In 2005, Z-Wave Alliance was founded to help standardize the technology and assist vendors with leveraging its advantages.
Any home automation configuration requires a communication protocol to allow devices to interact with each other and receive users’ commands. As of 2017, there’s over a dozen of such protocols, and some of them are well-known (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth), while others were created for the IoT industry specifically (Zigbee, Insteon, Z-wave).
All of them have the same goal yet differ by the number of compatible devices, interoperability, possibilities, power consumption requirements, bandwidth, and so on. Among them, Z-wave is the most promising one, and here’s why.
Unlike technologies aimed at general wireless information exchange like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, Z-Wave was developed in 2003 specifically to monitor and control home automation devices remotely. In 2005, Z-Wave Alliance was founded to help standardize the technology and assist vendors with leveraging its advantages.
12 years later, Z-Wave is used in over 1,500 different products; overall, over 40 million devices have been produced and work using that technology, and Z-Wave Alliance consists of 375 companies, Z-Wave’s ubiquity alone is solid proof of the technology’s reliability and effectiveness.
Still, if we dive a bit deeper into the premises, we’ll see the factual advantages of the protocol.
Depending on the country, Z-wave uses a unique frequency in the range of 865–926 Mhz. Unlike other popular technologies, for instance, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth sending radio waves in the band of ~~2.4 Ghz, Z-wave devices do not get affected by the traffic from other networks and the interference they might cause. In addition to that, all Z-wave devices act as repeaters, which helps extend signal power and range without additional efforts.
Any Z-wave device can talk with any other Z-wave device, even if one of them use the outdated initial Z-wave or, the more modern and widespread Z-wave Plus protocol. This is the interoperability users take for granted nowadays, yet some competing technologies like Zigbee still can’t offer the same flexibility due to their architecture.
Z-Wave implies having a central hub that all home automation devices connect to. While this approach is contrary to the popular ‘mesh’ (hub-less) network topology offered by Bluetooth Low Energy, Zigbee and some others, it helps ensure additional security. Once a device connects to a hub, it gets a unique ID for further communication with it exclusively. And if it’s an alarm or a door lock, Z-Wave guidelines also require protecting data with the AES-128 encryption.
Z-wave devices also consume power efficiently, with the battery life of up to several years in most cases. While in an apples to apples comparison some technologies may outrun Z-wave, the latter allows for the use of sleep mode, and overall does not drain energy like most Wi-Fi devices.
Created for end customers, Z-wave is extremely user-friendly and never requires a trained person to help a beginner with interested in home automation set up build a network on top of manually picked devices (and there can be up to 232 of them, and even in such corner case the integration will remain seamless!).
In addition to this list, at the end of August in 2016 Sigma Design, the company owning the Z-Wave technology, has made a game-changing move and released the interoperability layer of the protocol to the public domain. This now allows any developer, either a company or a single individual, to download their software for free, check how well their products are integrated with Z-Wave and thus speed up the development and release of new home automation devices. (For more details, see the official announcement.)
As a result, 2017 is expected to be a year of a significant increase in the number of smart appliances supporting Z-wave rather than any other technology fitting for home automation. And considering 375 companies that joined Z-Wave Alliance and producing next-gen smart home devices, it’s no surprise Z-Wave is nothing less than the most promising technology on the market in 2017.