What would a smart home look like in the future? The term ‘smart’ is thrown around so often that it’s lost its meaning. Smart homes are supposed to make our lives easier, but the systems and devices we have today aren’t quite there yet. In this blog post, we take a look at what the future of smart homes might look like and how Thread protocol is changing the game by creating a universal language for connected devices.
A smart home is a home that uses connectivity to provide convenience and automation for its inhabitants. A smart home may use internet-connected devices to control the environment, enable remote monitoring, and access information. Smart homes may include a variety of devices that enable remote management and monitoring of the home, such as thermostats, lighting, appliances, door locks, and security systems. Smart homes also enable an increased level of comfort and convenience by allowing people to remotely control their home environment via an app or voice control. Smart homes may also be able to collect data and generate insights based on patterns in the way people live in their homes.
How Will A Smart Home in the Future be Different?
The future of smart homes will be a connected experience where you can control everything in your home with just a few taps on your smartphone or voice commands using a voice assistant of your liking. In the future, you will no longer be tied down to a single room. You will be able to control all your appliances from your smart displays (read watches, phones, laptops, Televisions) or voice assistants no matter where you are in the world.
The devices and services that are available today are a few steps away from achieving this connected lifestyle. One of the biggest challenges facing the smart home industry is interoperability. A huge percentage of devices today only work with their own ecosystems. This creates an environment where a single device cannot communicate with other devices in the same home. Imagine being able to create a single-user experience for managing all your devices and services in your home. This is what the Thread protocol and Matter are trying to achieve.
If you're into the smart home, then you've probably heard of Thread. But what is it? And why is it such a big deal for the connected home? Let's break it down.
Thread and the Future of the Smart Home
Thread is a new low-power, mesh networking protocol that is designed for connecting devices in the home. It is an alternative to Wi-Fi and it has the potential to make your smart home even smarter. It is designed to run on low-cost, low-energy IoT devices. The core objective of Thread is to build a secure and interoperable protocol for the Internet of Things that simplifies device and service development.
Thread is a global open standards initiative led by the Internet of Things Consortium. The Thread protocol was built with a vision to create a smart environment that provides a uniform experience for devices and services. It aims to become the universal language across all connected devices and services in the home. The future of smart homes will not have isolated ecosystems running on a single device. It will be an open, interoperable environment where devices can communicate with each other and be controlled through one single application of the user's choice.
Like Zigbee and Z-wave protocols, Thread connects and communicates with other devices in a mesh topology but unlike them, Thread doesn't require a hub to communicate with the IP-based controller devices.
From phones to routers, to connections across the globe, IP is how devices communicate directly regardless of the connectivity technologies they use(i.e. Ethernet, Wi-Fi, 4G and LTE). Thread devices seamlessly integrate with larger IP networks and don’t need proprietary gateways or translators. This reduces infrastructure investment and complexity, removes potential points of failure and reduces maintenance burdens. Thread also securely connects devices to the cloud, making it easier to control IoT products and systems from personal or administrative devices such as mobile phones and tablets.
Thread-Enabled Devices and Services in the Future of Homes
From a consumer perspective, buying a new IoT gadget only to find out that it doesn’t work with the existing system can be painful and discouraging. To avoid that and in turn, significantly improve the IoT consumer experience—the industry has been seeking a unified IoT platform. Additionally, there is a common consensus across IoT developers and vendors that IoT platforms’ unification will simplify the development cycle and enable more interoperability and compatibility.
So, Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance have joined hands to promote the formation of the Working Group driving Matter (formerly Connected Home over IP project). The goal of the Connected Home over IP project is to simplify the development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers. The project is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. By building on IP, the project aims to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services, and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.
The Project will define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification. The goal of the first specification release will be Wi-Fi, Thread and IP implementations for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
Smart lighting - Smart lighting is one of the most common connected devices in smart homes. Smart lighting is a great way to automate your lights and save energy. The future of smart lighting will be more connected, with devices that can talk to each other and control other devices in your home.
Temperature control - Smart thermostats are another common connected device in smart homes. However, if you own a few different smart thermostats, you probably know the frustration of having to manage each one separately. In the future, smart thermostats will be able to communicate with each other, so you can control them from one application.
Web-connected appliances - You might have a few smart appliances in your home, such as a washer, dryer or refrigerator, but you may still have to manually check their status online. In the future, these devices will be able to send you alerts when they require maintenance or have new information.
Health and wellbeing - The idea of a smart home often includes a healthier lifestyle. There are a variety of devices that can help you achieve this, such as fitness trackers, blood pressure monitors, and glucose monitors. In the future, these devices will be able to communicate with each other, allowing you to get a holistic view of your health and wellbeing.
The Importance of Standardization in the Future of Homes
Standardization is the process of making something conform to an accepted rule or convention. In the context of smart homes, standardization means that devices and services are built following a universal rule. This makes them interoperable and allows them to work together. The current state of the smart home industry is a fragmented landscape of isolated ecosystems that are not capable of communicating with each other. Achieving true interoperability will require a common language that all devices follow. This is where Thread comes in.
Where is Thread Going?
The Thread protocol was developed in collaboration with industry stakeholders to solve the growing pains of the IoT industry. It was created to equip the industry with a technology solution that will enable the Internet of Things by providing a foundation for interoperability and security. The protocol is currently being standardized through an open process which enables the creation of a secure, reliable, and low-cost network for connected products. The Thread protocol is being designed to operate in both licensed and unlicensed radio bands, leveraging best-in-class solutions to achieve scalability, efficiency, and a high-quality user experience across different use cases.
The organization is currently focused on the development and implementation of the protocol, and engaging with various stakeholders to drive the adoption of the standard.
While there are plenty of use cases and success stories using Thread, it’s still early in its market adoption process. However, Thread is a future-proof technology, so developers adopting it right now should feel safe.
As IoT developers, we ought to keep in mind that we should meet consumer values first while developing cool and awesome technology. Thread brings IP to IoT networks, which simplifies development and improves user experience. Thread also enables unprecedented security and convergence in low-power device networks. Thread’s open-source implementation OpenThread utilizes community support to guarantee a hassle-free developer experience.
IP has been gluing the Internet together for decades, and it is about time to enable IoT networks with IP to unlock new horizons of scalability and security. With its base in IP, OpenThread can run mature and tested applications.
The future of smart homes is a connected environment where all devices and services can communicate with each other and provide a unified experience. To achieve this, the industry will need to come together and agree on a single language for all devices. The Thread protocol is a promising open standards initiative that was created to equip the industry with a technology solution that will enable the Internet of Things by providing a foundation for interoperability and security. The next few years will be critical for the industry as we look toward the future of connected devices and services.