If you’re shopping for smart home gear, you’re bound to come across products with little logos that say “Built on Thread” often with adjacent text like “Required Border Router.” Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Thread?
Thread is a low-power IP-based mesh network protocol built from the ground up for the Internet of Things (IoT) smart home.
The benefits of Thread over other protocols like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi include extremely low power consumption, internet connectivity integrated into even small and low-power items that traditionally wouldn’t have a network connection (like smart home sensors), and improved security thanks to the security protocols existing at the network layer of the protocol.
In addition, Thread is particularly well suited for a smart home environment because Thread-based devices form a self-healing mesh network that grows and becomes stronger the more devices you add.
Although Thread and Matter, the smart home standard, are closely related in that Thread-based local mesh networks are a significant component of Matter, the two are independent of each other and shouldn’t be confused.
Thread, for example, plays a role in Apple’s HomeKit system independently of any Matter integration.
Built on Thread, Requires Border Router, and More
Among the many logos you’ll see on smart home devices, you’ll increasingly see Thread logos. There are several variants with different meanings. Understanding what each logo means will help you shop more effectively for smart home products.
What Does “Built on Thread” Mean?
Products with the “Built on Thread” logo are Thread certified, and the logo indicates that the product was designed for use with a Thread smart home network.
You will see this logo on consumer-facing products, such as the variety of smart home products from Eve (like the Eve Energy smart plug).
Amazon Eero 6+ (3-pack)
The three-pack Eero 6+ is an excellent mesh router system for large homes, or any other area that struggles with strong Wi-Fi signals. It includes a built-in Thread border router for smart home integration.
You’ll also see it on some of the more advanced smart home-integrated mesh routers on the market, like the eero 6 and eero 6+. Both are smart purchase if you want to integrate Thread into your home and be Matter ready.
What Does “Thread Certified Component” Mean?
While “Built on Thread” is used for consumer-facing products like smart plugs, sensors, and such, the “Certified Component” designation is used for the individual Thread components found within those products. You’re unlikely to see any products with the “Thread Certified Component” on the shelves of your local Best Buy.
If you’re building your own DIY smart home device, you might come across a “Thread Certified Component” as you’ll be purchasing just a radio dongle or add-on board and not a finished consumer-ready product.
What Do “Border Router” and “Requires Border Router” Mean?
In the topography of a Thread network, a Thread border router is a device that serves as a member of the local Thread mesh network and as a gateway between that local mesh network and the greater networks beyond.
If the device you’re looking at has the logo “Built on Thread: Border Router” then the device in question functions as a border router. The aforementioned eero 6 and eero 6+, for example, are border routers.
If the device has the logo “Built on Thread: Requires Border Router” then that device, such as Onvis Smart Contact Sensor, requires a connection with a Thread border router.
Per the guidelines laid out by the Thread Group, the use of the additional “Border Router” or “Required Border Router” flag on the primary logo is optional. So it’s best to double-check if a particular device requires a border router—especially when looking at small sensors and such.