Thread tools

The tools listed on this page can be helpful when developing your Thread application with the nRF Connect SDK.

nRF Sniffer for 802.15.4

The nRF Sniffer for 802.15.4 is a tool for learning about and debugging applications that are using protocols based on IEEE 802.15.4, like Thread or Zigbee. It provides a near real-time display of 802.15.4 packets that are sent back and forth between devices, even when the link is encrypted.

See nRF Sniffer for 802.15.4 for documentation.

nRF Thread Topology Monitor

nRF Thread Topology Monitor is a desktop application that connects to a Thread network through a serial connection to visualize the topology of Thread devices. It allows you to scan for new devices in real time, check their parameters, and inspect network processes through the log.

See nRF Thread Topology Monitor for documentation.

Thread Border Router

The Thread Border Router is a specific type of Border Router device that provides connectivity from the IEEE 802.15.4 network to adjacent networks on other physical layers (such as Wi-Fi or Ethernet). Border Routers provide services for devices within the IEEE 802.15.4 network, including routing services for off-network operations.

Typically, a Border Router solution consists of the following parts:

  • An application based on the Network co-processor (NCP) design or its Radio co-processor (RCP) variant compatible with the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. This application can be implemented, for example, on an nRF52 device.

  • A host-side application, usually implemented on a more powerful device with an incorporated Linux-based operating system.

The nRF Connect SDK does not provide a complete Thread Border Router solution. For development purposes, you can use the OpenThread Border Router (OTBR) released by Google, an open-source Border Router implementation that you can set up either on your PC using Docker or on a Raspberry Pi.

The OpenThread Border Router is compatible with Nordic Semiconductor devices. It implements a number of features, including:

  • Bidirectional IP connectivity between Thread and Wi-Fi or Ethernet networks (or both)

  • Network components that allow Thread nodes to connect to IPv4 networks (NAT64, DNS64)

  • Bidirectional DNS-based service discovery using mDNS (on Wi-Fi or Ethernet link, or both) and SRP (on Thread network)

  • External Thread commissioning (for example, using a mobile phone) to authenticate and join a Thread device to a Thread network

You can either install the OpenThread Border Router on a Raspberry Pi or run it using a Docker container, as described in the following sections. In both cases, you must first configure a radio co-processor (RCP), which provides the required radio capability to your Linux device.

Configuring a radio co-processor

The OpenThread Border Router must have physical access to the IEEE 802.15.4 network that is used by the Thread protocol. As neither the Linux-based PC nor the Raspberry Pi have such radio capability, you must connect an external nRF device that serves as radio co-processor.

To program the nRF device with the RCP application, complete the following steps:

  1. Build the Thread: Co-processor sample for the hardware platform and the transport of your choice:

    west build -p always -b nrf52840dongle_nrf52840 nrf/samples/openthread/coprocessor/ -- -DOVERLAY_CONFIG="overlay-usb.conf" -DDTC_OVERLAY_FILE="usb.overlay"
  2. Depending on the hardware platform, complete the following steps:

    1. Install nRF Util as described in Installing nRF Util for nRF5 SDK.

    2. Generate the RCP firmware package:

      nrfutil pkg generate --hw-version 52 --sd-req=0x00 \
       --application build/zephyr/zephyr.hex --application-version 1 build/zephyr/
    3. Connect the nRF52840 Dongle to the USB port.

    4. Press the RESET button on the dongle to put it into the DFU mode. The LED on the dongle starts blinking red.

    5. Install the RCP firmware package onto the dongle by running the following command, with /dev/ttyACM0 replaced with the device node name of your nRF52840 Dongle:

      nrfutil dfu usb-serial -pkg build/zephyr/ -p /dev/ttyACM0

Installing OTBR manually (Raspberry Pi)

The recommended option is to build and configure the OpenThread Border Router on a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B or newer. This option provides most of the functionalities available in the OpenThread Border Router, such as border routing capabilities needed for establishing Thread communication with a mobile phone on a Wi-Fi network. However, this approach requires you to download the OpenThread Border Router repository and install the Border Router manually on the Raspberry Pi.

To set up and configure the OpenThread Border Router, follow the official OpenThread Border Router Codelab tutorial on the OpenThread documentation portal with the below modifications:

  • After cloning the repository in the Get OTBR code section, make sure to check out the compatible commit id:

    cd ot-br-posix
    git pull --unshallow
    git checkout 9185bda
  • After the Build and install OTBR section, configure RCP device’s UART baud rate in otbr-agent. Modify the /etc/default/otbr-agent configuration file with default RCP baud rate:

  • Omit the Build and flash RCP firmware section, because that section duplicates the steps already performed in the Configuring a radio co-processor section of this guide.

Running OTBR using Docker

For development purposes, you can run the OpenThread Border Router on any Linux-based system using a Docker container that already has the Border Router installed. This solution can be used when you are only interested in direct communication between your Border Router and the Thread network. For example, you can use the Docker container when you want to establish IP communication between an application running on Linux (such as the CHIP Tool Matter controller) and an application running on a Thread node.

To install and configure the OpenThread Border Router using the Docker container on an Ubuntu operating system, complete the following steps:

  1. Install the Docker daemon:

    sudo apt update && sudo apt install
  2. Start the Docker daemon:

    sudo systemctl start docker
  3. Create an IPv6 network for the OpenThread Border Router container in Docker:

    sudo docker network create --ipv6 --subnet fd11:db8:1::/64 -o otbr
  4. Download the compatible version of the OpenThread Border Router docker image by running the following command:

    docker pull nrfconnect/otbr:9185bda
  5. Connect the radio co-processor that you configured in Configuring a radio co-processor to the Border Router device.

  6. Start the OpenThread Border Router container using the following commands:

    sudo modprobe ip6table_filter
    sudo docker run -it --rm --privileged --name otbr --network otbr -p 8080:80 \
    --sysctl "net.ipv6.conf.all.disable_ipv6=0 net.ipv4.conf.all.forwarding=1 net.ipv6.conf.all.forwarding=1" \
    --volume /dev/ttyACM0:/dev/radio nrfconnect/otbr:9185bda --radio-url spinel+hdlc+uart:///dev/radio?uart-baudrate=1000000

    Replace /dev/ttyACM0 with the device node name of the OpenThread radio co-processor.

  7. Form the Thread network using one of the following options:

    • Follow the instruction in the OpenThread Border Router Codelab tutorial step 3.

    • Open the http://localhost:8080/ address in a web browser and choose Form from the menu.


      If you are using a Raspberry Pi without a screen, but you have a different device in the same network, you can start a web browser on that device and use the address of the Raspberry Pi instead of localhost.

  8. Note down the selected On-Mesh Prefix value. For example, fd11:22::/64.

  9. Make sure that packets addressed to devices in the Thread network are routed through the OpenThread Border Router container in Docker. To do this, run the following command that uses the On-Mesh Prefix that you configured in the previous step (in this case, fd11:22::/64):

    sudo ip -6 route add fd11:22::/64 dev otbr0 via fd11:db8:1::2
  10. Check the status of the OpenThread Border Router by executing the following command:

    sudo docker exec -it otbr sh -c "sudo service otbr-agent status"
  11. Check the status of the Thread node running inside the Docker:

    sudo docker exec -it otbr sh -c "sudo ot-ctl state"


OTBR on the Docker has got disabled DNS64 service by default.

OpenThread POSIX applications

OpenThread POSIX applications allow to communicate with a radio co-processor (RCP) in a comfortable way.

OpenThread provides the following applications:

  • ot-cli - Works like the Thread: CLI sample for the RCP architecture.

  • ot-daemon and ot-ctl - Provides the same functionality as ot-cli, but keeps the daemon running in the background all the time. See OpenThread Daemon for more information.

When working with Thread, you can use these tools to interact with the following sample:

See OpenThread POSIX app for more information.

Building the OpenThread POSIX applications

Build the OpenThread POSIX applications by performing the following steps:

  1. Enter the openthread directory:

    cd modules/lib/openthread
  2. Install the OpenThread dependencies:

  3. Build the applications with the required options. For example, to build the ot-cli application with support for Thread v1.1, run the following command:

    ./script/cmake-build posix -DOT_THREAD_VERSION=1.1

    Alternatively, to build the ot-daemon and ot-ctl applications with support for Thread v1.2, run the following command:

    ./script/cmake-build posix -DOT_THREAD_VERSION=1.2 -DOT_DAEMON=ON

You can find the generated applications in ./build/posix/src/posix/.

Running the OpenThread POSIX applications

Use the following radio URL parameter to connect to an RCP node.

'spinel+hdlc+uart://\ *ncp_uart_device*\ ?uart-baudrate=\ *baud_rate*'

Replace the following parameters:

  • ncp_uart_device - Specifies the location of the device, for example: /dev/ttyACM0.

  • baud_rate - Specifies the baud rate to use. The Thread Co-Processor sample supports baud rate 1000000.

For example, to use ot-daemon, enter the following command:

sudo ./build/posix/src/posix/ot-daemon 'spinel+hdlc+uart:///dev/ttyACM0?uart-baudrate=1000000' --verbose

And on a separate terminal window:

sudo ./build/posix/src/posix/ot-ctl

To use ot-cli, enter the following command instead:

sudo ./build/posix/src/posix/ot-cli 'spinel+hdlc+uart:///dev/ttyACM0?uart-baudrate=1000000' --verbose