Apple joins smart home mesh networking standards group Thread

Posted:
in iOS edited August 2018
Apple recently joined Thread Group, an organization focused on delivering mesh networking solutions to smart home devices, as a member of the body's board of directors, suggesting a potential interest in adopting the technology as part of the HomeKit protocol.

Thread mesh networking


While Apple has remained mum on the matter, the company is now listed as an official "Sponsor BoD" member on the organization's website. The commitment leads to speculation as to what place Thread holds within Apple's smart home.

Thread is a mesh networking standard, competing with the likes of Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Bluetooth. Devices that use the technology connect to each other instead of a hub or host device, thus expanding their range and usability. Thread is designed to handle a range of common mesh networking products such as Hue lights, as well as appliances, security systems and more.

"Thread's technology isn't reliant on a home internet connection or Wi-Fi, instead, it provides a dedicated network for connecting products in the home," Thread says on its website.

Thread mesh networking


Being able to have a dedicated IP network to connect products without taking a huge hit on battery life would be a huge advantage to HomeKit devices. Currently, Apple only allows certain products to operate on battery, requiring others to be plugged into power constantly. HomeKit cameras are one example of an accessory that is unable to run on battery, even though there are many non-HomeKit devices that do.

At the moment, there are a few Thread products on the market, such as devices from Google and Nest, as well as smaller players like Eero and its second-generation wireless router system. Amazon, which is gearing up for a push deeper into the smart home with its acquisition of Ring, is also a member.

Apple's intentions with Thread are unknown. The company might be joining to understand all options available for connected home products, or it could have plans to utilize the tech in a future version of HomeKit. In the past, Apple has joined organizations ahead of officially adopting their technology. For example, the company joined the Wireless Charging Consortium prior to launching iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X, the first iPhones to integrate inductive charging.

Hopefully this is a sign that Apple is doubling down on HomeKit, which saw only a few changes this year with iOS 12. Among the major additions is support for third-party remotes.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,341member
    Thread is the grown up Home Automation protocol 
  • Reply 2 of 26
    mbsmdmbsmd Posts: 34member
    Almost gives me hope for Nest products in HomeKit.

  • Reply 4 of 26
    gutengelgutengel Posts: 363member
    I really hope this means better, more reliable HomeKit devices. I'm hostly tired of checking reviews for different iot things and most of them don't seem to be very reliable and are overpriced most times.
  • Reply 5 of 26
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    gutengel said:
    I really hope this means better, more reliable HomeKit devices. I'm hostly tired of checking reviews for different iot things and most of them don't seem to be very reliable and are overpriced most times.
    WE are a long ways in my opinion from having a reliable and independent networking hardware for home automation devices.   It is going to take a hardware manufacture to sit down and offer an operating system for these devices.   The reason is fairly simple, your average embedded developer is not a networking genius.   We are not talking Linux here but rather a very small OS that takes care of all networking and runs the user process in a separate address space.  

    The only way I can see this stuff becoming reliable is to take most of the development effort out of the hands of the people implementing the various devices.   An operating system or at least a tool kit is one way to keep everybody on the same page.   Hopefully this is what Threads will become.
  • Reply 6 of 26
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,794member
    I admit that I do not understand the technology and issues behind smart home devices.
    But, my largest consideration of these devices is with security.  How likely am I to be spied on by one of these devices?  And, likewise, how likely is it one of these devices could be hacked to perform malicious/capricious acts in my home (from minor acts of annoyance to major disruptions).

    But, it seems that all of the emphasis is on developing functionality.  Functionality will come.  Look at any new tech product and you will see the same growth curve.

    But. security is optional.

    The only company I feel I can trust to protect my security is Apple.  Therefor, I wish that Apple would take an active role in designing, producing and marketing complete, integrated solutions of these home devices -- where every piece of the system, both hardware and software is Apple designed, produced and supported.  And, one where security is embedded from the start and is an integral part of the system.
  • Reply 7 of 26
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,994member
    I admit that I do not understand the technology and issues behind smart home devices.
    But, my largest consideration of these devices is with security.  How likely am I to be spied on by one of these devices?  And, likewise, how likely is it one of these devices could be hacked to perform malicious/capricious acts in my home (from minor acts of annoyance to major disruptions).

    But, it seems that all of the emphasis is on developing functionality.  Functionality will come.  Look at any new tech product and you will see the same growth curve.

    But. security is optional.

    The only company I feel I can trust to protect my security is Apple.  Therefor, I wish that Apple would take an active role in designing, producing and marketing complete, integrated solutions of these home devices -- where every piece of the system, both hardware and software is Apple designed, produced and supported.  And, one where security is embedded from the start and is an integral part of the system.
    Thread is considered to be very secure FWIW.
  • Reply 8 of 26
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 32,991member
    mbsmd said:
    Almost gives me hope for Nest products in HomeKit.

    Not for me. Not with it being owned by Google. With Google admitting that it takes your information into their servers, something which Nest denied shortly being bought by Google, I would never let it into my home.

    i wondered why Google would bother with this. Then I realized that there is the only reason. That’s that Google never comes out with hardware or software that doesn’t have the express purpose of gathering information on you that they haven’t been able to collect another way.

    the Nest knows when you wake up, when you leave for work, when you get home, when you go to bed. It also knows how late you stay up on weekends, and when you wake up. It knows when you go on vacations too. So now Google has that information for advertisers, and if the government gets a warrant, it can get that also.

    nope! Not for me.
    edited August 2018 GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 9 of 26
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,994member
    melgross said:
    mbsmd said:
    Almost gives me hope for Nest products in HomeKit.

    Not for me. Not with it being owned by Google. With Google admitting that it takes your information into their servers, something which Nest denied shortly being bought by Google, I would never let it into my home.

    i wondered why Google would bother with this. Then I realized that there is the only reason. That’s that Google never comes out with hardware or software that doesn’t have the express purpose of gathering information on you that they haven’t been able to collect another way.

    the Nest knows when you wake up, when you leave for work, when you get home, when you go to bed. It also knows how late you stay up on weekends, and when you wake up. It knows when you go on vacations too. So now Google has that information for advertisers, and if the government gets a warrant, it can get that also.

    nope! Not for me.
    Thread is not controlled by Google. It was given by them to the open-source community some time ago. That Apple would be interested in joining the initiative should be reason enough to trust the security of it IMO. Besides, if they're ALL in cahoots what's your option anyway? 
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 10 of 26
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,794member
    gatorguy said:
    melgross said:
    mbsmd said:
    Almost gives me hope for Nest products in HomeKit.

    Not for me. Not with it being owned by Google. With Google admitting that it takes your information into their servers, something which Nest denied shortly being bought by Google, I would never let it into my home.

    i wondered why Google would bother with this. Then I realized that there is the only reason. That’s that Google never comes out with hardware or software that doesn’t have the express purpose of gathering information on you that they haven’t been able to collect another way.

    the Nest knows when you wake up, when you leave for work, when you get home, when you go to bed. It also knows how late you stay up on weekends, and when you wake up. It knows when you go on vacations too. So now Google has that information for advertisers, and if the government gets a warrant, it can get that also.

    nope! Not for me.
    Thread is not controlled by Google. It was given by them to the open-source community some time ago. that Apple would be interested in joining the initiative should be reason enough to trust the security of it IMO. Besides, if they're ALL in cahoots what's your option anyway? 
    Keep using keys, light switches, etc...   Nobody HAS to use smart home devices.  They are a convenience and an enhancement.   But not a necessity.
  • Reply 11 of 26
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,794member
    gatorguy said:
    I admit that I do not understand the technology and issues behind smart home devices.
    But, my largest consideration of these devices is with security.  How likely am I to be spied on by one of these devices?  And, likewise, how likely is it one of these devices could be hacked to perform malicious/capricious acts in my home (from minor acts of annoyance to major disruptions).

    But, it seems that all of the emphasis is on developing functionality.  Functionality will come.  Look at any new tech product and you will see the same growth curve.

    But. security is optional.

    The only company I feel I can trust to protect my security is Apple.  Therefor, I wish that Apple would take an active role in designing, producing and marketing complete, integrated solutions of these home devices -- where every piece of the system, both hardware and software is Apple designed, produced and supported.  And, one where security is embedded from the start and is an integral part of the system.
    Thread is considered to be very secure FWIW.
    "Secure" is always a relative thing.   And, part of the equation is the organization behind the wall or the black box not just the technology.

    Your emails are secure on Google's servers.  But, there's a reason why healthcare organizations still use Fax machines.
  • Reply 12 of 26
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,994member
    gatorguy said:
    melgross said:
    mbsmd said:
    Almost gives me hope for Nest products in HomeKit.

    Not for me. Not with it being owned by Google. With Google admitting that it takes your information into their servers, something which Nest denied shortly being bought by Google, I would never let it into my home.

    i wondered why Google would bother with this. Then I realized that there is the only reason. That’s that Google never comes out with hardware or software that doesn’t have the express purpose of gathering information on you that they haven’t been able to collect another way.

    the Nest knows when you wake up, when you leave for work, when you get home, when you go to bed. It also knows how late you stay up on weekends, and when you wake up. It knows when you go on vacations too. So now Google has that information for advertisers, and if the government gets a warrant, it can get that also.

    nope! Not for me.
    Thread is not controlled by Google. It was given by them to the open-source community some time ago. that Apple would be interested in joining the initiative should be reason enough to trust the security of it IMO. Besides, if they're ALL in cahoots what's your option anyway? 
    Keep using keys, light switches, etc...   Nobody HAS to use smart home devices.  They are a convenience and an enhancement.   But not a necessity.
    I meant option in IoT, but of course you can stick with horses and padlocks.
  • Reply 13 of 26
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,684member
    Apple's direct participation in the Thread Group, especially at the BOD level, helps to legitimize the standard in the eyes of some consumers. Whether Apple is there just to keep a closer eye on what's happening with the Thread Group or to help affect change that directly benefits Apple remains to be seen. 

    I'm always a bit hesitant to talk about standards as "competing" because it obscures the real meaning of standards. Standards are only intended to establish a set of defined behaviors and quality within a certain domain (or silo) of related interests, e.g., like a set of detail physical and protocol level requirements for how to interconnect home automation devices.

    The competitiveness only comes into play outside of the standards themselves and when you start applying measuring sticks to track the adoption levels of various standards at product and/or end user levels. Unless one standard replaces another standard by-design, companies like Apple have to stay on top of and often have to simultaneously support multiple standards in their products even though it costs them more to do so. The simplest case in point is the different standards for electrical mains, i.e., 120 VAC @ 60Hz vs 220 VAC @ 50Hz, and all the various flavors of power cord plugs.

    It would be nice if "standard" meant universal conformity and ease of use by consumers, but alas, it almost never does.
  • Reply 14 of 26
    Home mesh networking would be awesome on iOS ... if Apple provided an actual WiFi SDK. Since the original iPhone was released, developers have been asking Apple to provide them with unfettered access to the WiFi hardware, just like Mac OS, Windows, Android and Linux provide. Instead Apple made the SDK proprietary and banned third party apps from using it. Apple provided extremely limited access to WiFi but there are so many restrictions on what a developer can use it for, it would be impossible to develop something as interesting and useful as a mesh network. Apple has been holding back development in many areas of technology that would otherwise have been far more advanced by now.
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 15 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,385member
    gutengel said:
    I really hope this means better, more reliable HomeKit devices. I'm hostly tired of checking reviews for different iot things and most of them don't seem to be very reliable and are overpriced most times.
    Are you having actual problems with specific devices? Or is this hypothetical complaining about products you hypothetically own?

    I have iHome, iDevices, and Hue, no problems in daily use. Don’t remember the last time I had an issue. Nor are they overpriced, especially compared to the old days of home automation. 
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 16 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,385member
    wizard69 said:
    gutengel said:
    I really hope this means better, more reliable HomeKit devices. I'm hostly tired of checking reviews for different iot things and most of them don't seem to be very reliable and are overpriced most times.
    WE are a long ways in my opinion from having a reliable and independent networking hardware for home automation devices.   It is going to take a hardware manufacture to sit down and offer an operating system for these devices.   The reason is fairly simple, your average embedded developer is not a networking genius.   We are not talking Linux here but rather a very small OS that takes care of all networking and runs the user process in a separate address space.  

    The only way I can see this stuff becoming reliable is to take most of the development effort out of the hands of the people implementing the various devices.   An operating system or at least a tool kit is one way to keep everybody on the same page.   Hopefully this is what Threads will become.
    You’re not a developer, right? I am tho it’s been over ten years since I’ve interviewed for an embedded device position. These devices already have onboard controllers (chips running code) to manipulate their hardware features. They use standardized low power communication protocols to do the talking. These protocols and controllers have to be very lightweight, size wise and power wise. These devices are reliable. You use them in restaurants, hospitals, and homes everywhere already. 

    Wifi is fatter and heavier. It’s also less reliable in certain ways.
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 17 of 26
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,794member
    gatorguy said:
    gatorguy said:
    melgross said:
    mbsmd said:
    Almost gives me hope for Nest products in HomeKit.

    Not for me. Not with it being owned by Google. With Google admitting that it takes your information into their servers, something which Nest denied shortly being bought by Google, I would never let it into my home.

    i wondered why Google would bother with this. Then I realized that there is the only reason. That’s that Google never comes out with hardware or software that doesn’t have the express purpose of gathering information on you that they haven’t been able to collect another way.

    the Nest knows when you wake up, when you leave for work, when you get home, when you go to bed. It also knows how late you stay up on weekends, and when you wake up. It knows when you go on vacations too. So now Google has that information for advertisers, and if the government gets a warrant, it can get that also.

    nope! Not for me.
    Thread is not controlled by Google. It was given by them to the open-source community some time ago. that Apple would be interested in joining the initiative should be reason enough to trust the security of it IMO. Besides, if they're ALL in cahoots what's your option anyway? 
    Keep using keys, light switches, etc...   Nobody HAS to use smart home devices.  They are a convenience and an enhancement.   But not a necessity.
    I meant option in IoT, but of course you can stick with horses and padlocks.
    Where there are no roads, a horse is often the better option.
    And, for padlocks -- just buy the biggest, meanest, nastiest looking one you can find.  The bad guys will move on to the house with the weeny little smart lock.

    I see no reason to move to more modern tech until that tech meets my needs and criteria better than the "horses and padlocks".
  • Reply 18 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,385member

    Home mesh networking would be awesome on iOS ... if Apple provided an actual WiFi SDK. Since the original iPhone was released, developers have been asking Apple to provide them with unfettered access to the WiFi hardware, just like Mac OS, Windows, Android and Linux provide. Instead Apple made the SDK proprietary and banned third party apps from using it. Apple provided extremely limited access to WiFi but there are so many restrictions on what a developer can use it for, it would be impossible to develop something as interesting and useful as a mesh network. Apple has been holding back development in many areas of technology that would otherwise have been far more advanced by now.
    Not really. Putting in place iOS API stipulations for apps doesn’t support your conclusion. 

    Cool conspiracy theory tho. Darn you, Apple!
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 19 of 26
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 32,991member
    gatorguy said:
    melgross said:
    mbsmd said:
    Almost gives me hope for Nest products in HomeKit.

    Not for me. Not with it being owned by Google. With Google admitting that it takes your information into their servers, something which Nest denied shortly being bought by Google, I would never let it into my home.

    i wondered why Google would bother with this. Then I realized that there is the only reason. That’s that Google never comes out with hardware or software that doesn’t have the express purpose of gathering information on you that they haven’t been able to collect another way.

    the Nest knows when you wake up, when you leave for work, when you get home, when you go to bed. It also knows how late you stay up on weekends, and when you wake up. It knows when you go on vacations too. So now Google has that information for advertisers, and if the government gets a warrant, it can get that also.

    nope! Not for me.
    Thread is not controlled by Google. It was given by them to the open-source community some time ago. That Apple would be interested in joining the initiative should be reason enough to trust the security of it IMO. Besides, if they're ALL in cahoots what's your option anyway? 
    What? I was responding to the post about Nest, not thread.
  • Reply 20 of 26
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,994member
    melgross said:
    gatorguy said:
    melgross said:
    mbsmd said:
    Almost gives me hope for Nest products in HomeKit.

    Not for me. Not with it being owned by Google. With Google admitting that it takes your information into their servers, something which Nest denied shortly being bought by Google, I would never let it into my home.

    i wondered why Google would bother with this. Then I realized that there is the only reason. That’s that Google never comes out with hardware or software that doesn’t have the express purpose of gathering information on you that they haven’t been able to collect another way.

    the Nest knows when you wake up, when you leave for work, when you get home, when you go to bed. It also knows how late you stay up on weekends, and when you wake up. It knows when you go on vacations too. So now Google has that information for advertisers, and if the government gets a warrant, it can get that also.

    nope! Not for me.
    Thread is not controlled by Google. It was given by them to the open-source community some time ago. That Apple would be interested in joining the initiative should be reason enough to trust the security of it IMO. Besides, if they're ALL in cahoots what's your option anyway? 
    What? I was responding to the post about Nest, not thread.
    oooohhhh...
    Sorry then. 

    But you can always opt out of sharing, a good idea if there's no benefit to it. Better yet turn off the wifi connection and rest easy. For me sharing makes sense since integration with Google Home offers me value. For you maybe not. FWIW no personal information nor identifiable linked use information is shared for any advertising or marketing purposes if that's your concern. 
    https://nest.com/legal/privacy-statement-for-nest-products-and-services/
    edited August 2018
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