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Google-backed Thread increases its power with EEBus deal

The Thread Group has announced an interoperability deal with the EEBus Initiative, which will see the two collaborate on smart home solutions. The deal follows similar moves by Thread to secure liaisons with the ZigBee Alliance and the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), and looks like something of a reinvigoration for the alliance, following a recent lull.

The EEBus Initiative stems from a collaboration between Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) and the Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU). It was established to promote the E-Energy research program, and consequently has strong history in the renewable energy and smart grid sector – into which smart homes eventually slot, as a core component in demand response and energy efficiency.

Notably, EEBus isn’t developing communications radio protocols itself, and is consequently rather similar to the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), in that it develops use cases for specific areas and then sets standards recommendations via its Advisory Board and task forces. Currently, the group focuses on smart energy, smart home, connected devices, and connected cars.

Its core component is the SPINE model, which stands for Smart Premises Interoperable Neutral-message Exchange. SPINE is essentially an application-layer broker that helps exchange messages between different sectors, so that a smart grid process can communicate with a smart home HVAC system, for example, without requiring a direct connection to the thermostat.

Thread, meanwhile, is based on IEEE 802.15.4, the 2.4GHz-based mesh networking protocol that aims to provide low-power networking to smart home devices – using multiple hops between nodes to reach the controlling device at the center of the network.

With the new deal, the two groups say they plan to design an interface between the SPINE model and Thread, with Thread acting as a transport layer. Key to this development will be the test platforms that the group envision, which will culminate in a series of best-practices for building systems that incorporate Thread and SPINE.

The new deal precedes a joint solution for the smart home and other IoT markets, which will likely primarily constitute building management and industrial applications. Ideally, SPINE will be used by any IoT deployment, and enable the messages transported across multiple different protocols to be sent to their intended location and understood at the end point.

There’s already some crossover between the groups, with Schneider Electric, Somfy, TUV Rheinland, and Viessman notable European players. The EEBus membership contains some powerhouse names, including ABB, Bosch, and Intel, but skews heavily into the utilities and energy markets. Tellingly, the EEBus Wikipedia is natively German, reflecting the organization’s heritage.

“EEBus is one of Europe’s leading IoT alliances and shares the Thread Group’s mission to reduce fragmentation and create a harmonious and interoperable smart home ecosystem,” said Thread Group president Grant Erickson, who also holds the role of principal engineer at Nest. “We’re excited to collaborate with EEBus on a combined solution for our members, and to drive smart home adoption, both in Europe and globally.”

“This relationship is a significant step forward to achieve an interoperable IoT across the market, and we’re very pleased to be working with the Thread Group,” announced Thomas Finke, Bosch VP and EEBus board member. “Thread is a leading networking protocol within the IoT, and will be widely used in smart homes across the globe. Together, we can develop a joint solution that will expedite product development, while simultaneously reducing industry fragmentation.”

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