How to Design Hardware Products for New Thread Wireless Protocol

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The purpose of the new wireless protocol is to help smart home automation or Internet of Things (IoT) devices talk with each other more efficiently. But what does this mean for new products currently in development or existing smart home products? Here’s what we found out:

Thread Protocol Background:

  • Thread is a new low power wireless mesh network protocol for home automation products
  • It’s backed by several big name vendors including Samsung, Nest, ARM, Freescale Semiconductor, Silicon Labs who collectively formed the ‘Thread Group”
  • Thread Group’ modeled after WiFi Alliance and will carry out product certification, testing products for compliance and interoperability in order to carry Thread Logo

How will does the new Thread network protocol apply to new & existing Products?

  • All existing device which use ZigBee/6LoWPAN (802.15.4) standard can easily migrate to Thread with the existing radios with just a firmware update. No Hardware Needed
  • While companies can support Thread and build into products Thread certification will not take place till mid-2015
  • Plan to release the Thread specification in June 2015

The Thread Protocol and Technology:

  • Build off IEEE 802.15.4 standard that defines the PHY and MAC layers, leaving the upper layers open for development
  • ZigBee and 6LoWPAN are two specs with a custom upper layer that allow IPv6  and create a wireless embedded internet.
  • Thread will replace ZigBee or 6LoWPAN in the upper layers of 802.15.4 with Software update
  • Thread will improve wireless security, routing, setup and device wakeup that should save precious battery life

So, if you’re in development now or plan to release a new smart device or IoT hardware product make sure to include a 802.15.4 radio chip even if you’re using Wi-Fi.

This way if the ‘Thread’ protocol does take off, like it’s big-names backers say, your Smart Device will be supported.


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