Smart devices must be able to exchange information with one another in a connected world continually. To achieve this, they need to communicate through a common language, i.e., communication protocols. Protocols entail how signals are sent between devices to trigger specific actions like turning on the lights. Protocols are ‘spoken’ through wired or wireless layers, each having varying pros and cons depending on their application.
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What is the thread protocol, and how does it work?
Thread is mesh-networking protocol technology designed to connect all the smart devices in your home. The thread protocol was developed by the Thread Group, a group of companies supporting the creation of a mesh network protocol. It is a secure, low-power communication protocol that can simultaneously support a wide range of application protocols on the underlying network making it a future-proof and cost-effective solution for networking in smart homes.
Just like the Z-wave and Zigbee protocols, the thread protocol connects all your devices in the form of a giant mesh without the need for a smart home hub to connect the devices. All the devices can connect without any single point of failure, meaning that the entire network can self-heal, i.e., if a device is added or removed, the network adjusts itself and carries on without breaking.
Thread uses open standards like the IPv6 and 6LoWPAN, making its design interoperable hence devices can communicate with one another irrespective of the manufacturer. It uses AES encryption which closes loopholes seen in other networking protocols. A thread smart home network can easily and securely support more than 250 devices with multiple hops in a wireless network that includes internet and cloud services for each device.
What is entailed in a thread smart home network?
Communications on the internet run through IP, i.e., the technology allowing these devices to communicate with each other, from your phone to the router to communications occurring worldwide. Communication occurs effectively regardless of the type of connectivity technologies they are using. Thread brings this IP connectivity to all the low-power wireless devices making up the smart home, enabling easier communication with the other IP-connected devices like computers, tablets, and smartphones to create and control a manageable thread network.
The thread smart home devices will not require translators or proprietary gateways but can instead have direct communication with the other devices they are interconnected with. It makes it much easier to connect while reducing investment and infrastructure needs, maintenance burdens, and points of failure. The thread protocol does not necessarily have to be in a particular device such as a smartphone for it to connect the other thread products since both devices are operating on the same IP network.
Combining thread with the other IP technologies allows seamless integration and support of varieties of IP-based IoT devices from different vendors. While on a thread network, devices can access different cloud services while running multiple application layers like OCF, Dotdot, Weave, and LWM2M. The thread protocol does all this without requiring extra software and hardware, gateways, translators, hubs, or proxies, saving producers time and money, promising a lower cost of products for the end-user.
Benefits over thread smart home devices over other device options
Thread offers developers of smart devices products many technological advantages compared to the existing wireless protocols. A threads smart home should mean that all your devices work faster, more secure with fewer issues affecting the network. The benefits include:
- Seamless integration: thread uses border routers to expand to other networks such as the internet, cellular, ethernet, and Wi-Fi while allowing the internet’s extension to other low power-end devices.
- Secure networks: a thread network only allows authenticated external nodes to join the network. It also includes built-in link-layer security and encryption of all network traffic hence providing user-friendly commissioning of smart home devices to the network.
- Built for the Internet of Things (IoT): thread is based on standards that are already proven, thus improving efficiency, automation, functionality, safety, and comfort in a smart home. It enables reliable connectivity, scalability, and interoperability with a low energy footprint.
- Internet Protocol (IP) based: thread being built on the concept of IP allows the flexibility work with multiple ecosystems and application layer options. Thread provides a junction layer across all networks offering device-cloud and device-device communication faultlessly.
- Low power consumption: thread used short messaging for communication between the devices to conserve power and runs on the IEE 802.15.4 MAC/PHY, which is power efficient. The house’s battery-operated devices become part of the network without them needing frequent battery changes or charging.
Availability of thread devices
The thread group expands the reach and benefits of thread by innovating new ideas to the developers and the general market. The thread specification is made available to anyone and open to all members of the Thread Group. Any device that supports 802.15.4 protocol can use the thread protocol with just a simple software upgrade.
The HomePod Mini is the first device to open up to thread with its Thread Radio. Others such as Nanoleaf and Eve have started offering HomeKit devices with thread compatibility. Google Nest is already using the combination of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Thread to get all its devices to communicate. The benefits are seen in the Nest Guard, Detect and Protect devices.
Therefore, each of the Nest devices talks to one another, thereby acting as a hub for the entire Nest. Google has also included Thread Radio in smart home devices such as the Nest Hub Max and Google Nest Wi-Fi System. To know if a connected product meets thread certification, look for bearings of ‘Thread Certified Component’ or ‘Built on Thread’ logos.
The creation of thread solves the IoT’s complexities by addressing challenges like security, interoperability, architectural requirements, and power use. Thread smart home technologies are becoming more adopted daily, with developers bringing new apps, devices, and services faster to the market. With thread being IP-based, manufacturers can maintain direct communication with their products and the users, giving efficient support. Thread ensures efficient end-to-end communication securely connecting hundreds of products.