Thread/OpenThread: A Compromise in Low-Power Wireless Multihop Network Architecture for the Internet of Things

Hyung-Sin Kim Networks

Extending an Internet subnet by connecting resource-constrained nodes (e.g., embedded sensors and actuators) over multiple wireless hops is necessary to support the future Internet of Things (IoT). RPL, the IPv6 routing standard for low-power and lossy networks, tried to achieve this goal but has not seen wide adoption in practice. As an alternative, Thread is a recently standardized low-power network protocol for IoT, driven by the Thread group, an industry consortium led by Google/Nest. We provide a comparative analysis of the technical aspects of RPL and Thread based on their specifications, explaining why using Thread, as opposed to RPL, may make sense for the future Internet. Specifically, the fundamental differences between RPL and Thread are their respective scopes and multihop network architectures, which result in Thread’s unique design and advantages over RPL. Lastly, we evaluate Thread in an indoor multihop wireless testbed using OpenThread, an official open source implementation of Thread. This work serves as the first analysis of the Thread protocol in academia.

Published On: July 18, 2019

Presented At/In: IEEE Communications Magazine (Future Internet: Architectures and Protocols)

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Authors: Hyung-Sin Kim, Sam Kumar, David Culler