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Setting up your smart home kits these days can’t be done without noticing the Z-Wave ® logo on the boxes of your connected devices. According to The Z-Wave Alliance, “the Z-Wave ecosystem encompasses more than 2,400 interoperable products from more than 700 leading worldwide brands. These products work together through stringent enforcement of Z-Wave certification, performed at independent test labs, and overseen by the Z-Wave Alliance”. Z-Wave is designed for home automation and remote control applications. Do you have a Z-Wave enabled product in your home?

What is Z-Wave?

This popular technology is a wireless communications protocol that uses low energy radio waves to communicate from appliance to appliance. Z-Wave technology is an open, internationally recognized ITU standard (G.9959)

Z-Wave operates at 908.42 MHz in the US (868.42 MHz in Europe) using a mesh networking topology. A Z-wave network can contain up to 232 nodes, although reports exist of trouble with networks containing over 30-40 nodes. Z-Wave was developed by Zensys, Inc. a start-up company based in Denmark and released in 2004. In 2009 Sigma Designs of Milpitas, CA purchased Zensys/Z-Wave.

What devices use Z-Wave Technology?

The number of devices using Z-wave has grown from 2,400 products in 2018. from 1,700 products in 2017. If it's automated, it’s likely that Z-Wave Enabled Wireless Technology is part of your device. Electronic Design magazine is clear on the uses of Z-Wave being “primarily focused on monitoring and control functions in the home and small commercial facilities. Z-Wave is additionally used in some smart electric meters to provide consumption data for home HVAC monitors and controls.”

The list of widely used Z-Wave products include:

  • Lighting Controls
  • Security Systems
  • Thermostats
  • Window Locks
  • Garage Doors
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Remote Controls

A Z-Wave network can consist of up to 232 devices with the option of bridging networks if more appliances are required.

How does Z-Wave work?

Z-Wave operates using a number of profiles (think of them like languages) while utilizing GFSK modulation and Manchester channel encoding.

A central, network control device is required to set up and manage a Z-Wave network. Each product in the home must be “included” to the Z Wave network before it can be controlled via Z-Wave (and before it can assist in repeating/hoping within the mesh network).

Each Z-Wave network is identified by a Network ID and each device is further identified by a Node ID.

What about the nodes?

Z-Wave uses a source-routed mesh network topology and has one primary controller. Secondary controllers can exist but are optional. Devices can communicate with one another by using intermediate nodes to route around and circumvent household obstacles or radio dead spots that might occur through a message called “healing.” Delays will be observed during the healing process.

A message from node A to node C can be successfully delivered even if the two nodes are not within range, providing that a third node B can communicate with nodes A and C. If the preferred route is unavailable, the message originator will attempt other routes until a path is found to the "C" node. Therefore, a Z-Wave network can span much farther than the radio range of a single unit; however, with several of these hops, a slight delay may be introduced between the control command and the desired result.[5] In order for Z-Wave units to be able to route unsolicited messages, they cannot be in sleep mode. Therefore, battery-operated devices are not designed as repeater units.

As a source routed static network, Z-Wave assumes that all devices in the network remain in their original detected position. Mobile devices, such as remote controls, are therefore excluded from routing.

How are Z-Wave devices controlled?

There are many different ways to control your Z-Wave products. The most common ways are by key fobs, wall mounted keypads and through smartphones, computers, and tablets that have a Z-Wave gateway.

Why should I use Z-Wave Enabled Wireless Technology when setting up my Smart Home?

  • Z-Wave is one of the leading wireless smart home technologies
  • Z-Wave makes smart home automation easier and safer
  • Z-Wave is represented by the Z-Wave Alliance whose vision and mission is to “lead the home controls market, providing systems that deliver increased comfort, convenience, safety, and security.”

View our Z-Wave Products (hyperlink to Smart Home’s Z-Wave’s product pages)

Are there any disadvantages I should consider when using Z-Wave?

Yes, there are some disadvantages to consider with Z-Wave products.

RF Wireless World lists in detail the disadvantages of Z-Wave that include coverage limitations that could increase total costs, the required knowledgebase of radio frequency, limitations on the number of nodes and less speed.

Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of Z-Wave.

What Z-Wave Products would you recommend?

It is important to know that a product must be Z-Wave certified to be considered one that uses Z-Wave Wireless Enabled Technology. Also, all Z-Wave products work together since they all adhere to the same standard.

As a homeowner, you might be anxious about your home flooding, especially if you have a basement. The Dome DMWS1 Z-Wave Leak Sensor with Range Boost ensures that you are notified if any wetness is detected.

The Dome Leak Sensor is a battery-powered Z-Wave Plus device that can detect wetness and send a notification when it does so. The Leak Sensor consists of two parts—the “sensor assembly,” and the optional “remote sensor probe.” They both detect water similarly, using three visible “lead.” The moment water touches any of the lead, the device will beep and send a notification with its moisture status to its Z-Wave controller. The remote sensor probe is used to monitor confined or otherwise difficult to reach places.

Protect your electronics with The Dome On/Off Plug-In Switch - a Z-Wave Plus device that plugs into a standard 3-prong power outlet and lets you turn on or off any connected electronic device. The On/Off Plug-In Switch also monitors how much energy the attached device uses, and reports the data to your Z-Wave Hub.

Set the right mood with the HomeSeer HS-WD200+ Z-Wave Plus Scene Capable RGB Wall Dimmer, a Z-Wave Plus dimming wall switch for use with most dimmable lighting loads. The switch includes RBG LED indicators which may be controlled wirelessly to suit color preferences or to reflect the changing status of other devices in your home. HS-WD200+ is also designed to trigger automation events with a multi-tap operation (up to 5 taps). For best results, this dimmer should be used with HomeSeer’s HomeTroller home controllers.

How do other protocols compare to Z-Wave?

Competing technologies to Z-Wave include Zigbee, Thread, and Insteon.

Of the three, Z-Wave has the longest open-air operating range at 300 feet (outdoor) and 80+ feet (indoor). Insteon has the largest number of maximum devices capability at 17.7 million (to ZigBee's 65,000 and Z-Wave's 232). Thread has the fastest data transmission rate at 250 kbps. Z-Wave has better interoperability than ZigBee, but ZigBee has a faster data transmission rate. Thread operates on the busy Wi-Fi standard frequency of 2.4 GHz, while Z-Wave operates at 908 MHz in the US, which has reduced noise and a greater coverage area. ZigBee operates on both 915 MHz and 2.4 GHz frequencies. All three are mesh networks.[39][40] The Z-Wave MAC/PHY is globally standardized by the International Telecommunications Union as ITU 9959 radio, and the Z-Wave Interoperability, Security (S2), Middleware and Z-Wave over IP specifications were all released into the public domain in 2016, making Z-Wave highly accessible to the Internet of Things developers.

Z-Wave leads the pack of the smart-home wireless networking technologies that are competing to become the standard of choice.

What is the future for Z-Wave?

In 2018, Silicon Labs acquired the Z-Wave Technology from Sigma Designs, Inc who had purchased the technology from the original Danish developers. The press release confirmed that "adding Z-Wave to Silicon Labs' extensive IoT connectivity portfolio allows us to deliver a unified vision for the wireless technologies underpinning the smart home market," said Tyson Tuttle, CEO of Silicon Labs. "A secure, interoperable customer experience is at the heart of how smart home products are designed, deployed and managed. Our smart home vision is one where multiple technologies work securely together, where any device using any of our connectivity options easily joins the home network, and where security updates and feature upgrades occur automatically."

A partnership with Z-Wave Alliance also ensures the growth of Z-Wave products in the market by two organizations whose main goal is that "together, Silicon Labs and the Z-Wave Alliance and its ecosystems will continue to advance the Z-Wave technology roadmap, delivering innovations that engage millions of smart home product users," said Raoul Wijgergangs, Vice President and General Manager of Z-Wave. "Z-Wave is a proven, broadly deployed technology that just reached the milestone of 100 million devices in the market. The acquisition will drive collaboration and expand access to a diverse ecosystem network of partners including Amazon, Alarm.com, ADT, Samsung SmartThings, Yale, Vivint, Google Home, and Comcast."

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