With a growing market for smart home accessories - and that whole internet of things (shudder) - the lack of a single, widely-adopted communication standard is undoubtedly a bit troubling. Most smart products today use existing 801.15.4 Wi-Fi platforms like ZigBee, Ant, or increasingly commonly, the proprietary Bluetooth Low Energy standard (aka BT Smart).

ARM, Nest, Samsung, and Google (operating under an advisory role, not as a member) though, are now fielding an open platform competitor known as the Thread protocol. Together, the Thread Group's members will seek to push the Thread platform as an overarching smart-home / IoT communications network, while still providing compatibility for existing standards like ZigBee or Ant.


The basic philosophy behind Thread is mesh networking - that is, using a multitude of devices all acting as potential routing hardware, rather than relying on a single host or master device to manage communication on the network. It will accomplish this using the 6LoWPAN low-power Wi-Fi standard, which will allow robust, reliable, and secure networking (Thread networks will feature encryption as standard). And because Thread is based on a low-power standard, even battery-operated smart products will be able to stay on the network without worrying about excessive battery drain.

The really big thing about Thread, though, is that it supports existing 802.15.4 standards, and devices using those standards can be upgraded to support Thread without changing any hardware on the device, just software - if it supports 802.15.4, it supports Thread. This also means that previously incompatible smart products can use the Thread protocol to communicate with one another, whereas before those devices would need to be running the same 802.15.4 platform or utilize a custom-built solution in order to talk. Thread is also built with the future in mind, and uses IPv6 to ensure interoperability between internet-connected devices for years to come.

Interestingly, the press release for Thread states that "a version of Thread is already being used successfully in Nest products today." Which products was not made clear, though the best bet is probably Nest's newest creation, Nest Protect.

Thread Group

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

    I, for one, am super excited about this Google-led, industry-wide home automation initiative.

    ...Did anyone else just get déjà vu?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I think they learned, since Google isn't leading it. They're "advising." Not even on the members list - probably because of exactly what happened with Android@home.

      • NF

        Since Google owns Nest, it's very much like @Home.

        • shivakool

          Android@home was too much too early nest is doing right things at right time

  • th3m4ri0

    A new standard, sweet !

    • didibus

      The reason this standard has a chance, is because it remains compatible with current standards. Most standards I've seen succeed were the ones that did this.

    • abobobilly

      HAH. Way to perfectly sum it up. :D

  • fasfsafsa

    I just really hope Apple's HomeKit is compatible with nest and the like, I'm too invested with iOS

    • http://thedangerbrain.com/ Alfonso Surroca


      Pick one.

      • Matt

        Considering Google's previous good work avoiding that kind of exclusivity (G-apps functionally remains close across platforms, Chromecast has iOS functionality, etc.), I'm kinda disheartened by the recent developments. Android Wear only works with Android, Android Auto only works with Android, etc. I'm hoping this stuff opens up over time and obviously some of it may be outside of Google's control (pulling notifications for Android Wear would probably require different API tools from iOS and Android Auto might be even trickier), but I really did love the fact that Google didn't play that game as much as Apple. Recently, it feels like they're trying harder and harder to lock users to one ecosystem.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

          iOS doesn't allow any mechanism for pulling notifications, so Wear would lose about 80%-90% of its functionality if it were paired with an iPhone. With some extensive tinkering, it could still work with text messages, call notifications, and voice commands, but that's about it. It's really no different than what Glass can currently do with iOS, but without the semi-standalone nature of Glass.

          Android Auto is a blatant no-go. That's not because Google is restricting it, but because all of the software is really running on the phone. The point of Android Auto is to create a mostly dumb terminal in the car that your phone can use as a second screen, along with taking input from external buttons and sensors. Apple built its solution in basically the same way. Google isn't restricting anything here; it's that Apple's system, which is surely proprietary, doesn't match Google's system, which is (or will be?) open.

          There are other examples of what you're trying to say, but neither of these would be accurate.

          • Matt

            I know it would go against the competitive ethos to an extent, but for nascent markets like automobile displays and wearables, is there no chance that Google and Apple could collaborate to some extent on the API/OS functionality? Nobody wants to buy a new car every time they switch phone ecosystems and the same could be said (to a lesser extent) for a $250-300 smartwatch.

            They could still have some proprietary functions for their respective operating systems, but the idea that you're shit out of luck if the car you want has CarPlay instead of Android Auto is kind of ridiculous...nobody's going to choose a car specifically because of the phone compatibility, but it can still be a valid concern for users who don't stick with one phone or a car used by multiple people.

            I know some of the manufacturers supporting both CarPlay and Android Auto will have both built into the same vehicle (as rare as that is), but I really feel like this is one market where the competition could have been toned down a bit for the sake of overall ecosystem growth and consumer acceptance of these technologies.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

            "is there no chance that Google and Apple could collaborate to some extent on the API?"

            Are you new here? ;)

            In all seriousness, I think it's possible for Apple to work with Android Auto, but I don't expect to see that happen. This is a company that has gone out of its way to use proprietary cables, different networking protocols, and even implemented a custom MMS protocol.

            Right now, everybody is talking about deals that have been struck with car manufacturers, but there's no reason to think there won't be aftermarket systems. Nobody will have to pick a car based on compatibility with a phone, but plenty of people will have systems added or changed out after purchase. It's realy not that big of a deal.

          • Matt

            Heh, not new...just optimistic:P I wasn't really expecting Apple to make the bulk of the effort on this one, but I do kinda hope that Apple would be able to look past disagreements in one arena for the sake of building a new one (and thereby increasing overall profits in the long run).

            As to the aftermarket segment for Android Auto or CarPlay devices, that's certainly a workable solution but still seems less than ideal to me. Though after-market stereos are a sizable business segment, I doubt the majority of people who end up switching phones will go through the hassle of installing aftermarket systems when they do, especially in the higher end luxury cars where it can occasionally harm resale value (though I guess you could always switch back).

            This is even more of an issue if you have a spouses who both use a car but one has an iPhone and another has Android...same issue comes up with teenaged kids. It seems like it could end up being pretty annoying from the consumer perspective, even if it doesn't seem like a big deal off the bat. I just feel like there has to be a better way than dividing the market and constraining consumers before it even gets off the ground...

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

            I'm not sure if it'll even be that bad in a few years. This is all really new, so it's possible for events to change the situation. Give it 3-5 years and we might see a government step in and force standardization, which would probably ripple across the rest of the world. We might see Apple lose even more market share, which could result in willingly supporting Android Auto to prevent it from being an issue for buyers. We might even see somebody release a straight up adapter that lets one type of phone use the competitor's system. I won't be surprised if this is still an issue in 5 years, but I kinda think the market will force it to be resolved one way or another.

          • Martin Nilsson

            Not sure about hardware demands for Android Auto, but as long as it can "run with everything" you could probably get away with something around $50 just to get your car "running". And this is probably the thing that will help Googles initiative win out in the end.

            Shouldn't be too hard for Google to make a 4" "tablet" and call it "iOS/Apple Android companion set-up controller" and sell it for $25-50. Let Apple users get a device to configure Android Wear etc. And once you start with Android and like it....well... =)

          • dave

            Im sure I heard that both Android Auto and CarPlay can be incorporated into the same vehicle at the same time as they're both pretty much just using the vehicle's head unit as a screen/input device.


          • tobiw786

            Cars can support both, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

          • Abhilash Bingi

            The point of Android Auto is to create a mostly dumb terminal in the car

            I'm ok with the most of the software/graphics running on the phone, but I really hope Android Auto uses the GPS sensor in the car rather than the one on the phone, which can be unreliable sometimes.

          • EH101

            This is especially true for Samsung phones in my experience. Maps always thinks I exited the highway on my S5. It's better than my Note 2 was, but still annoying sometimes and causes unnecessary wait time for false rerouting.

          • http://www.bordersweather.co.uk/ Andy J

            Yes it does - which is exactly what the developers said in the IO video, it's also the reason they have gone with a wired solution instead of wireless. Because A LOT of the car data including vehicle speed is sent from the car to the phone.

        • Justin Weldon

          What did you expect ? The others where not "android chromecast", " android google+" obviously the iWatch will not be android workable come on! Sorry Google can't suit your apple needs...

          • Matt

            You're kinda missing the point. I haven't owned an iPhone in 4 years (I'm on the Android Police comment section after all), but what if I choose to buy one this year? What if I date somebody who has one? What if I want to buy a BMW but have an Android phone? What if I want to buy a Volkswagen but have an iPhone? Right now there are two manufacturers I believe that affirmed they support both in the exact same car, but plenty of automakers chose one or the other. It's about restriction of consumers and is completely irrelevant to my so-called "apple needs..."

          • Justin Weldon

            Your missing the point, these car systems are nothing more or less, they are features of the car, you will not be buying a car due to what platform it has in its entertainment system either...as shown in the demo the Car will work perfect without these systems too and the use of them is nothing more than luxury so yes its tough if your friends have iPhone and you have an android but in the end of the day basic functionality still exists and like today I'm sure Bluetooth and all will function like it did still.

            I see your point but In the end of the day

    • NF

      As is is a hardware standard, and HomeKit is software, likely from an app, there's no compatibility issues between the two systems. A device can work with one, both, or neither.


  • Eternal Danation

    I've kind of set up my own home network using a variety of brands that all connect to my wi-fi and I can control through my devices using their software. I have several dropcams for video security, a Honeywell thermostat, Hydrawise sprinkler controller, Belkin wemo electrical outlets, and a Craftsman garage door opener. It's kinda fun being able to control so many things in your home from anywhere you are, and gives you a real sense of security knowing your home and family are safe when you are away.

  • Chris Sanner

    yeah, this is awesome! Google should give their implementation a cool name. like...idano..android@home or something...

  • Daniel T. Callahan

    lol WONDERFUL now they can collect data about everything we do in our homes IRL.

  • Rayhon Saad Ali

    isn't nest owned by google?

    • Eternal Danation

      yes, and nest just bought dropcam.

  • David Robak

    This is nothing new, there were companies 10yrs ago feeding this idea to google, apple and Microsoft. It started in wireless gaming. Think of Cybiko. They also had first beginnings of android like OS.

  • Wyatt Neal

    Hey Google, found someone for you to buy who's almost already doing this: https://pinocc.io/

    • Wyatt Neal

      And their picture almost looks the same: