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This Cisco-Backed Firm Wants To Bridge Internet-Of-Things Platforms

March 10, 2016, 9:50 AM UTC
Apple's home automation framework HomeKit works with digital assistant Siri.
Jason Cipriani

The British Internet-of-things company Evrythng has long been trying to be the “Facebook for things,” pitching itself as the ideal player to manage the virtual identities of individual connected lightbulbs and smart product packages and what-have-you, so they can talk to each other and to users’ phones. It’s taken investments from Samsung(SSNLF) and Cisco(CSCO) (and partnered with the former), and now it’s unveiled a major new product: Thnghub.

Here’s the problem the vowel-averse company is trying to address. Internet-of-things devices that don’t have a direct connection to the Internet get online via hubs. However, their connections to those hubs can use a variety of different technologies, such as Bluetooth, Zigbee and Z-Wave.

What’s more, manufacturers bringing out new products must also contend with different platforms, such as Apple’s(AAPL) HomeKit and Google’s(GOOG) Weave. It’s all very confusing, and this onslaught of choices is one reason the smart home is still in the early-adopter phase.

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Thnghub is a piece of software that’s designed to be installed on home routers and smart TVs and any other “gateway” capable of acting as a hub, with the aim of joining all these disparate worlds. It can make that hub compatible with Bluetooth or Zigbee or Z-Wave, provided there’s hardware support, which can often be achieved with a USB dongle.

The software can also make devices compatible with those varied platforms, such as Weave and HomeKit.

“For manufacturers, it’s overwhelming that they have to support all these different protocols,” Evrythng co-founder and chief technology officer Dom Guinard told Fortune. “Just HomeKit and Weave are heavy protocols to support on the device.”

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A Linux-based, Internet-connected computer with Thnghub installed on it can effectively act as a HomeKit or Weave proxy for another type of device. One partner is already trying this out — Gooee, a company that partnered with Evrythng last year and is in the business of building motion and gas sensors into smart lighting systems, for enterprise customers.

“Their light fixtures don’t have to implement Weave or HomeKit, but mobile phones can interact with their devices as if they were Weve or HomeKit devices,” Guinard explained.

Another interesting aspect of Thnghub is the fact that it lets developers make mobile apps that can interact with smart devices either locally (when they’re on the same network) or remotely (through the “cloud”). The Thnghub software will handle the switching between the two environments, synchronizing the status of the device as it goes along.

The target audience here is not so much the end user as the manufacturer rolling out smart-home systems, or the Internet service provider that can upgrade customers’ set-top boxes with the Thnghub software. However, if it catches on it could prove useful — not least to Evrythng, which would get more takers for its Internet-of-things identity-management platform.