Wireless Communications for Homes

Wireless Communications for Homes

Wireless communication has become the standard for residential communication, as detailed by Michele Antonio Bonafede, Sales and Marketing Manager for VS Safety.


Wireless communication had a slow start in the late '90s, when it was considered unreliable and insufficiently secure. Today, market penetration for wireless is almost 100 percent in the European residential market. Wireless communication has become the preferred communication method for homes all around the world. The constant pressure on labor cost, combined with an increased focus on design in homes, has pushed demand for wireless technology. Another important driver is the DIY market has developed tremendously.


Today's consumers demand more features beyond a conventional security or home automation system. The winners in the market will be suppliers who offer features such as intelligent home automation and interactive access.


The use of home control devices combined with security and energy saving systems has become standard in modern homes.


All these new technologies need transmission to communicate properly. A fixed solution such as a cable will deliver stable and reliable communication to your devices. However, cables are unattractive hanging all over a home.


No one solution is the best for every home. A customer's choice will be based on what is most common in their home market. VS Safety has 12 years of experience as a supplier of wireless technology, delivering the first approved 868 wireless security system in northern Europe. Other innovations include a panel with an integrated GSM module and a wireless smoke detector based on EN54-7. Today, the company works with all known technologies and tests new methods.


Radio Protocols, Techniques
Wireless technologies can be divided into two categories regardless of functionality: proprietary and so-called open protocols. Manufacturers of wireless devices are under pressure from governments and markets all over the world to make open standards for wireless communication. A number of alliances exist for interoperability, including wireless ticketing, wireless meter reading systems, and home automation and security systems.


However, wireless home devices based on open source protocols are still incompatible with each other. Manufacturers use expressions such as "ZigBee-like" as a marketing term to show they are ready to catch the wave when it becomes common.


For security devices, this will be the story for many years to come. Security devices are supposed to be proprietary and difficult to manipulate. Europe has dedicated certain frequencies exclusively for security protocols. End customers benefit from this because manufacturers have full control of energy consuming wake-up and hand-shake procedures that reduce battery life. Managing protocols lets suppliers tune the energy consumption for four to five years of battery life.


The hottest buzzwords in wireless are ZigBee and Z-Wave. The difference between the two is Z-Wave is developed by a Danish company called Zensys. Z-Wave is an efficient protocol that is very fast for all commands. However, the drawback for suppliers is they must license the technology and wait for Zensys to develop changes to the protocol, which can be costly.


ZigBee is based on an open source project run by the ZigBee Alliance. The protocol gives some guidelines to assure all ZigBee equipment will be compatible. It gives the protocol extra overhead, which slows down operations and decreases battery life. This does not seem to concern the increasing herds of ZigBee-followers. Many of them are still at a "ZigBee-like" phase in their evolution.


When comparing advantages and disadvantages between protocols, it is clear ZigBee and Z-Wave are among the most advantageous "open" protocols. They are both energy efficient and have suitable bandwidth. As more wireless accessories are based on battery operation alone, power efficiency is becoming a crucial issue.


Mesh technology is a winner in RF communication. A mesh network enables RF devices to have more reliable communication, regardless of different building materials, background noise, interference and other RF obstacles.


However, the biggest challenge for openness is manufacturers trying to protect their own products and wireless accessories. Even when using open protocols like ZigBee, different devices together can only use 30 to 40 percent of their functionality. There is no 100 percent integration for all the product functions. This is because manufacturers need protect their business and proprietary technology.


Unfortunately, this is the biggest setback to bringing home automation to the mass market as a "must-have" application.


The fight is still on. As an ODM manufacturer, we are ready to follow the market. We find RF433 and RF868 bandwidths to be the only secure frequencies for security devices. ZigBee will be our preferred choice for home automation and smart energy solutions. This is because it is an open protocol, and ensures that we maintain property rights to our own products.

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