6LoWPAN, IEEE 802.15.4, Thread radios, Matter connectivity standard

truerock

New Around Here
I want some feedback on the direction of home networks in 2022.
I tried some discussion in other forums and there were just too many people that didn't know home networking that well.
I'm thinking I may have better luck in www.snbforums.com/foums

I thought when Apple announced they were putting Thread network radios in Apple HomePod minis and Thread protocol support in HomeKit that I could safely move forward into the world of Internet of Things.
I was going to buy a couple of Apple HomePod minis and a couple of Eve Systems smart plugs for Christmas presents - but,
as I started to research the act model numbers of what to purchase, I found it was more complicated than I realized.

So I would appreciate some feedback on a couple of issues.

1. Will 6LoWPAN (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6LoWPAN) and IEEE 802.15.4 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_802.15.4) wireless protocol make Bluetooth a dead end - especially for networks if not keyboards, mice, etc.?

2. Will devices like Apple HomePod minis and Eve Systems smart plugs with Thread radios be able to upgrade to the Matter connectivity standard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matter_(standard)) in 2022 - or, should I wait until I can purchase Matter certified products?

I plan to buy no networking products starting today until I know they are (or will be) Matter connectivity standard certified - and I need to replace every one of my routers, modems, inkjet printers, PCs, etc, etc.

I appreciate any intelligent feedback on this. I'm very uninformed and I need to come up to speed.

Thanks
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
Don't jump, until you've verified what you're jumping into.

Apple has a poor track record of doing things in generally accepted guidelines. Apple is where the dead-end is for me.

Nobody can predict what will happen.

Only buy what you can test and verify today. Or tomorrow. But certainly not when some iffy manufacturer promises the moon, just so they can strengthen their bottom line for this quarter (and they are all iffy until they provide a product that has been independently verified to do as advertised).

The 'complicated part' is on purpose (from the manufacturers). They don't want you to know the best way, they want you to think theirs is the only way. And you must buy everything they offer to make it work so.
 

truerock

New Around Here
Don't jump, until you've verified what you're jumping into.

Apple has a poor track record of doing things in generally accepted guidelines. Apple is where the dead-end is for me.

Nobody can predict what will happen.

Only buy what you can test and verify today. Or tomorrow. But certainly not when some iffy manufacturer promises the moon, just so they can strengthen their bottom line for this quarter (and they are all iffy until they provide a product that has been independently verified to do as advertised).

The 'complicated part' is on purpose (from the manufacturers). They don't want you to know the best way, they want you to think theirs is the only way. And you must buy everything they offer to make it work so.
Thanks... and I agree.

I'm not necessarily suggesting Apple is so wonderful that I should follow everything that they do - but, when Apple put Thread radios in their Mini Home Pods it had an immediate impact on the smart-home industry. All the major players reacted.
 

TheLostSwede

Senior Member
6LoWPAN wasn't used in many products, at least not commercial products, mostly because of poor interoperability.
802.15.4 requires additional software layers to function, ZigBee, Thread and 6LoWPAN are variants of those.
ZigBee is widely used in a lot of different kinds of implementations, although the biggest success has been in lighting, no small thanks to Philips Hue (now Signify) and its "success" in the market. There are many different "flavours" of ZigBee, with HA being Home Automation, LL being LightLink which was used in some lighting specific applications, but seems to have been depreciated by now and RF4CE being a Bluetooth competitor for remote controls and so on.

Bluetooth has taken its time to become usable as a home automation/IoT standard, as early devices had limited range, could only be used when connected directly to a phone/tablet and so on. That said, it's still a poorly thought out standard for these types of devices, although it shares much if its downsides with ZigBee and Thread, since neither protocol appears to have any means for a device to let the gateway know what capabilities it has. As such, the gateway either has to know the device already, or be able to accept some kind input from the user that helps describe the capabilities of the device to the gateway.

Matter is too new to have any real relevance, although the "standard" has a lot of big corporations behind it and seems like it will replace ZigBee and Thread over time, in some applications. The fact that the ZigBee Alliance has become the Connectivity Standards Alliance, who is the driving force behind Matter obviously has a lot to do with that.

The thing is, just because something isn't universally compatible, doesn't mean it's not fit for purpose. Z-Wave has by far been the most popular home automation standard in the US market and it's using the 900 MHz frequency range. This quickly became an issue, as a lot of countries don't allow the usage of the same frequency range as North America does, which means a lot of products never made it outside of the North American market. There's something like a dozen different frequency ranges globally for Z-Wave and in the past the manufacturer had to buy specific modules from Zensys/Sigma Designs and now finally Silicon Labs. Despite this, there are thousands of Z-Wave compatible devices and they're often much easier to use, as the Z-Wave protocol mandates that devices "introduce" themselves when paired, so the gateway knows what type of device it is, even though it might not be able to detect most multi-functional devices without additional input. This makes for less work for the gateway manufacturers and I believe this was one of the reasons why Z-Wave gained as much market share as it did. There's a large list of predefined device classes that the device manufacturers can select from, which further makes the whole pairing process a lot simpler.

I think you're also worrying about devices that are unlikely to ever get support for the standards we're talking about here, although as Matter is said to be an IP based technology, it could of course be implemented in non typical home automation/IoT typ devices, when it makes sense. I guess it could be useful to be able to get printer ink notifications sent to your phone via some app, but I'm not sure most people would care enough about such a function.

A lot of the chip makers have said that their ZigBee/Thread/Bluetooth chips will get support for Matter, but again, that doesn't mean the device makers are going to be willing to make a Matter compatible firmware for all of their devices. A more likely scenario is that you'll end up having to get a new gateway, much in the same way that we've seen some of the home automation companies advance to new gateways as their initial products were too anemic to last (Philips and SmartThings being the two big culprits here). Then that new gateway could easily bridge your older devices with a Matter "network".

Hopefully this makes some kind of sense and works out being helpful.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
A lot of the chip makers have said that their ZigBee/Thread/Bluetooth chips will get support for Matter, but again, that doesn't mean the device makers are going to be willing to make a Matter compatible firmware for all of their devices.

There's a lot of good points being made here...

Challenge here it that there is a huge amount of momentum to overcome to get the smart home players into the same room and agree - each with their own investments and interests that are not commonly aligned.

Reminds me of the XKCD item about getting everyone into a single unified spec.

Matter is just one more...


standards_2x.png
 

coxhaus

Part of the Furniture
I am for Bluetooth for IoT devices. It seems more secure to me. I use Apple HomeKit. It seems reliable with Apple standing behind it. But It seems to be in the minority right now.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
In a sense, it is (more) secure because of the very low range vs. WiFi.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
I am for Bluetooth for IoT devices. It seems more secure to me.

BT and BTLE bring in their own issues, along with the other protocol stacks (Zigbee, ZWave, Thread, etc) - security is always a challenge, unfortunately.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
In a sense, it is (more) secure because of the very low range vs. WiFi.

Not really... one can snoop up to 1KM with the right hardware... 400M is realistic for a class 1 device, most though are class 2...

Class 1 is 20 dBm (100 mw)... Class 2, IIRC, is 4 dBm, which is 2.5 mw


bt_range.png
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
Thanks for that table @sfx2000.

Do you know what 'class 2 outdoors' is? Or, the difference to just 'outdoors'?

Either way, most of us are not normally operating Bluetooth equipment (I'm not counting headphones, etc.) in the great outdoors.

And I don't believe the use case that @coxhaus is either.
 

TheLostSwede

Senior Member
Thanks for that table @sfx2000.

Do you know what 'class 2 outdoors' is? Or, the difference to just 'outdoors'?

Either way, most of us are not normally operating Bluetooth equipment (I'm not counting headphones, etc.) in the great outdoors.

And I don't believe the use case that @coxhaus is either.
Outdoors is open space. Nordic and others have already tested their Bluetooth 5.x chips at ranges of up to 2km in open spaces. The classes is related to antenna and transmit power. The devices most consumers use have a range of 10m though (class 2), but this doesn't apply to home automation type devices.
 

coxhaus

Part of the Furniture
My thinking is you pretty much need to be on site to hack which I am ok with. That cuts out a lot of other countries. I use Bluetooth speakers and home automation. My preferred system is Apple HomeKit which can run on my AppleTV 24/7 and not require an additional device. This is low power draw.

I am not sure I have any Bluetooth 5. I will check.
 
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TheLostSwede

Senior Member
My thinking is you pretty much need to be on site to hack which I am ok with. That cuts out a lot of other countries. I use Bluetooth speakers and home automation. My preferred system is Apple HomeKit which can run on my AppleTV 24/7 and not require an additional device. This is low power draw.

I am not sure I have any Bluetooth 5. I will check.
As pointed out, 100 meters is a fairly standard range for a lot of home automation type devices that uses Bluetooth.
I guess it all comes down to how paranoid you are, but there's no such thing as a secure wireless device.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
My preferred system is Apple HomeKit which can run on my AppleTV 24/7 and not require an additional device. This is low power draw.

Should point out that the newer ATV 4K's are WiFi6, BT5, and support Thread.

It's more that just an improved remote on the new ones.

Nice little boxes that do a lot more than just play media... With MATTER fully implemented, the ATV can perform the gateway function from the thread network to LAN via ethernet or WiFi.
 
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