This week the Thread Group and Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) announced a partnership between their organizations. As a member of the Thread Group, we have been keeping a close eye on the progression of standards and are really excited about this news. Why? Simply put, the establishment of industry-wide models and benchmarks will be the key to building a more connected world. The Internet as we know it would not exist today without standards like TCP/IP, HTTP, and WiFi and yet the IoT market continues to lack true standards, especially when it comes to interoperability. There are a massive amount of devices and ecosystems being built for the IoT and they need a universal way to communicate with each other. Having these two organizations working together will provide a step (and hopefully a leap) forward in this endeavor – especially in the smart home space.
In case you aren’t familiar, Thread is a network layer protocol that aims to make it easier to have connected devices in your home. You can think of it like WiFi for the IoT, a single router can serve many IoT devices in your home regardless of brand or type of device. The key is that unlike WiFi, Thread devices create a mesh that pass messages from to another, so range is never an issue. Thread devices also use less power and are easier to setup than traditional WiFi IoT devices.
OCF, on the other hand, helps maintain multiple protocols to help make interoperability in the IoT a reality. Chief among them is an open source project called IoTivity. IoTivity is an application layer protocol which defines the functionality of different types of devices. For example, most lightbulbs will have an on/off switch and a brightness scale. IoTivity provides a standard way to tell any lightbulb to turn on, regardless of its manufacturer. This will help drive not only interoperability but composability meaning that devices running different versions of software or from different manufacturers all together can easily be swapped in and out without changing anything.
Together Thread and OCF will hopefully offer an end-to-end solution for devices to talk to each other in more intelligent ways. Take for instance an IoT connected lighting system and door lock. It’s a logical request to want the lights to come on when the door unlocks. Today, that information is communicated from one cloud backend to another – which can often times be a clunky experience. In the future, the door lock will tell the bulbs directly that it is being opened and that they should turn on. Instead of depending on manufacturers to make their products work together, any door lock, from any brand, will easily be able to tell many bulbs, from many different brands, that it has opened. The use cases for these standards go far beyond light bulbs and door locks – the sky really will be the limit.
We are still a long way off from creating a truly connected world, but organizations and standards bodies working together like this is an amazing step in the right direction toward achieving that dream of a truly connected world.