Z-Wave – Popular Wireless Protocol for Home Automation and Internet of Things Devices

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Z-Wave for IoT

As Internet of Things (IoT) becomes the new frontier in technology, all attention seems to be turning to wireless networks for home automation. One of the key players in remote home security and automation is without a doubt the Z-Wave protocol.

Z-Wave, also known as Zwave, is a communication protocol that uses RF signaling to connect and control devices used in home automation. It is a low bandwidth protocol, capable of sending short messages reliably, from one control unit to several slave nodes connected in a network. Z-Wave protocol is made of four layers:

· MAC layer that controls Radio Frequency media
· The transfer layer in charge of transmission and receiving of frames
· Routing layer that routes frames within the network
· Application layer in charge of the transmitted and received payload

The technology was developed in 2004 by Zensys Inc. in Denmark. The protocol is based on the same concepts used to develop another wireless network, Zigbee, but at a simpler and less expensive cost. Currently, Z-Wave is owned by California based Sigma Designs.

It is worth noting that manufacturers of home products, especially in lighting control, are now making their products fully compatible with Z-Wave. In fact, there are more than 50 million Z-Wave controlled devices in homes across the world. The technology is commonly used in remote home monitoring and security, in energy savings, in comfort and convenience products, and devices designed to help in the field of aging in place. In all these scenarios, a consumer can easily and conveniently control several devices from a single app in their tablet or smart phone.

In securing homes, a user would simply have to create what is called a “scene”, and probably name it “Secure Home While Away” for example. This scene would run commands to ensure the home is well locked, while the user is away, as well as manage other commands, such as turning off lights and activating alarms. All this is done from the user’s smart phone or tablet. The home owner can even monitor and control power consumption in their homes from their phone. The technology is not just about home automation, but energy savings too.

What sets Z-Wave protocol apart from other popular wireless technologies is the interoperability built in Z-Wave that makes it compatible with over 1500 products. It works seamlessly with different products and brands. Z-Wave gives users greater choice than all the other technologies in the same industry. None even comes close to it. For instance, while Bluetooth is quite popular for point-to-point applications, its short-range technology, useful in small networks, lacks the interoperability required to manage home automation. ZigBee’s 900 MHz technology is not interoperable with home automation either.

Wi-Fi is another popular wireless technology but does not have a complete interoperable command and control system. Other solutions like KNFX RF technology have an undefined security layer, and cannot be used in designing command and control applications. This lack of full interoperability in similar technologies is the reason why Z-Wave has the greatest number of interoperable products in the market today.

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A veteran of the semiconductor and electronics industry, Mel began his career repairing dot matrix printers in 1998 for a larget IT company in the healthcare space. While earning his electronic engineering degree, he worked at a small design firm, giving him a broad base of knowledge in mechanical and electrical engineering, as well as purchasing and supply chain management. Once he graduated, Mel decided to pursue technical sales, working for one of the largest broad-line electronic component distributors in the world. To narrow his focus on a group of suppliers and technologies, Mel spent eight years working as a manufacturers’ rep selling semiconductors. With a well-rounded background in engineering, distribution, and technical rep sales, he currently works for a large semiconductor manufacturer in the Atlanta area. Mel has two small children and enjoys hiking on the weekends.

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