In the latest move in the Internet of Things (IoT) standards chess game, the Thread Group—backed by Nest Labs, ARM, and Big Ass Fans—welcomed two new member companies to its board of directors this week and announced a new initiative to help promising startups get a leg up in the connected-home market.
The new member companies are Somfy (a manufacturer of motorized window coverings, awnings, and projection screens) and Tyco (a $10 billion security and fire-protection company). It could be argued that the Thread Group’s new Innovation Enabler Program is the more interesting of announcement.
Through this program, the consortium will invite one young, innovative startup to join its ranks every three months, with the added incentive of 18 months of complimentary contributor-level membership. Other benefits include free Thread certification for one product, a listing on the Thread website, and free access to member meetings for one individual.
The Thread Group is now accepting applications for the program from pre-Series A startups—even crowd-funded projects are eligible—that are planning to launch a Thread-enabled connected product or service in the second half of 2015 or the first half of 2016. The first new membership under this program will be announced sometime in the first quarter.
Why this matters: Although Thread already has the backing of some of the biggest names in the tech world, the consortium is wise to be on the lookout for the next breakout star in the nascent connected-home industry—even those too cash-strapped to afford a $15,000 per year Thread Group Contributor membership. As the Thread Group’s press release said: “Much of the innovation in the connected home will come from small start-up companies who can't necessarily afford membership fees.”
Thread, which is based on 6LoWPAN (an acronym for IPv6 over Low-power Wireless Personal Area Network) is vying to be the IoT protocol of choice. It’s against some stiff competition, including the AllSeen Alliance’s AllJoyn and the Open Interconnect Consortium’s IoTivity, and those groups have their fair share of high-profile backers as well. The AllSeen Alliance was founded by Qualcomm, and the Open Interconnect Consortium was established by Intel, Broadcom, and Samsung (Broadcom has since left the consortium, and Samsung is hedging its bets by also supporting Thread)
It’s worth pointing out here that Thread is a wireless networking protocol and not an IoT platform like AllJoyn and IoTivity, so technically the latter platforms could be made to operate on top of Thread; though we have yet to see something of that sort in action.