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THREAD protocol

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

The THREAD protocol is a home automation device communication method owned by Nest, a subsidiary of Google.

THREAD allows home automation devices to communicate through power lines, radio frequencies or a combination of both. THREAD enables communication between devices, including:

  • Home audio
  • Light switches
  • Thermostats
  • Remote controls
  • Leak sensors
  • Pumps
  • Motion sensors
  • Alarms

THREAD devices operate together as an 802.15.4 mesh network with AES encryption within the protocol. Devices in the network receive and repeat the signals of other modules, increasing the coverage and ease of deployment over some other network types. THREAD is IP-addressable and allows for cloud access as well, simplifying remote access and control.

An example of an action that THREAD might automate could be when the lights are turned off in the entryway, the heating and cooling may be taken off power-saving mode.

THREAD is a closed-documentation, but a royalty-free protocol. Like many other home automation protocols, THREAD is associated with the Internet of Things (IoT). The protocol can support a maximum of 250 devices, making it suitable for most home implementations. THREAD is also offered in an open source, equivalent BSD-licensed as-is protocol.  THREAD has clients to support mobile devices for iOS, watchOSAndroid and Windows phones.

With Google backing, THREAD is being pushed as an industry standard and is already supported by several companies including Samsung, ARM Holdings, Qualcomm, NXP Semiconductors/Freescale, Silicon Labs, Big Ass Solutions, Somfy, OSRAM, Tyco International and the lock company Yale. Competing technologies include X10, INSTEON, ZigBeeZ-Wave and Bluetooth LE.

This was last updated in November 2017

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