Updates to Zigbee, Z-Wave work toward smarter protocols

Updates to Zigbee, Z-Wave work toward smarter protocols
The two biggest smart home standards — Zigbee and Z-Wave — are working toward making smart homes more accessible.

When it comes to smart homes and wireless standards, Zigbee and Z-Wave are two of the most widely used in the market. Both have benefits over more common wireless standards like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and each have their own unique benefits when compared to each other.

Having so many choices for wireless standards, though, has been an obstacle to mass adoption. "You want to allow and encourage innovation, so a lot of options are good for that, but then you lose the ability for products to work easily together," said Tobin Richardson, President and CEO of the Zigbee Alliance.

Tobin Richardson,
President and CEO of
the Zigbee Alliance
Updates in the Zigbee and Z-Wave standards are aiming to make adoption of smart home device easier and more seamless. 

The Zigbee standard is a complete loT solution, from the mesh network to the universal language that allows smart objects to work together. Known to developers as Zigbee 3.0, the Zigbee wireless standard offers choice and flexibility for users and manufacturers, and delivers the confidence that products and services will all work together through standardization at all layers of the stack. 

At this year's CES show, the Zigbee Alliance showcased Dotdot, its "universal language of the internet of things (IoT)." The standard aims to make it possible for smart objects to work together on Zigbee, IP and other networks. Certification over Thread networks in the first half of this year will mark its first entry in to the market.

Dotdot is focused on the smart home, smart building and some industrial markets, and is evolving, Richardson said. He expects Dotdot to continue to grow and become broader in its application over time.

"That's really our focus over the next year or two, to work with other sister organizations and standards to come up with a common language," he said. "We think Dotdot is the right way to do it, but it's really about that common language.”

Then there is Z-Wave. Run by Silicon Labs, which acquired the Z-Wave technology in 2018, the latest Z-Wave update, Z-Wave 700, was designed with the future smart home in mind.

"The Z-Wave 700's primary goal was to make it more sensor-oriented," said Mitchell Klein, Executive Director of the Z-Wave Alliance. He described it as "an enabling platform" for developers of smart home devices. It is physically smaller and runs on a coin-cell battery, which give it a lower profile for sensors. It also has increased range, a significantly longer battery life and an ARM processor.

Mitchell Klein,
Executive Director of
the Z-Wave Alliance
Klein explained that security was updated in the Z-Wave 700's predecessor, the Z-Wave 500 chip. "What we call the Z-Wave S2 Security Framework was mandated by us for all new products submitted to certification starting from April 2017," he said. Z-Wave S2 security was implemented to provide "the highest levels of protection." There are currently around 300 Z-Wave products with Z-Wave Security S2 on the market.

The number of devices using the Z-Wave standard is growing, with more than 2,600 certified products and over 100 million Z-Wave smart home devices in the market today, according to the Z-Wave Alliance. Most smart lock companies have chosen to use the Z-Wave standard, such as Yale, Kwikset, August Smart Lock and Danalock.

Ideally, universal standards for smart home products will be reached, but the move towards standardization is unlikely to happen soon. Some believe that adoption by major companies like Amazon will help steer the market toward a particular standard.

"Amazon has driven a lot of the standards conversation because the Echo will have a Zigbee hub in it,” said John E. Osborne II, VP of LEEDARSON North America. The latest version of Amazon’s Echo Plus has a built-in smart home hub that includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee, with Osborne saying this had pushed the rest of the industry toward one of these three protocols. 

For now, the updates to these smart home standards will continue to encourage smart home adoption. Until a universal standard is reached (if ever), there are smart hubs, such as the Samsung SmartThings hub and Wink Hub, that enable users to use devices on all of the most common standards.

*For more smart home trends of 2019, please visit Tech Experts Reveal 2019 Smart Home Technologies.


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