Thread (network protocol)

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Developed by Thread Group

Thread is an IPv6-based, low-power mesh networking technology for IoT products, intended to be secure and future-proof.[1] The Thread protocol specification is available at no cost, however this requires agreement and continued adherence to an EULA which states that "Membership in Thread Group is necessary to implement, practice, and ship Thread technology and Thread Group specifications."[2] Membership of the Thread Group is subject to an annual membership fee except for the "Academic" tier.[3]

In July 2014, the "Thread Group" alliance was announced, which today is a working group with the companies Nest Labs (a subsidiary of Alphabet/Google), Samsung, ARM Holdings, Qualcomm, NXP Semiconductors/Freescale, Silicon Labs, Big Ass Solutions, Somfy, OSRAM, Tyco International, and the lock company Yale in an attempt to have Thread become the industry standard by providing Thread certification for products.[4]

Thread uses 6LoWPAN, which in turn uses the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless protocol with mesh communication, as does ZigBee and other systems. Thread however is IP-addressable, with cloud access and AES encryption. It currently supports up to 250 devices in one local network mesh.[5]

A BSD licensed open-source implementation of Thread (called "OpenThread") has also been released by Nest.[6]

Selling Points and Key Features[edit]

As mentioned above, Thread uses 6LoWPAN, which is based on the use of a connecting router, called an edge router (Thread calls their edge routers Border Routers). Unlike other proprietary networks, 6LoWPAN, like any network with edge routers, does not maintain any application layer state because such networks forward datagrams at the network layer. This means that 6LoWPAN remains unaware of application protocols and changes.[7] This lowers the processing power burden on edge routers. It also means that Thread does not need to maintain an application layer. Thread states that multiple application layers can be supported, as long as they are low-bandwidth and are able to operate over IPv6.[8]

Thread touts that there is no single point of failure in its system. However, if the network is only set up with one edge router, then this can serve as a single point of failure. The edge router or another router can assume the role of Leader for certain functions. If the Leader fails, another router or edge router will take its place. This is the main way that Thread guarantees no single point of failure.[8]

Thread promises a high level of security. Only devices that are specifically authenticated can join the network. All communications through the network are secured with a network key.[8]

Competing IoT protocols[edit]

Other competing Internet of Things (IoT) protocols currently already in wide use globally include ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth mesh.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About". Thread Group. Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Thread 1.1 Specification
  3. ^ Thread Group
  4. ^ Noel Randewich (Jul 15, 2014). "Google's Nest launches network technology for connected home". Reuters. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  5. ^ "Introducing Thread". SI Labs. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  6. ^ OpenThread
  7. ^ Olsson, Jonas (2013). "6LoWPAN Demystified" (PDF). Texas Instruments. 
  8. ^ a b c "Thread Stack Fundamentals". Thread Group. 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2017
  9. ^ "Samsung, ARM, and Nest launch Thread, a low-power network for the smart home". PC World. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 

External links[edit]