Thread Group’s Sujata Neidig joins Ryan Chacon on this IoT For All Podcast episode to talk about the current landscape of smart home technology. Sujata begins by introducing Thread technology, its role in IoT, and how it compares to other technologies on the market. She then talks about recent trends in smart home technology, what needs to happen for mass adoption to occur and popular products in the industry. Ryan and Sujata wrap up the podcast with high-level conversations around commercial applications and advice for people looking to build a smart home.
Sujata Neidig has 25 years of experience in the semiconductor industry and has served in various roles ranging from product engineering to marketing and business development. Sujata Neidig has over 25 years of experience in the semiconductor industry and has served in multiple roles ranging from product engineering to marketing and business development. She is currently the Director of Marketing for Wireless Connectivity. She also leads NXP’s standards efforts for IoT connectivity. She represents NXP on the Thread Group and Connectivity Standards Alliance’s Board of Directors and serves as Thread Group’s VP of Marketing. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.
Interested in connecting with Sujata? Reach out on Linkedin!
About Thread Group
Formed in 2013, the non-profit Thread Group is focused on making Thread the foundation for the internet of things in homes and commercial buildings. Thread is a low-power wireless networking protocol built on open standards that enable direct, end-to-end, secure, and scalable connectivity between IoT devices, mobile devices, and the internet. And, because Thread is IP-based, it seamlessly integrates with many environments, apps, devices, and clouds. The Thread Group provides a rigorous certification program to ensure device interoperability and a positive user experience. Thread is backed by industry-leading companies, including Amazon, Apple, Google/Nest, Lutron, Nordic Semiconductors, NXP Semiconductors, OSRAM, Qualcomm, Siemens, Silicon Labs, Samsung SmartThings, Somfy, and Yale Security.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:35) Introduction to Sujata and Thread Group
(03:23) The role of the technology
(06:29) Recent trends in smart home technology
(11:29) What needs to happen for mass adoption
(13:59) Most popular products
(15:42) Commercial application trends
(19:24) Advice for building a smart home
– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast. The number one resource and publication for the Internet of Things. If you’re watching this video on YouTube, please subscribe and like the video. Also, if you’re listening to us on a podcast directory, please subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as they are out. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. On today’s episode, we have Sujata Neidig, the director of marketing for Wireless at Thread Group. She also is the NXP marketing director as well. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Thread Group. They are a nonprofit that was formed back in 2013, with a focus on making Thread, the foundation for the Internet of Things in homes and commercial buildings. So on this episode, we talk a lot about that topic. We talk about recent trends in the smart home space, the smart building space, what we need to see to have mass adoption kind of start to be reached in the smart home technology space. What we expect to be the most popular, smart home purchases for the second half of this year into next year. And we also talk a lot about Matter and Thread technologies, how they work together, and then definitely some challenges that they’re seeing from their point of view in this space as well as how to overcome them. So all in all fantastic conversation, I think we’ll get a lot of value out of it, but before we get into it, many of you out there are looking to enter the fast growing and profitable IoT market, but don’t know where to start? Check out our sponsor. Leverege. Leverege’s IoT solutions development platform. Provides everything you need to create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to IoTchangeseverything.com, that’s IoTchangeseverything.com and without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome Sujata to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Sujata] Thank you for having me, nice to be here.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. Very excited about this conversation. I wanted to just kick it off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself to our audience.
– [Sujata] Sure. So my name is Sujata Neidig. I work at NXP semiconductors as a marketing director in our wireless connectivity portfolio. And within that role, I also support industry standards for wireless connectivity. So NXP is very invested in driving industry standards and collaborating across the industry. So we are a board level participant in Thread Group, and I represent NXP. And for that, and then I also serve as the VP of marketing for Thread Group.
– [Ryan] Can you talk a little bit more about what Thread Group is and the kind of overall goal and mission of the organization?
– [Sujata] Sure. So Thread Group was conceived back in 2013, so we’re getting close to the 10 year mark here. And the idea behind Thread was to create a industry standard on how devices can connect to each other wirelessly, but doing it in a reliable, secure, and easy to use way. And also it was targeted towards more smart home devices and home automation. So for small devices that are in your home doing the home automation, whether it’s with the temperature, security sensors, lighting, they don’t need high end wireless connectivity protocols like WiFi. Many of them are battery operated. So Thread was created to provide the solution to connect those devices together. Like I said, simply, reliably and securely.
– [Ryan] So how does this compare to other organizations and also on the technology side to things like Zigbee and Z-Wave and even Matter, which is a discussion topic that’s been brought up in the past. How does that kind of connect in the space or how do you play with those organizations or technologies?
– [Sujata] Yeah, it is all connected. It’s a small industry. And sometimes I refer it to as the quilt of technologies, because there are quite a few technologies. Thread is very similar to Zigbee. So Zigbee was created before Thread using a radio from IEEE, defined by the IEEE organization for low power wireless mesh networking. It’s called the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. So Zigbee was based on that radio. Thread takes Zigbee on that same radio, but then adds IP to it. So it adds an IPv6 layer. And the reason for that is that the internet is built on IP or internet protocol, and you can run lots of applications on the internet. And so the idea behind putting IPv6 technology on small devices meant that it can enable product manufacturers to create devices that can communicate directly to each other, without having to go through a translator or a hub. So every device has its own unique IP address and they can communicate to each other. They build a mesh network. So I would say Zigbee and Thread are very similar and Thread is the IP version of Zigbee. You asked about Matter. And so Thread is very focused at how devices connect. So the network transport, it defines how they connect to each other and form this mesh network and manage the mesh network, like self-healing, you know, if one node drops off the mesh, then the path will be rerouted through another direction automatically. Matter is a new protocol from the Connectivity Standards Alliance, which is also where Zigbee sits under and Matter is defined more as the language that the devices speak to each other, so that all the devices can talk to each other and give the commands. And what’s a light bulb? What is On mean? What is Off mean? What are the different attributes of these different device types? So Matter is a unified language for devices to speak to each other and it uses existing technologies. So for how they connect to each other. Matter is IP based also. So Thread and WiFi are the two network transports that Matter supports, when Matter launches with the first version of Matter. So Thread is really designed for the low power, reliable network requirements, WiFi, more a high bandwidth, streaming audio, streaming video, things like that.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, that’s a great overview. Thanks for breaking that down a little bit further, definitely clears things up. So I wanted to talk to you about a number of different topics and the first one, now that we kind of understand a bit more about what you do, what Thread Group does, et cetera. Can you talk about, just at a high level recent trends that you’ve seen in the smart home and IoT space in general?
– [Sujata] Great question. And I think from my perspective, because I work on the component semiconductor side and standards, there’s two aspects to the smart home. It’s what consumers see. And then it’s how the industry is driving the smart home innovation, products innovation. So from a consumer perspective, I think we’ve all seen the smart home grow over the last few years. And especially during the pandemic where more people were at home and really being present in their home so much more than they were before and wanting to make it more comfortable and more convenient. But even my parents have started using more smart home devices and they were not technology people before. So I think that smart home products has grown to be more understood, like consumers are aware of it. There are still some challenges in the smart home industry where consumers get frustrated because there are incompatible platforms, incompatible devices. There’s also concerns from consumers around, What does this mean about my security and privacy? How does it impact that? And cost of course, consumers care about cost. From the industry itself, they’re really looking at how do we address these consumer problems, because if we don’t address that, then the industry, although it’s continuing to grow, it won’t have the exponential growth and get to that phase where there’s mass adoption of smart homes. So I think you see what I see in the industry as more collaboration across the industry, because wireless connectivity is hard. You’re connecting devices to each other. And so there’s a lot of compatibility issues, power consumption, cost, implications, security implications. And I think that’s why you’ve also seen Matter receive a lot of support. So now you have the major platform providers like Apple, Amazon, Google SmartThings, committed to using Matter at the application level. So that devices will just work with each other because that’s what consumers want.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I think that’s, the collaboration element that you mentioned is super important, not just in the smart home space, but I think across IoT in general, to bring the best solution to market that fits the use case and delivers the ROI that the end user is actually looking for. And in the smart home space, it’s really interesting to see the growth of the number of different devices out there. But I also think to your point, it brings in a lot of challenges of being able to choose the correct products without running the risk of the security element. There’s lots of devices that are made and promoted on places like Amazon. And if there’s not enough education about the different devices and the technology, it’s hard for people to pick the right one without leaving themselves exposed on the security side, especially devices made in China at times, things like that, that I know people are worried about. And then the other side is the compatibility with existing devices that they already have. And I think being able for devices to work more closely together and not have to worry about, okay, I bought something made by one company, but all my devices at home made by another company, will they work? Are they compatible? I don’t really know. I don’t understand that. I think that educational component is super important for, cause people just want things to work. They don’t want to have to, necessarily only buy from one brand or another. They wanna know that if I have cameras in my house and I wanna buy this other smart device, smart lighting, that it’s gonna be able to work and be able to easily be interacted with. So it’s an interesting thing that we’ve kind of seen grow and have the market to start to understand in order for it to kind of survive.
– [Sujata] And I think that maybe in the beginning, consumers were willing to buy into a system, but now, because the smartness has spread across so many products and it’s not like, oh, I just wanna use smart lighting and then I want a smart door. You want everything to work together, so you really have that smart home. And in order to do that, you need the compatibility. And having companies commit to using what I would say is a lot of these technologies, these are the plumbing of smart home. How do the devices connect? How do you do it securely? And then that leaves product manufacturers with more resources to focus on how to innovate on top of that for a very specific user experience, what does the user really get out of all these products? And so it’s a benefit to the product manufacturers and it’s a benefit to consumers.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. And in addition to the things we just mentioned, are there any other, I guess, elements of this that we really need to see happen in order for mass adoption to be reached in this space, in the smart home technology space?
– [Sujata] I think that security is something that is being built in now to some of the technologies, like Thread has security built in. So Thread devices don’t connect to each other unless their authenticated Matter is also implementing secure, but around privacy. So I think there’s more work that we can do as an industry to really address concerns around privacy and security or to address a wider range of attack types and working, not just as an industry, but working with regulators in different countries to make sure there’s some consistency. And I think standards bodies have a good starting point to be able to do that, because they’re made up of hundreds of companies that have different experiences and expertise as well. And then I think it’s deployment of Matter devices, I think will drive a lot of the mass adoption. But again, how do you drive that without obsoleting what’s already out there? And so there’s gonna have to be work done by the product manufacturers and the platform providers to provide those paths of migration. And once you start buying new devices that are Matter compatible, that solves the problem easily, but you need to integrate that, like you said, into your own smart home that has other devices.
– [Ryan] Right. Yeah. That’s gonna be the tough part. I mean, that’s just even, outside of smart home when you’re going into other types of IoT solutions, especially for businesses, the existing infrastructure, how does that play with new technologies in order to make it less of an overhaul for them to adopt IoT? And I think that’s something that’s always been a topic of conversation that’s gone on and it’s a place that needs to be really focused on and addressed in order for adoption to kind of reach the scale that we’ve been hoping for, for many years.
– [Sujata] And I like seeing that companies and ecosystem that the walled gardens I guess, are coming down. Because that will help drive mass market adoption as well. And that becoming a reality will be critical to that. More people can experience the benefits of having smart homes.
– [Ryan] Totally agree with you. One another question I had is it’s a little bit disconnected from this, but still in the smart home space. Where do you see, I guess the more popular purchases coming from? Is there a certain type of product, certain type of area as it connects to the home that you’re seeing become more popular or you expect to be more popular as we go through the rest of this year?
– [Sujata] I mean, that’s a difficult question. I think I would say that the voice assistants and smart speakers have reached a level of maturity or market saturation. You’re not gonna see the exponential growth there. I think lighting is always an area that people are investing in and as the cost of smart lighting has come down, people use that, but the doorbells, smart doorbells, secure, anything related to security, I think is a key component. And being able to manage your home, the temperature and access to your home and those types of features. I think what we’ll see, maybe not by the end of this year, but what we’ll see is more of a shift from, I want a door or I want a light bulb that I can turn on from my phone to, I want an experience. I want things to happen if I unlock my door, I want certain lights to turn on and the temperature to be set to a certain thing. So consumers are gonna be looking for more of what drives their desire. Do they want something more convenient? More comfortable? More secure in their home? And those types of use cases, I think we’ll see grow in the coming months and years.
– [Ryan] I also think anything that kind of connects to cost savings for homeowners, I think is a big one. Let me ask you though. So obviously we talked a lot about the home and that environment, but a comparable market is also office spaces, other buildings, making them smart, not just homes. What do you expect to see in the more commercial application side of the IoT technologies as people are starting to get back to work? Are you seeing any trends connected to the smart spaces, kind of industry and of itself? I had a lot of guests on recently that are focused in building applications for buildings, workplaces, you name it, whether it’s occupancy tracking amongst many other different use cases. Are you seeing any trends in there or where do you expect the commercial application side of IoT as it connects to buildings, as people are starting to come back to the workplace, kind of go?
– [Sujata] So when Thread Group, when Thread was first created, it was really targeting the smart home environment or industry. And what became quickly apparent is that companies started looking into Thread and saying, well, this applies to more than just homes because buildings are just larger homes with more spaces in it and more people using them. And so Thread has evolved to also address what we call the smart building or commercial building market segment. You know, you still have things like safe security systems, lighting, temperature. Some of the differences though in the commercial building or building automation is that today many buildings, if you’re looking, especially at work spaces or factories are built with wired solutions and that’s a challenge for companies, cause if they want to grow and add more capabilities, then they have to dig into the walls to lay new wires. So transitioning from wired to wireless is something that has a huge potential benefit for commercial building managers, facility managers, building designers. And so we see that these same benefits you’re seeing in the smart home about a more secure environment, a more safe environment, a more convenient environment apply also in the building space, it’s at a larger scale. So the technologies have to maybe do some adaptation, especially on how do you install in a smart home, in a home you’re gonna install one or two devices at a time. Maybe if you’re putting up a security system, it might be 10 to 15 sensors, but in a smart building, you could be installing hundreds of light bulbs and fire alarm sensors. And so technologies like Thread and others look at how can we help simplify that? Or how do we help ease that installation? But yeah, I think that it will happen. It’s happening in the commercial building, the same technologies cause wireless, like I said has huge benefits. Especially if you think in Europe, they’re not doing new building construction in Europe for the most part. And they have to do a lot of retrofitting and retrofitting would be better done with wireless technology. The other differences that it needs to integrate into the IT infrastructure, you have to have multiple access control, who gets access. How do you determine that? So there’s a few other factors that have to be implemented for these more work environments. And I think that that is already happening and moving in that direction.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. Yeah. It’s a very exciting space to follow and just track the demand for IoT technologies, especially as we’ve come out of the pandemic, people are getting back to work, super interesting. I wanted to pivot real quick back to, excuse me, the smart home space. For a lot of our listeners, I’d love it, if you could give them general advice on how to start building a smart home from a device standpoint, whether it’s selecting the right devices, what things they need to be thinking about, technologies they should be looking at, how would you advise a buyer who’s looking into getting smart devices for their home, go about that process and make sure that they’re looking at certain elements or pieces that are important?
– [Sujata] Very interesting question. So I guess based just off of my experience with my own smart home and working in the industry, I would say that the first step is to really understand what it is you want to, what is your priority for wanting to have smart products in your home? What do you wanna get out of that? And then the next step for me is really because I’m huge about standards, look at what are the options out there that are compatible with multiple ecosystems or platforms because most people will probably start their smart home journey with a smart speaker. And so maybe you pick, I don’t know, Echo or HomePod mini. And then after you’ve picked that, then you need to look at what smart devices you want, what experience you want and which ones are available within that ecosystem. But with Matter, when Matter comes out, part of me says wait till Matter devices come out, because things will just work with each other. But I think it’s a very private, it’s a very personal decision. Where do you wanna spend money to improve your life? And look for products that use standards and that work with multiple platforms and work with other devices instead of having a closed ecosystem. On the other hand, I would say also with some people they’re naturally techies and like gadgets and like working on installing them. But when my parents wanted to install a security system, I’m like I could come down and help you, but just look at reviews of people in local companies that do installations and talk to them and let them guide you on what product types to pick and what brands that they support. So I think it depends on the person. It’s a very personal decision.
– [Ryan] Yeah. I just think having a process and having some level of due diligence into understanding what you’re buying, why you’re buying it, how it works and just keeping those considerations in mind, as opposed to just making a rushed purchase cause you see something cool and just buying it and then realizing there’s security risk or it’s incompatible, kind of all things we’ve kind of been mentioning here.
– [Sujata] Yeah. I’m very big on looking for reviews.
– [Ryan] Oh, I’m the same, exactly.
– [Sujata] What the industry reporters write about these different products. And then I like to either talk to friends, coworkers, family, and then look online for reviews because then you’ll get a better insight into, does that match what you’re looking for? Not that it’s a bad product, but it might be not the right product for you and how you wanna use it.
– [Ryan] Yeah. I’ve also found that there’s, you gotta take this with a grain of salt, but there’s value in looking at the negative reviews too, because there’s often times, very interesting perspectives from people that you can see a trend of whether this is working well or not, or the positive reviews are just potentially all telling you the same thing, but there’s definitely two sides to it. And I think you can start to get a good feeling about certain devices once you kind of read both of those. So I’m in the same boat as you. Reviews, I think are crucial to it. For sure. So for audience out there, who’s listening to this and wants to follow up the questions, learn more about what’s going on at Thread Group, NXP. What’s the best way that they can do that and maybe stand or get in touch and kinda ask any questions and learn more?
– [Sujata] So Thread Group is an industry organization. So you can go to ThreadGroup.org and get information about what Thread is. You also talked earlier. Thread works very closely with the Connectivity Standards Alliance, which has the Matter protocol. So you can go to connectivity, I think it’s csa-IoT.org. They have a lot of information there about Matter. NXP, we provide solutions so that product manufacturers can build smart devices for their homes. And you can go to nxp.com and get information about all of our wireless connectivity solutions and really it’s very use case dependent. What type of device are you trying to build? And then we have the solution there, but yeah, all the websites, ThreadGroup.org, csa-IoT.org are great places to start to get more information.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, this has been a very good conversation. I’ve actually really enjoyed talking about more the smart home consumer type stuff from here from time to time, since a lot of what we talk about is very often based around the business commercial enterprise side of things. So it’s nice to have-
– [Sujata] To talk about that.
– [Ryan] something a little bit that I would do more on and even more daily basis than just this IoT For All, which is again the business commercial side, but at home smart devices and things like that. So it’s a very fun conversation to have. So I really appreciate your time. Your insights were incredible. And I think our audience is gonna get a ton of value out of this.
– [Sujata] Well thank you Ryan. And I’ll just, when I said Thread Groups website, we have a section there for videos and we track videos that a lot of techy bloggers do videos explaining the technology and they do great jobs of explaining it for consumers. So I would say definitely check out some of those videos to get an explanation in a real life situation of how these products are working. And why would you want a product with Thread? Well, it’s faster, it’s more reliable and you can get some evidence of that. And yeah. Thank you for inviting me to chat with you. It’s been really fun.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s great.
– [Sujata] I’m passionate about smart home devices, so.
– [Ryan] Yeah, you can definitely tell, no and I mean, not just the passion, but the deep knowledge of what you have exposure to with Thread Group and NXP. And I think our audience can, is gonna, like I said, get a ton of value out of hearing your opinion and kind of expertise on this subject. I think it’s really important and a lot of people are gonna relate to it. So I do truly appreciate your time.
– [Sujata] Thank you.
– [Ryan] All right, everyone. Thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT For All Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel and be sure to hit the bell notifications, so you get the latest episodes as soon as they become available. On that, thanks again for watching and we’ll see you next time.