Nest gives Thread IoT protocol group a new president and a new open-source implementation

Manufacturers who want to provide Thread support without writing their own software stack can now download Nest's Openthread from Github

Thread, an open wireless protocol for the Internet of things, is getting a boost from one of its biggest boosters, Google-owned Nest Labs.

An IPv6 networking protocol built on the 802.15.4 mesh networking standard, Thread is designed to connect hundreds of low-power devices to one other and to the cloud.

While the protocol is open, anyone wanting to build Thread-compatible devices had to roll their own software stack implementing it -- until now.

Late Wednesday, Nest published the source code for its implementation of the Thread protocol, OpenThread, on Github under a three-clause BSD license, allowing anyone to reuse, modify or redistribute it in source or binary form.

The move will simplify the work of manufacturers hoping to add Thread functionality to smart home devices.

Nest, now part of Google's parent, Alphabet, uses Thread as part of its Weave system for connecting smart devices around the home. It was one of the founders of Thread Group, alongside Samsung Electronics, Arm Holdings, Freescale Semiconductor (now part of NXP Semiconductors) and others.

On Thursday the Thread Group announced another contribution from Nest: a new president.

Grant Erickson, principal software engineer at Nest, takes over as president from Chris Boross, another Nest alumnus, who left in February. Boross led the organization for its first 18 months, and now works at another mesh networking company, Eero.

The organization now has 230 members, many of them outside the U.S., but Erickson wants to see Thread become even more cosmopolitan.

While many of Thread's initial backers were from the IT and consumer electronics industry, the organization is building a solid base of support from electrical equipment manufacturers. In recent months, it has appointed French company Schneider Electric to the board, and recruited German lightbulb manufacturer Osram and French motorized blind maker Somfy as members.

That kind of backing is important as, without the support of such companies, any home automation protocol will lack mainstream distribution and be doomed to provide islands of intelligence in an otherwise dumb home.

The Thread Group is looking to expand adoption of the networking protocol in other ways, too.

It is working to integrate Thread with the application layer developed by Zigbee Alliance for use in home automation systems and other connected devices, and also collaborating with The Connected Lighting Alliance (TCLA) to develop an open networking layer for professional lighting applications.

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