With everything that’s happening within the IoT world, the smart home market is booming like anything. We are witnessing something new every single day be it a new product or an enhancement in an existing one. And while we are busy relishing what pleasure this technology brings to our lives, we forget to think about the basics and how these technologies actually work.
If you’ve made even a single step into home automation, chances are you’ll have come across Z-Wave and maybe you’ve wondered what it’s all about. Today, we’ll discuss what Z-Wave actually is and how it works.
What is Z-Wave
Z-Wave is basically remarkable wireless technology for home automation. In contrast to the 2.4GHz band used by your home WiFi network or competing protocol Zigbee, the 900MHz band used by Z-Wave not only slashes interference at this lower frequency but also offers a longer wavelength more capable of penetrating obstacles like walls and ceilings.
Conceived by Zensys Inc, a Danish start-up in 2001 as a cost-effective alternative to Zigbee, and launched in 2004, the express intention was to offer dependable communication between devices even from totally different manufacturers.
The Sigma Designs, a Californian firm acquired the company in 2009. Silicon Labs recently bought out the business for $240 million. So, the Z-Wave protocol makes use of low-energy radio waves to enable communication between smart devices and appliances in your connected home. In order to see how Z-Wave works, it’s crucial to understand a little about mesh networks. Operating on minimal power, you’ll get no interference with your WiFi signal.
How it works
It would be very easy to understand how Z-Wave works if we have a little knowledge about mesh networks. Mesh networks work in such a way that, the more devices you add to a mesh network, the stronger it becomes.
When a new device is added, it weaves itself into the mesh and the best pathways for data transmission are created with each device acting as a repeater. With a regular WiFi network, all devices connect to a central hub, usually a router. With a mesh network, while the devices normally link to a hub, they also link together to form a mesh.
The devices are not WiFi-enabled and simply use Z-Wave connectivity to communicate with the hub. Z-Wave also works as a wireless and secure mesh network. You control your devices as outlined above by controller, key fob, smartphone, tablet or computer. A command is sent from whatever controller you’re using to a hub and then this command is routed to the destination device. The hub is essential if you want remote access.
Communication takes place using the 2-way system baked into Z-Waves devices so everything happens in the background without any user input beyond making the command. Devices need to be added into the network – included – before they can be controlled. The network itself has a Network ID while the devices are classified with a Node ID.
The separate network ID ensures there will be no clash or security risk if your neighbour also uses a Z-Wave system in their smart home. We’ll strip down the science now of how communication takes place beneath the hood.
The full spectrum of Z-Wave devices is grouped into 3 main categories:
Analogue sensors are used for measuring temperature and humidity. They also work well for determining gas concentration in the case of carbon monoxide detectors, for instance. Digital sensors come into their own for motion detection, water leak warning, and any doors or glass breaking.
Actuators use analogue signals for electrical dimmers and controlling motorized blinds. For electrical switches and electrical displays, an actuator uses digital signals.
Controllers come in many guises. Some Z-Wave remote controls are simply universal remotes equipped with IR. You can also buy proprietary Z-Wave remote controls. These have dedicated keys to streamline grouping, scene selection, and general network functions.
Benefits of Z-Wave
Z-wave is a highly efficient technology and is widely used. Some of the benefits of Z-Wave tech are:
- Affordability: You can get going with a Z-Wave system without needing to throw too much money at it. Adding products over time is straightforward so there’s no crushing initial investment required
- Security: Robust encryption and security is AES-128 as used by banks and government organizations
- Ease of Installation: You won’t need to mess about with rewiring and, although some degree of technical knowledge is required, set-up really is a breeze
Z-Wave’s benefits, features and the usage of low-energy are what makes it the perfect fit for your home. So, what are you waiting for? Upgrade your home today with a Z-Wave based solution.
Click here to explore Z-Wave products.