Smart home devices and home automation can use any number of communications and wireless technology. The correct hub (see Creating Fully Integrated Home Automation and a Truly Smart Home/Office Using the Internet of Things) can manage many of these technologies. However, in selecting new devices for your smart home Z-Wave provides the most secure, reliable, flexible, and cost-effective solution.

With the correct Smart Hub, one needs only control, actor, and sensor devices that communicate well with the Hub. Until now, home automation required complete and complex rewiring of the home with separate bulky DB boards. Newer smarter devices have WiFi, which has been the de facto standard, but some inherent limitations have led to the creation of alternate wireless technologies.

Wireless Communication 101

But let’s start with the basics.  Simplistically, when reviewing a communications technology, one needs to look at (1) the medium – the way the actual transmission occurs – and (2) the protocol and standards. This could be analogous with how two people communicate to one another. The medium could be speech, writing, hand signals, etc. while the protocol is the specific language used. In electronic communications, the media is split into wired or wireless. The differences in wireless technologies are all about frequency and protocol. The best known short range wireless technologies are WiFi and Bluetooth. WiFi operates on 2.4GHz and 5GHz and uses TCP/IP protocol, and Bluetooth operates between 2MHz and 3.5MHz using a version of Bluetooth SIG standards. The names of the protocols and what this means will be highlighted later, but for now, they can be viewed as analogous to two different languages such as English and German.

What is Z-Wave?

For IoT applications any wireless technologies can be used including some new technologies that have recently been developed. WiFi, Bluetooth, GSM Infrared are some of the old names, with Z-Wave, Zigbee, EnOcean being the newcomers. Home automation is not new, and current, costly automation systems use proprietary technology. Z-Wave is inHarmony’s focus technology and is the fastest growing technology in this space. The Z-Wave standard has some distinct advantages because it is well-defined, and importunately, well-managed by the Z-Wave Alliance. Zigbee, for example, has over ten different specifications to the single Z-Wave spec.

The essential elements that distinguish Z-Wave from the rest:

  1. Uses around 800MHz frequency which is very low energy.
  2. The limitations this imposes in the distance is fixed by creating a mesh network where every device acts as a booster and message relay for the network and phenomenal reliability. This has a further advantage over WiFi, for example. This has a single hub, so congestion fast occurs. A Z-Wave hub can handle 1000’s of devices where a WiFi hub starts losing reliability and speed in the teens.
  3. Z-wave requires physical once off pairing to the hub, creating unparalleled security when compared to all other protocols.
  4. Simple, standard protocol leading to a broad array of device manufacturers with lower price and interoperability.

Z-Wave versus…

We will compare available technologies. Some criterea:

  1. Reliable
  2. Secure
  3. Low emissions – energy usage
  4. Simple to use
  5. Low price
  6. Protection of investment
  7. Interoperability
Viewing on your smartphone? Swipe from right to left to scroll.
CriteriaZ-WaveWiFiBluetoothZigbeeCustom
ReliableYes, mesh networkYes mainly, but runs into range issues and interference issues do to busy frequencyNo, no real network capabilityYesYes
SecureYesNoYesNo, has been shown to be easily hackedYes
Low EmissionYesNoYesYesNo
SimplicityYesNoYesNo, multiple standardsNo
Low PriceYesYes, much lower than other standardsYesYesNo
Investment ProtectionYesYesNo, could be a dying standardNoNo
IntermobilityYesYesNoNoNo
ConclusionCurrent leader in Smart Space technologyCheap, but best used for integrating legacy devices due to reliability and security issuesGood for one-on-one connectivity but lacks interoperability reliability for the smart spaceMultiple standards are prohibiting growthUsed to be the only way for home automation but only for the rich and famous

Z-Wave – Purpose Built to Bring Your Space into IoT

Z-Wave is the only technology that is perfectly and purposefully built for the smart space and automation. The secure encryption and manual pairing of devices make it the most secure internet-enabled system on the market. Energy savings and reliability are second to none thanks to the mesh network. And maybe most importantly, its interoperability provides for automation of any and all aspects of the home. This allows “best in class” devices to be added to any setup in a modular fashion allowing you to grow your system at your pace. And all this at a fraction of the cost of current systems, taking home automation away from the realm of the millionaire mansion and bringing it to your home.