Thread’s New Certification Mark for Home Automation is Bad for Consumers – CEPro

Oh goodie, look for another home-automation certification logo on IoT devices, coming soon from the Thread Group.

Thread, a Nest-driven network protocol for home automation applications, has launched a product certification program with UL as its testing partner. The group says 30 products have been submitted for testing so far.

In a statement, Thread explains:

Thread products will be tested to validate device behavior for commissioning, networking functionality, security and operation in Thread’s network, and may bear the “BUILT ON THREAD” or “THREAD CERTIFIED COMPONENT” logo to help consumers and product developers identify them on the market.

I can see how product developers benefit from the logo marks—they want to know which products might potentially work together in a smart-home ecosystem – but why on earth would consumers care?

The Thread logo on a package will do nothing but muddy an already muddled marketplace.

Thread is a network-layer specification. It defines such things as security, power optimization, range, IP routing and the like. For consumers, it says nothing about device control and interoperability.

You might have a Thread logo on a thermostat that employs Nest’s Weave home automation protocol, and then a Thread logo on a door lock that utilizes ZigBee. For all practical purposes the two devices have nothing in common. They can’t communicate with each other. They can’t even be bridged by a “Thread hub.” They’d have to be bridged by a Weave/ZigBee hub. In that case, Thread wouldn’t matter to the consumer.

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You can imagine a bunch of disparate “smart devices” on a store shelf at Best Buy or Home Depot.

The customer asks a Blue Shirt or Orange Apron: “Does this light bulb work with that door lock?”

The associate responds: “They must. They both have the Thread logo.”

You know the rest of the story from there.

It seems the Thread Group wants to use the logo mark as some kind of statement about quality, much as the “Intel Inside” campaign achieved. But Intel didn’t confuse the consumer in the process. That won’t be the case here.

I asked the Thread Group how the logo could possibly benefit unwitting consumers.

“Ultimately, consumers want their devices to connect securely and reliably in their home, and Thread’s certification mark reaffirms just that,” I was told by Sujata Neidig, consumer business development manager for Freescale and VP marketing for the Thread Group. “While the application [the thing missing from Thread] defines the consumer’s overall experience, Thread is a crucial foundational ingredient that ensures the product is built on the foundation of a secure, reliable, low-power network.”

When Thread was announced in July 2014, I asked a similar question to Neidig and other Thread officials – something to the effect of: “Since Thread doesn’t address home control applications, it’s not really a consumer-facing designation, right?”

“Not at this point,” Neidig replied. “The point is to address product and service providers.”

I think Thread should keep it that way.

More Thread News

The certification announcement apparently is “great news for our 220 member companies, who are anxious to start using Thread in their products,” according to Chris Boross, president of the Thread Group and technical marketing exec at Nest.

More than 30 products and components from Thread Group members have been submitted for certification, and Thread certified software stacks from ARM, Freescale and Silicon Labs will be available this month.

OSRAM, a leader in the global lighting market, has joined the Thread Group’s board of directors.

The Thread Group Innovation Enabler Program gives young companies the opportunity to play a role in defining the connected home. Winners are selected quarterly, based on the creative potential of their ideas, and receive up to 18 months of complimentary Thread Group membership. Thread has named Centero, a provider of technologies and integration services for the Internet of Things, and iSOCKET, a developer of smart plugs for the connected home, as the Q3 winners of the program.

At CES 2016, the Thread Group will showcase Thread-enabled product demonstrations at booth #70560 in the Sands Expo, Level Two.

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JULIE JACOBSON
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