The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly expanding. By the end of 2020, estimates are for more than 34 billion IoT devices connected worldwide, up from 6 billion by the end of 2016.
Networking is the backbone of the IoT revolution. Without the ability to network, billions of IoT devices are useless. There are many types of IoT networks like ZigBee, Z-Wave, Thread, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and 3G/4G. There are too many IoT devices to run on a single networking standard. For example, sensors in a municipal water storage tank in a remote area require a mobile 3G/4G network as opposed to my Amazon dash buttons in my home that requires a Wi-Fi network connection.
Every type of network has its pros and cons. For example, Wi-Fi is perfect for lots of data, but it requires the device transmitting to have a good power source. Battery powered IoT devices like sensors consume too many batteries if they communicate via a Wi-Fi network.
A standard called mesh networks are emerging as the dominant solution in home IoTs. Mesh networks are designed to connect large numbers of IoT devices like home security sensors, or smart light bulbs, to each other, while maximizing battery usage. These networks require very little power to be used on the IoT device that transmits the data. Mesh networks include ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Thread.
When John sends a command from his smartphone to his smart light bulbs on a mesh network, the command will travel from his smartphone to his gateway (Wi-Fi router and modem) and then to a hub. The hub will translate that command for the mesh network and then send it to the appropriate device in John’s home.
IP-based mesh networks do not require the use of a hub if the smart devices connected to the network also have the hardware to connect with Wi-Fi and route messages between the Wi-Fi and the mesh network.
Devices connected via an IP-based mesh network can also download updates over the Internet. However, these devices that connect to the Internet need better security settings as the massive IoT attack in October of 2016 demonstrated.
IP-based mesh networks are expected to become increasingly popular over the coming years.
ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Thread support IP-based mesh networks, but Thread has the greatest potential IMO.
The Thread Group put together this video presentation on the IoT in the home.
Digi International Inc did a presentation on the benefits of Thread over ZigBee and Z-Wave:
On the Thread Groups website, there is a list of rapidly growing member corporations here.
How can we invest in Thread as the emerging standard for communications for the IoT revolution?
Google and its subsidiary Nest Labs founded the IP-based networking standard Thread. Just like Google revolutionized the way people communicate with smartphones via Android, so too is Google on the cutting edge of the way IoT devices communicate. Google is a solid play on the IoT revolution IMO.
Disclosure: I do not hold stock of Google at the time of publishing this article.