Last year, in a report by news blog The Information, who claimed that google will be launching their own voice assistant called Nest on Amazon’s Echo – a device that will bring other connected devices together help people organise their daily schedules and manage their household with Nest’s own thermostats and its other products. Tonight, Nest has already announced OpenThread, an open source-based code implemented tech that has been developed by Nest for their own products.
OpenThread is Nest’s customised version of Thread, a wireless networking protocol for connected objects in the home that Nest and partners like Samsung and Qualcomm first announced in 2014, with the rationale at the time being that existing protocols like WiFi and Bluetooth were not up to scratch. Thread is a low-power mesh network protocol that IPv6 and is built on the same radio hardware used by ZigBee devices. Nest says that this potentially opens up the tech to “millions of existing devices on the market” — if their makers choose to update to Thread, that is. In reality, the company is not revealing any hard numbers for thread converts. Greg Hu tells me that “Thread momentum has been fantastic and you will see a lot more products shipped this year,” Greg Hu, head of Nest Platform and Works with Nest, told me in an interview. He added that the OpenThread effort was also aimed at encourage more chipmakers to come on board. “We are also trying to get more silicon partners to take our version of Thread and add it to their chips and push it forward.”
The other main thing is interoperability. “When it comes to OpenThread, we see it as one of the core products, a fundamental building block, for the connected, conscious home,” Hu said. “It will improve interoperabilty between products dramatically. It will drive the connected home for a lot of consumers.” Launching OpenThread gives Nest a shot at offering code and a potential platform for free (following a road taken by stablemate Android) as a way of bring in more hardware and software developers to build products that can work in a Nest-led ecosystem. Hu said that the intention was always to open source its efforts. “We wanted to make sure the tech was far enough along to be valuable for partners,” he said. “The intention was always to open source it.”The developments from Google and Nest come at an interesting time in the wider market for Internet of Things and connected home services. Amazon has had a surprise success with Echo, its wireless speaker that works by voice command. One of the most exciting things about it has been its nearly seamless transformation into becoming a platform for controlling other services, just by walking: third-party developers from Spotify to Domino’s have created services that you can use through Echo. Google, it seems, has sat up and taken notice of this. Earlier this year, the company opened up its Speech Recognition API as step one in getting developers to start putting more voice commands into their services. And now the OpenThread announcement today points to how it hopes to widen that platform to include hardware, too.