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SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Kevin Jackson, Peter Silva, Greg Wind

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Introducing Thread: A New Wireless Networking Protocol for the Home

Recognizing the need for a new and better way to connect products in the home, seven companies today announced that they’ve joined forces to form the Thread Group (www.threadgroup.org) and develop Thread, a new IP-based wireless networking protocol. The charter of the Thread Group is to guide the adoption of the Thread protocol. Thread Group founding members consist of industry-leading companies including Yale Security, Silicon Labs, Samsung Electronics, Nest Labs, Freescale® Semiconductor, Big Ass Fans and ARM.

While currently available 802.15.4 networking technologies have their own advantages, each also has critical issues that prevent the promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) from being realized. These include lack of interoperability, inability to carry IPv6 communications, high power requirements that drain batteries quickly, and “hub and spoke” models dependent on one device (if that device fails, the whole network goes down). With Thread, product developers and consumers can easily and securely connect more than 250 devices into a low-power, wireless mesh network that also includes direct Internet and cloud access for every device.

“Existing wireless networking approaches were introduced long before the Internet of Things gained ground,” said Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist, Google, and advisor to the Thread Group. “The Thread protocol takes existing technologies and combines the best parts of each to provide a better way to connect products in the home.”

“A number of networking solutions and platforms have been introduced to address the growing demand for connected products in the home,” said Lisa Arrowsmith, associate director, connectivity, smart homes and smart cities, IHS Technology. “Built on well-proven standards, including IEEE 802.15.4, IETF IPv6 and 6LoWPAN, Thread represents a resilient, IP-based solution for the rapidly growing Internet of Things.”

Not Just Another Standard

Unlike many existing technologies or IoT approaches, Thread is not an application protocol or a connectivity platform for many types of disparate networks. Thread is an IPv6 networking protocol built on open standards, designed for low-power 802.15.4 mesh networks. Existing popular application protocols and IoT platforms can run over Thread networks. A version of Thread is already being used successfully in Nest products today.

A Better Network for Developers

Using proven standards and IPv6 technology with 6LoWPAN as its foundation, Thread offers product developers numerous technological advantages over existing wireless standards:

  • Reliable networks: Thread offers robust self-healing mesh networks that scale to hundreds of devices with no single point of failure. Devices are ready when people need them.
  • Secure networks: Thread networks feature secure, banking-class encryption. Thread closes identified security holes found in other wireless protocols and provides worry-free operation.
  • Simple connectivity: Thread devices are simple to install with a smartphone, tablet or computer. Consumers can securely connect Thread devices in the home to each other and to the cloud for easy control and access from anywhere.
  • Low power: Thread supports battery-operated devices as part of a home network. This allows the devices that people use every day – including thermostats, lighting controls, safety and security products – to be a part of the network without requiring constant charging or frequent battery changes.

Millions of existing 802.15.4 wireless devices already on the market can run Thread with just a software enhancement -- no new hardware required. Thread is designed for quick implementation and deployment of devices throughout the home.

Easy to Set Up, Easy to Use

Thread is designed with a new security architecture that allows consumers to simply and securely add and remove products to the network via a smartphone, tablet or computer. Thread’s mesh network technology provides improved reliability and coverage anywhere in the home and Thread products will be tested to ensure that they work together effortlessly and securely right out of the box. Thread products will also bear the Thread logo, indicating they have been certified for quality, security and interoperability -- and to help consumers identify them on the market.

Thread Group Membership

The Thread Group is focused on educating product developers and consumers on the benefits of Thread through marketing and rigorous, meaningful product certification. The Thread Group will offer two tiers of membership, Sponsor and Contributor. Interested parties can review membership benefits and register at http://www.threadgroup.org/Join.aspx.

About Thread

Designed for consumers and devices in and around the home, Thread easily and securely connects hundreds of devices to each other and directly to the cloud using real Internet Protocols in a low-power, wireless mesh network. The non-profit Thread Group is focused on making Thread the foundation for the Internet of Things in the home, educating product developers and consumers on the unique features and benefits of Thread and ensuring a great user experience through rigorous, meaningful product certification. Thread is backed by industry-leading companies including ARM, Big Ass Fans, Freescale Semiconductor, Nest Labs, Inc., Samsung, Silicon Labs and Yale Security. For more information, please visit www.threadgroup.org.

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