big Ass Fans, and chip makers Silicon Labs and Freescale.

Mesh networks to support your IoT devices

The initiative was designed to create a universal low power mesh network that could universally integrate all of the new wave of smart appliances and make protocols for the ever-expanding internet of things.

Although there is still a lot of innovation on the internet of things scene, Nest is definitely ahead of the game in developing comprehensive integration of all the nifty new gadgets out there.

When smart home devices came on the scene, much like any other burgeoning technology, everyone had their own ideas about making an infrastructure to support and connect them.

Network protocols like Z-wave and Zigbee IP sprung up quickly.

But, as Chris Boross of Nest Labs explained, most of these were crippled by a “lack of interoperability, inability to carry IPv6 communications, high power requirements that drain batteries quickly, and because they use “hub and spoke” models that are dependent on one device.”

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How does it work?

Thread uses IEEE 802.15.4 wireless protocol, IPv6 and can run on existing chips. Most devices that would use it have battery power, so there’s little energy cost. If one device fails, it doesn’t shut down your entire smart home. Because of this, millions of devices that use existing 802.15.4 wireless technology can be easily updated to work with Thread.

Although this is the company’s first Open-Source initiative, Nest launched an API about a year ago which now boasts over 10,000 active developers.

Thread was part of the development of Nest Weave, which allows users to connect their Nest thermostat, GE smart lighting, and other devices to a cloud service and an app in a system separate from their existing wireless networks.

OpenThread is solely a product of Nest. Other groups that helped develop the thread protocols have their own ways of using them.  By making Thread open source developers, innovators, and entrepreneurs can now build on the system to create new products and new ways of connecting them. There is a certification for Thread available to companies making devices within the Thread group, but theoretically anyone can create and ship products with OpenThread.

With this move, not only has Nest brought open source into the Internet of Things for the first time, they have positioned themselves to become the industry standard for systematic connection of the ever improving smart home.


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Felix is a writer, online-dating consultant, professor, and BBQ enthusiast. She lives in Austin with two warrior-princess-ninja-superheros and some other wild animals. You can read more of her musings, emo poetry, and weird fiction on her website.

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