Lights and sensors are today’s most common Z-Wave products: Sigma Designs

Lights and sensors are today’s most common Z-Wave products: Sigma Designs
Wireless transmission is like an indispensable element in smart home applications. While Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are communication standards people are well aware of, the less-known Z-Wave protocol plays an equally important role. With its low-power consumption feature, Z-Wave is a wireless standard catered specifically for smart homes.

Z-Wave has gained traction in recent years, as over 2,400 certified Z-Wave devices are now available around the globe, representing a 60-percent jump from 2015, according to the Z-Wave Alliance, which boasts over 700 member companies.

What makes Z-Wave stand out from similar protocols is that certified Z-Wave devices are guaranteed to talk to one another. This feature is especially important to system integrators (SI) who often need to install devices like sensors and lights from different vendors. SI’s customers have various requirement and one vendor does not necessarily have all the solutions.
Mitchell Klein, Executive
Director of the Z-Wave Alliance

Z-Wave’s interoperability is good for vendors too, because now they don’t have to make a complete set of Z-Wave products. Mitchell Klein, Executive Director of the Z-Wave Alliance, said, “Device manufacturers can develop a product that will sit within an entire environment of ecosystem of interoperable or compatible products, so they don’t need to develop an entire product line.”

Z-Wave’s interoperability is made possible through a stringent certification program. If a company wants to sell a Z-Wave product, then the product needs to be certified beforehand. The certification program not only defines the radio frequency, but also the application layer. For window/door sensors, for example, there are clear rules on what kinds of command and response transmission should be sent.

The Z-Wave Alliance is also adapting the certification program to keep up with changes in smart technologies. “With new features and new products coming in, the complexity of interoperability is ever increasing, and we are continuously developing the certification program to follow along with that,” said Johan Pedersen, Z-Wave Product Marketing Manager at Sigma Designs.

Unified control interface

Lighting devices are the most common Z-Wave applications in today’s smart home space. A typical home can have many lights, and some companies have developed controllers to enable a unified control interface for the lights.

Brazil-based Flex Automation offers a comprehensive line of lighting devices, including dimmer and relays, and controllers with different combination of them, depending on the application.

“Lighting device manufacturers make a single dimmer or a single on/off device. Flex offers multiple dimmers in one single lighting panel, which is called multichannel lighting device,” said Flex CEO Jean Pascal Nathan De Simone.
Brett Stokke, Director of
Marketing at RTI

Control system manufacturer RTI offers something similar. Its ZW-9 interface module connects Z-Wave devices to RTI’s wireless remotes, in-wall controls, and the RTiPanel app running on smart devices. “In this way, the module eliminates the need for separate apps for each Z-Wave device, providing users with unified control and monitoring over them all directly on their RTI interface of choice,” said RTI’s Director of Marketing Brett Stokke.

Gateway and sensors

Gateway is integral to a Z-Wave network. It is the device that links all the Z-Wave devices inside a house, and also connects them to the Internet.

Ava Design Technology, a company that focuses on installing Z-Wave smart devices, offers a gateway with scene control functionality. For example, users can set up a series of actions like turning on the lights and air conditioner once the door is opened. And in the case of a home intrusion, a push notification will be sent to the homeowner’s smartphone, and security firms will also be notified. Ava Design’s software competency allows the company to write automation instructions right into the gateway.
John Chen, General
Manager of Ava Design

 “Because the commands are not processed in the cloud, the gateway’s scene control can still function even when there is an Internet outage,” said John Chen, General Manager of Ava Design Technology.

SiMPNiC, a new sub-brand of Connection Technology Systems Inc. (CTS), recently launched something similar. SiMPNiC S1 is an IoT solution using a Z-Wave gateway; the system extends to various sensors to enable safety, smart security and home automation.

The system can include window/door sensor, motion sensor, flood detection sensor, gas detection sensor and smoke detection sensor. The gateway also has two buttons on it to enable automation for up to 10 scenes.

“Besides offering gateways, SiMPNiC consults with clients on sensor selection based on their requirements and provides an integrated solution,” said Tony Lin, Senior Manager of IoT Business Unit at CTS.
Tony Lin, Senior Manager of
IoT Business Unit at
Connection Technology

CTS’s core competency lies in fiber optic network solutions and ensuring network security is the company’s expertise. SiMPNiC leverages these competitive advantages to develop its smart IoT gateways. The S1 gateway has a small firewall inside and it also features “edge security.” The last mile of authentication allows connection only from trusted smartphone, iPad or other clients. The transmitted data is also encrypted, Lin pointed out. Data sent to the Internet like push notifications informing users of water leak, for example, is also encrypted.

More powerful chipset

According to Sigma Designs’ Pedersen, lighting devices and sensors are the most common Z-Wave products today. However, Z-Wave may be embedded in many more types of products as long as they are battery powered.

The next generation of Z-Wave chipsets is expected to be launched by the end of 2018. The current generation consumes relatively more battery power, and requires replacement of battery on a door/window sensor about once a year. The next generation of chipsets will consume less power, and can allegedly allow the sensor to run for up to 10 years, which means the new chipset will uses 10 times less energy than the current one. In addition, the transmission speed will go from 100 kilobyte to 1 megabytes.

“We are anxiously waiting for this, because the demand for features are growing, and the demand for Z-Wave is growing. We need more processing power and more memory,” said Flex Automation’s De Simone.

Z-Wave also features S2, a very secure communication technology. “It’s virtually impossible to hack it, but in order to do the processing, the existing chipset cannot do this by itself. The new chipset will be a huge improvement,” De Simone added.

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