Thread (network protocol)

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Developed byThread Group
Industry Home automation

Thread is an IPv6-based, low-power mesh networking technology for Internet of things (IoT) products. [1] The Thread protocol specification is available at no cost; however, this requires agreement and continued adherence to an End-User License Agreement (EULA), which states that "Membership in Thread Group is necessary to implement, practice, and ship Thread technology and Thread Group specifications." [2]


In 2019, the Connected Home over IP project (later renamed "Matter"), led by the Zigbee Alliance (now the Connectivity Standards Alliance), Google, Amazon, and Apple, announced a broad collaboration to create a royalty-free standard and open-source code base to promote interoperability in home connectivity, leveraging Thread, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth Low Energy. [3] [4]


In July 2014, the Thread Group alliance was formed as an industry group to develop, maintain and drive adoption of Thread as an industry networking standard for IoT applications. [5] Thread Group provides certification for components and products to ensure adherence to the spec. Initial members were ARM Holdings, Big Ass Solutions, NXP Semiconductors/Freescale, Google-subsidiary Nest Labs, OSRAM, Samsung, Silicon Labs, Somfy, Tyco International, Qualcomm, and the Yale lock company. In August 2018 Apple Inc. joined the group [6] and released its first Thread product, the HomePod Mini, in late 2020. [7]


Thread uses 6LoWPAN, which, in turn, uses the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless protocol with mesh communication (in the 2.4 GHz spectrum), as do Zigbee and other systems. However, Thread is IP-addressable, with cloud access and AES encryption. A BSD-licensed open-source implementation of Thread, called "OpenThread", is available from and managed by Google. [8]

Thread is a low-power and low-latency wireless mesh networking protocol built using open and proven standards. It uses 6LoWPAN, which is based on the use of a connecting router, called an edge router. Thread calls their edge routers Border Routers. Thread solves the complexities of the IoT, addresses challenges such as interoperability, range, security, energy, and reliability. A Thread network doesn’t have a single point of failure, and it has the ability to self-heal. [9] :8

Thread is based on existing technologies in all its layers: from routing, packeting, and security to its wireless radio technology. Similar to Wi-Fi, with its broad range of devices, Thread is an open standard that is not tied to a specific manufacturer, which minimizes the risk of incompatibilities.

Thread’s IP foundation is application-agnostic, offering product manufacturers the flexibility to choose one (or multiple) application layers to connect devices across multiple networks. [9] :19–21 Developers can bring their apps, devices, systems, and services to market faster because they’re using the same set of tools available for the Internet.

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  1. "What is Thread - Overview". Thread Group. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  2. "The Thread group - Thread 1.1 Specifications". Thread Group. Retrieved 2021-06-26.
  3. "Amazon, Apple, Google, and Zigbee join forces for an open smart home standard". TechCrunch. 18 December 2019. Retrieved 2019-12-18.[ permanent dead link ]
  4. "Project Connected Home over IP". Project Connected Home over IP. Archived from the original on 2020-06-06. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  5. Noel Randewich (15 July 2014). "Google's Nest launches network technology for connected home". Reuters . Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  6. "Apple joins 'The Thread Group,' opening up the possibility of more advanced HomeKit tech". 9to5Mac. 2018-08-06. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  7. "Apple introduces HomePod mini: A powerful smart speaker with amazing sound". Apple (Press release). 13 October 2020.
  9. 1 2 Thread Stack Fundamentals (PDF) (Technical report). Thread Group. May 2020. Retrieved 26 June 2021.