Matter is getting closer. A new smart home standard that promises to make building a smart home as easy as screwing in a light bulb took a big step towards that lofty goal this week. Thread, Matter’s core wireless protocol that will work alongside Wi-Fi, just went down. Thread 1.3.0 will allow Thread devices to work with any Thread edge router by removing current manufacturer-specific checkpoints. It also sets the stage for Thread-enabled Matter devices, due to start arriving later this year, to join existing Thread networks using these edge routers.
If you have any of these devices at home today, you’re in luck. After a manufacturer update, they can become Thread 1.3.0 edge routers. This will allow you to add any Thread device to your home without purchasing additional hardware.
- Nest Hub Max smart display
- Nest Hub Smart Display (Gen 2)
- Nest Wifi Mesh Router
- Apple TV 4K
- Apple HomePod Mini
- Smart speaker Echo (fourth generation)
- Shapes, Elements and Lines of Nanoleaf LED Light Bars
- All Eero Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers and above
While there may be more options as Matter approaches (a Thread border router can be built into just about any device with an always-on power supply and an Internet connection), the manufacturers of these products have publicly pledged to make them Thread border routers when Matter arrives.
In the case of Apple, Eero, and Nanoleaf devices, they already act as edge routers. The Thread 1.3.0 specification/certification is backward compatible with previous versions. “From a technical standpoint, anything currently operating as a Thread edge router can be upgraded,” said Jonathan Hui, Thread Group vice president of technology and chief software engineer at Google Nest. edge in an interview.
Currently, if you have a Thread-enabled device, such as a Nanoleaf Essential light bulb or an Eve Energy smart plug (see full list here), it can connect to a Thread edge router to communicate with other devices on your home network and beyond. outside of it. thanks to Thread’s IP-based makeover. But today, edge routers from different manufacturers, such as the HomePod Mini or the Eero 6 Wi-Fi router, cannot communicate with each other. If you have two edge routers from two different companies, you are running two separate flow networks. This defeats the main purpose of Thread: to create one self-healing mesh network that continues to work even if one device fails.
With the release of the Thread 1.3.0 specification, the Thread edge router feature is standardized. This means there are no competing Thread networks anymore; edge routers from different manufacturers will seamlessly connect to the same Thread network. “Flow 1.3.0 causes the edge router to appear on the Wi-Fi network. [network] just like any other Wi-Fi device, allowing any existing device on the Wi-Fi network to communicate with these Thread devices without the need for any special software,” explains Hui.
Thread 1.3.0 also allows Matter-over-Thread devices to easily connect to Thread’s network. For example, a Matter controller app on a smartphone, such as the Google Home app, can quickly pick up every Matter device on the Thread network, providing a simple setup similar to how Apple HomeKit works today. “It uses the same technology as HomeKit, the same technology used to discover printers on your network that you want to add to your computer,” says Hui. “These are the same basic protocols – mDNS, Bonjour. Now we just propagate this to Thread.”
When your compatible lights, locks, shades or sensors are connected to the Thread network, they can be controlled using the Matter controller from any compatible ecosystem. This includes Apple’s HomeKit, Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa, or Samsung’s SmartThings. With Matter’s multi-admin management feature, you can add your devices to all ecosystems if you want.
The Thread Group is an industry collaboration supported by Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung SmartThings and others to develop a low power wireless networking protocol specifically for the smart home and connected devices.
A low power, low latency wireless protocol, Thread creates a self-healing mesh network based on proactive routing, which means devices communicate directly with each other to find the most efficient path. This is why a Thread-enabled light bulb will turn on in a fraction of a second, compared to a Bluetooth light bulb, which may take several seconds to receive a command.
While flow networks do not need a central hub or bridge like the similar low-power mesh protocols Z-Wave and Zigbee do, they do require at least one flow edge router. This works similar to a bridge or hub, connecting devices to your home network and the internet. When Matter arrives, it will also connect them to Matter’s controllers – that could be a Thread edge router (like the HomePod Mini) or your smartphone running the Google Home app.
But edge routers are different from the hubs and bridges we know and hate today. First, edge router technology can be built into existing devices such as smart speakers, Wi-Fi routers, or even smart lighting fixtures, so manufacturers don’t have to build custom hubs and bridges. This means fewer white boxes hanging on your router. Secondly, the border router does not see the conversations that your devices are having (all messages are end-to-end encrypted); he just passes them on. And third, with this new 1.3.0 release, any Thread device can connect to any Thread edge router, regardless of manufacturer. This means a single Thread edge router can connect all of your Thread-enabled accessories.
But it only matters if people have border routers in their homes, which has prevented a protocol first developed in 2015 from really taking off. “The lack of edge routers in the market created a chicken and egg problem where product vendors saw the value of Thread but struggled to understand how they could get Thread devices in the market without these edge routers,” says Hui. This latest version of Thread standardizes edge routers so companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google can manufacture them in a way that device vendors can rely on. “Just like today we rely on Wi-Fi,” says Hui.
Another feature introduced in Thread 1.3.0 is simplified over-the-air updates. The new specification requires devices to use the Transmission Control Protocol standard for firmware updates on stream-enabled devices. “You can upgrade all devices at the same time without impacting network performance because it uses the TCP protocol,” says Hui. He also confirmed that this could enable remote updates, which means you no longer have to stand next to a door sensor while holding your phone up in the sky to download a firmware update. This is what I call progress.
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