Apple joins ‘The Thread Group,’ opening up the possibility of more advanced HomeKit tech

Apple today has joined the smart home-dedicated group The Thread Group. While Apple’s extent of involvement in the group is unclear at this point, the company is now listed as a “member” on The Thread Group website

Thread is described as a new mesh network standard that aims to make it easier for varying smart home technologies to work together. Thread is designed to support devices ranging from appliances, climate control, and lighting to security, access control, and more.

It’s hard to get devices to talk to one another. And once they do, the connection is often spotty and power hungry. Thread changes all that. It’s a mesh network designed to securely and reliably connect hundreds of products around the home – without blowing through battery life.

IHS analyst Lee Ratliff explains that Apple’s decision to join The Thread Group could indicate that it is “renewing or increasing its efforts on HomeKit.” Google and Nest already support Thread, while Amazon is also a member. Ratliff notes Apple’s joining of the group could mark the “beginning of a convergence” of the varying smart home platforms.

Currently, a handful of routers and other network equipment work with Thread:

All Thread networks are easy to set up and secure to use. They use a smartphone-era authentication scheme and AES encryption to close security holes that exist in other wireless protocols.

  • Simple installation using your smartphone, tablet or computer
  • Scalable to connect 250+ devices into a single network supporting multiple hops
  • Provides security at network and application layers
  • Product install codes are used to ensure only authorized devices can join the network
  • Supported by banking-class, public-key cryptography

Currently, HomeKit accessories must work via either Bluetooth or WiFi. Apple supporting Thread could mean support for an additional standard beyond Bluetooth or WiFi.

Again, it’s unclear as to the extent of Apple’s involvement in The Thread Group. The company has yet to comment on the decision. We’ll update if we learn more.

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HomeKit is Apple's home automation framework that lets you control connected accessories from your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, HomePod, and Siri.

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