On our most recent IoT Podcast episode, Ian called in to the podcast hotline with a curious question. He wants to know if future mobile devices might include Thread radios to assist with local control of Thread products in the smart home. Ian wonders if Thread will replace Bluetooth for device provisioning.
In theory, it sounds like a good idea to include Thread radios in phones and tablets, but we’re not sure they’re really needed. Last week, we heard about the new Matter specification which will be used as a seamless platform for devices that support Bluetooth, Thread, WiFi, and (possibly) Zigbee.
Currently, the Matter (previously known as Project CHIP) documentation uses Bluetooth for device provisioning and there are no signs of that changing anytime soon. And that makes sense: Bluetooth is already quite ubiquitous in mobile devices.
When you add a device to your smart home, it’s very likely that the first connection to that device during the setup process is over Bluetooth. That’s just for the device’s mobile app to get the initial connection and start the setup process. After that, the connected device can use Thread, Wi-Fi, or some other radio protocol to get connected to a Thread router or smart home hub.
Put another way, adding Thread as a Bluetooth replacement here doesn’t gain you much. And the inclusion of a Thread radio to a phone or tablet wouldn’t truly replace Bluetooth which is also used for wireless audio, wearable device connectivity, and other purposes. So the cost to produce phones or tablets would increase if a Thread radio were added to the mobile device.
As we noted last week, we don’t think Thread is a pure replacement for Bluetooth. Thread is specifically for device-to-device communication in the IoT while Bluetooth is more of a wired replacement.
Bluetooth still has a purpose; many other purposes, in fact. So Bluetooth isn’t going away anytime soon, if ever. And the addition of a Thread radio to a phone or tablet doesn’t really gain you much if anything.
Our take? The two radios and their respective protocols will happily coexist together, at least in the near future. Might more smart devices include Thread radios? Absolutely! But they’ll very likely still have Bluetooth radios for provisioning and include local control support through Wi-Fi to a WiFi-enabled Thread router.
To hear Ian’s question in full, as well as our discussion on the topic, tune in to the IoT Podcast below.