The consumer products giant is betting on the Thread wireless protocol.
When it comes to the smart home Procter & Gamble has launched a connected Oral B toothbrush and has already been involved with the Amazon Dash devices that let consumers press a button to get delivery of Oil of Olay facial cleansers and Bounty brand paper towels.
But the consumer products company has larger plans for a future where connected devices are scattered throughout the home and Alan Goldstein, associate director with P&G Ventures shared some of the company’s thinking with Fortune in an interview.
“What’s the benefit to the consumer if a product could be connected?” Goldstein says is one of the questions P&G PG asks, with the other being, “What else is in the environment and in the home that my product could interact with to deliver a better experience?”
With that in mind P&G is testing a relatively new wireless protocol that went live on Wednesday with its public certification. The protocol is called Thread and it was created by a group of companies that include Nest, Samsung, Freescale, Silicon Labs, and Big Ass Fans. Thread competes with other wireless standards such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Z-wave to connect devices to each other and eventually to the Internet.
Goldstein says that P&G settled on Thread as the standard of choice because it was purpose-built for the Internet of things in the residential setting and offered elements that the consumer products firm deemed important. Things like mesh networking, which means the radios talk to each other and reinforce their signals to offer resilience and use very little power, matter for devices that may not be plugged into a wall and are scattered around the home.
Other elements, such as the ability to send information straight to the Internet without having to use a smartphone or a hub, were also important, although Goldstein is not sure how much that will ultimately matter. Goldstein is more concerned about finding a standard that gains widespread adoption so consumers can buy connected products without having to wonder if they will work together. And also without having to pay for the overhead of having a bunch of different wireless radios and antennas inside.
From P&G’s perspective Thread holds the promise of being secure, offering all the technical things the smart home will need and providing a unified and interoperable standard for connected products companies to build to. Currently there’s no one platform for all the connected devices out there, and that’s slowing the growth of the market.
“Thread opens up this vision that we’ve talked about,” says Goldstein. “It adds the benefits of connectivity to society if the industry adopts it.”
As for how P&G might specifically take advantage of those benefits, Goldstein is coy. He poses questions like, “How will detergents interact with smarter devices? How can we use chemistry to leverage the smartness that is emerging in today’s appliances?” For example, he discussed how today it’s not too far-fetched to think about using a camera to picture the color and type of fabric used on a piece of clothing as well as any stains on the item. From there, having a washing machine select the right formulation of detergent, or even mixing a custom version from chemicals stored in a reservoir in the machine is entirely feasible.
From Goldstein’s perspective many of P&G’s portfolio of products would benefit from the information that other connected devices could provide, from data about what people are eating to the current tests that the company is conducting with the Amazon Dash buttons. And now we know that as the company evolves its strategy, it is banking on the new Thread standard to share information around the home.
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