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IoT Companies Moving to Open Standards

A new Internet of Things working group, known as Project Connected Home over IP, is including a Thread 802.15.4 open protocol layer in its standards development, while Thread is also being built into Farm Jenny's horse-tracking solution and Galeries Lafayette's smart hanger system for store displays.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 31, 2020

Several of the largest technology companies, along with the Zigbee Alliance, launched a working group in December 2019 to create an Internet of Thing (IoT) connectivity standard, known as Project Connected Home over IP (Project CHIP). The project is aimed at easing the way for device manufacturers to create products that can connect with other IoT systems.

As part of the effort to develop interoperable IoT solutions, Project CHIP designated the Thread protocol as a network layer for low-power devices. Project CHIP's universal application layer, intended to enable devices to communicate with each other, will run over the Thread mesh network. Thread Group, which liaisons with the Zigbee Alliance, views that as a validation and a compliment to the network layer and the convergence and interoperability benefits that it offers to IoT companies.

For one thing, Project CHIP uses the same IP-centric approach that Thread Group has pursued since its launch several years ago, according to Grant Erickson, Thread Group's president. Thread provides an IP-bearing wireless mesh network, he says, that supports one or more IP-based IoT applications. Product designers have been using the network layer for building products enabling multiple technologies to seamlessly operate on a single system.

Thread is a low-power mesh-networking technology based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. It traditionally competes with other IoT protocols, including Zigbee, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5 and Z-Wave, but the open standard enables devices to exchange data with other IP-based systems. Because Thread is IP-based, it allows devices to transmit data directly to the cloud and other mobile devices via IP-based routing.

Throughout the past year, Erickson says, Thread Group has been growing its membership and releasing new specifications, and companies have recently launched or piloted several solutions leveraging Thread's network layer. Thread Group has also added new members to its board of directors, such as Apple and Lutron.

In the meantime, Project CHIP includes Amazon, Apple, Google and the Zigbee Alliance, as well as Schneider Electric and Signify (formerly called Philips Lighting). The project is aimed at enabling systems using IoT technologies that include Thread.

"We're flattered that Thread will be one of the preferred IP-bearing networks in the application layer," Erickson states. He predicts that this inclusion will benefit product manufacturers and consumers alike, adding, "Thread is a prescribed specific part of the overall strategy" for smart-building- and smart-home-based solutions. But Thread-based solutions venture beyond smart homes and smart buildings. For instance, Paris-based retailer Galleries Lafayette has partnered with French design consultancy Blue Griot to develop a connected hanger.

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