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Bluetooth SIG champions Bluetooth LE against Thread

17 Jul 2014  | Nick Flaherty

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Thread has shined the spotlight on its low-power, better version of Zigbee-based networks, and the Bluetooth SIG in response is stepping forward with a case geared towards thwarting Thread's ambitions of claiming the IoT standard title.

"Bluetooth Smart [or Bluetooth LE] is the de facto standard for the Internet of Things. It offers incredibly low power, simple and secure wireless connectivity and because it's been adopted natively by all major operating systems, it's already an existing standard in the smartphones, tablets and PCs of billions of consumers," said Steve Hegenderfer, Director of Developer Programs at the Bluetooth SIG. "Smart Home has been stuck as the next big thing for 60 years. In order to take it mainstream, you need a mainstream wireless technology."

The new Thread group highlights problems with existing Zigbee-based networks such as a lack of interoperability, inability to carry IPv6 communications, high power requirements that drain batteries quickly, and 'hub and spoke' models dependent on one device so that if that device fails, the whole network goes down.

To solve this, Thread introduced a self-healing IPv6 encrypted networking protocol based on the 6LoWPan protocol for low-power 802.15.4 mesh networks developed by Nest Labs, which is now part of Google. This allows existing popular application protocols and IoT platforms to run over Thread networks with just a software upgrade, supporting over 250 devices in a low-power, wireless mesh network that also includes direct Internet and cloud access for every device.

Existing wireless networking approaches were introduced long before the Internet of Things gained ground, said Vint Cerf, VP and chief Internet evangelist at Google and advisor to the Thread Group. The Thread protocol takes existing technologies and combines the best parts of each to provide a better way to connect products in the home.

Thread has been developed by Nest Labs for its smart thermostat, now part of Google, and the group also includes Silicon Labs, Samsung Electronics, Freescale Semiconductor, Big Ass Fans and ARM.

Thread is designed with a new security architecture that allows consumers to add and remove products to the network via a smartphone, tablet or computer, and Thread products will be tested to ensure that they work together effortlessly and securely right out of the box with a Thread logo to show they have been certified for quality, security and interoperability.

Hegenderfer points out Bluetooth has been doing this already.

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