The Thread Group has released the latest version of the Thread wireless protocol to address some pressing issues related to border routers, software updates and getting devices online ahead of the release of the Matter smart home interoperability standard expected this Fall. The updates to Thread will help make it easier to detect Thread devices on a local network, standardize getting devices onto a network and make TCP a requirement of Thread devices, so it’s easier to perform updates.
These are welcome changes to the standard, and will benefit those who want to use Matter for the smart home, since Thread is the low-data rate wireless networking protocol for Matter. Thread provides a low power, low-data rate mesh network for devices. It also uses IP, which means devices on a Thread network can speak directly to the internet if needed.
However, for many use cases, especially for use cases where saving power is paramount, Thread will likely be used in conjunction with gateway devices that connect Thread devices to a Wi-Fi network. These gateways are called Thread border routers. In low-power scenarios, Thread nodes can wake up, send their data to a Thread border router, and then go back to sleep. When other Thread nodes need to share information they can communicate with the border router or other nodes based on which are available. The border router then communicates with device son the Wi-Fi network or the internet.
Ahead of the Matter spec, Thread 1.3.0 has standardized how border routers handle devices that want to connect to a Thread network and how those devices can be discovered and communicate with devices outside of the Thread network. This means Thread devices will be more interoperable between different border routers and standardizes how border routers will behave.
The Thread Group has been working on this issue for the last three years, and it became more important as Thread became such an essential part of the Matter standard. It’s worth noting, that in addition to Matter the new release and its IP capabilities mean that Thread will also interoperate with other IoT standards such as KNX IoT, DALI+, OCF, and BACnet.
Additionally, the 1.3.0 update makes TCP an obligatory part of the standard, whereas before it was optional. This ensures that all Thread devices can be easily updated over IP while deployed in the field. Historically it would have been unclear which devices could be updated and which could not since product makers didn’t have to have TCP available for their Thread devices.
Overall, these updates provide consistency and clarity to both the Thread end nodes and how Thread border routers will work ahead of what the industry clearly hopes will become a large number of Thread deployments as part of Matter smart homes. Thread can be used in commercial, enterprise, or other settings, but the work done in the release will certainly help drive more use and adoption of a standard that has been waiting for its killer application since its initial launch in 2013.