One of the biggest problems with smart home devices – still a fast-evolving tech space – has been getting the various devices to talk to each other. Traditionally, that’s involved using some sort of hub – sometimes built into a smart speaker (like Amazon’s Echo Plus) – or by using a dedicated device you need to add to your network (like the Philips Hue hub).
But that’s not a perfect solution. Controlling your smart devices from a central point means that if something goes wrong with that hub of activity, every smart device in your home loses the ability to hear your commands. In a big home, devices too far away from a hub may simply fail to connect to your network.
Some devices have gotten around this by building Wi-Fi receivers into every device. LIFX’s bulbs and lights have done this with great success. But that comes at a cost – there’s a noticeable delay between you issuing a command and the device responding, and running a mini Wi-Fi station for every light bulb uses a lot of power, even when the lamps are off.
To fix this, a new standard named Thread has been introduced – developed by Google and adopted by Amazon, Apple and others. It lets your smart devices talk to each other over a low-power “mesh” network, which means they don’t depend on a central hub – or even your Wi-Fi router – to continue working.
It’s similar tech to what Philips uses for its Hue hubs, except with Thread, any device can act as a hub, making setup a breeze and interactions between you and your devices much faster.
If you’re looking to get started on a smart home, devices with Thread support are what you should be looking for. Apple’s superb HomePod Mini smart speaker is one of the first devices to support Thread, and for those looking to set up first-class wireless networking across their home, Google’s Nest mesh Wi-Fi system has full support for Thread.
But what about devices? Well, a great place to start is with the new smart light bulbs from Nanoleaf – the first light bulbs to work with Thread, and the start of what promises to be a long line of Thread-enabled smart products. Combine a set of these bulbs with a HomePod Mini and you’ve got the fastest and most versatile smart lighting currently available for your home.