Thread 101: Everything you need to know about the future of IoT

The rise of the connected home

It’s no secret that the Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the way we live — ranging from fitness wearables that tell you when to exercise to a myriad of smart home devices that interconnect your door lock, thermostat, light bulbs, and more. This creates a home environment that continues to learn and evolve from each and every interaction to deliver a highly personalized and engaging experience.  

And this hyper fast adoption of IoT technologies across various applications is not slowing down anytime soon. In fact, Gartner, a leading technology analyst firm, estimates the number of connected devices in the world will reach over 20 billion by 2020.



With this explosion of connected devices comes very real challenges of interoperability, energy efficiency, and most importantly, security. A recent survey by DZone cites the three most pressing concerns among developers and engineers when it comes to IoT applications are security (47%), interoperability (29%), and connectivity (22%). The complete list of concerns are below:

There are a number of standards and protocols that are capitalizing on an exploding market still in its relative infancy. However, few standards are actually able to address these concerns held by the development community, which hinders innovation across the space.

Manufacturers like Apple, with their closed system called HomeKit can see the massive opportunity in home IoT and are trying to leverage their large customer base as a means to dominate the market. But early signs show that consumers are keen on exploring the breadth of devices at their disposal and don’t want to be locked into a single vendor for all their home automation and IoT desires.

The need for a common networking and communications standard for all IoT devices to work together in a reliable, efficient, and secure manner is critical for a truly seamless experience.

A new breed of wireless networking protocol

Thread is a network and communications standard designed to connect and control devices in the home. It’s an IPv6-based protocol that creates and manages secure connections between more than 250 connected devices. Plus, cloud access and AES encryption give ultimate security and reliability while minimizing power consumption.

Built on thread – The Thread Group

Thread has been quickly adopted by hundreds of organizations across market segments such as appliances, lighting, home security, climate control, home automation and more — all working together to deliver a protocol that makes a truly connected home a reality.

The key to Thread’s ability to deliver an always-on network that can easily scale is its support for mesh networking. A mesh network is a collection of interconnected devices that eliminates any single point of failure.

This graph-like architecture has “self-healing” capability which automatically adjusts routing paths if devices are added or removed from the network, ensuring network reliability and flexibility even at scale. Here is a snapshot of the benefits Thread provides:

    • Ecosystem friendly: Thread is an open standard that was designed with interoperability. Thread was not designed by a single company as a proprietary technology to lock customers in. It’s backed by hundreds of members, from innovative and leading companies in the connected home world such as ARM, Nest, Qualcomm, and others. This community-based approach fosters an ecosystem focused on creating an optimal consumer experience through truly interoperable home IoT devices.
    • Easy to get started: Thread is extremely intuitive and simple to configure and set up. Installation and setting up of the network (adding and removing devices) can be handled through a few steps via a smartphone or computer.
    • No single point of failure: Its architecture is made up of an interconnected web of parent and child nodes —  creating a resilient network that delivers seamless operations. If a parent or router node goes down, it will dynamically reroute network traffic to the next available node to ensure a redundant and highly available network.
    • Energy efficient: Current standards and protocols can eat up battery life quickly, especially if devices are left on. Devices running on Thread, based on power-efficient IEEE 802.15.4 radios, have lower power requirements due to innovative features that allow non-active nodes to “sleep” to reduce energy consumption — allowing supported devices to operate for several years on AA type batteries.
    • Smartphone-grade security: Since Thread was designed for home IoT devices, security is ingrained in its design. Devices must be authorized to join the network and it leverages state-of-the-art authentication and encryption schemes both at the network and application layers.
    • Scalable without compromising performance: Thread is highly scalable with the ability to connect more than 250 devices into a single network. But scaling to this number doesn’t hamper performance as it does with standard wireless protocols. With its peer-to-peer architecture, Thread allows each router to become a parent router (in order to facility network communications) when necessary to improve network performance.

The Promise of Thread in Home IoT

As stated on the Thread Group website, Thread was designed with one solitary goal in mind — to create the best way to connect and control products in the home. Within a Thread network, all home IoT devices can play well together without fear of downtime and drained batteries.

The IoT market will continue to thrive through the efforts of Google and Nest, but also through the continued adoption of Thread across major device manufacturers buying in on an open protocol that fosters simplify, efficiency, scalability, security, and resiliency. This unified approach in the market will manifest itself through a web of interconnected devices all working together to deliver a more engaging and efficient home experience for all to enjoy.