11 Myths About Z-Wave Technology

11 Myths About Z-Wave Technology

There are bound to be some common misconceptions about the ever-expanding IoT industry and the protocols that support it. To help set the record straight, here are 11 (+1) common myths surrounding Z-Wave technology.

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1. Z-Wave is easily hacked.

Z-Wave has always offered AES 128 encryption level of security in its protocol for all devices and believes that security is of the utmost importance to address in the IoT market. Sigma Designs also recently announced the Security 2 (S2) framework for every device in the Z-Wave ecosystem. The new framework includes the existing AES 128 encryption with industry-accepted secure key exchange using Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) and authenticated deployments that remove ”man-in-the-middle” attacks.

Security will no longer be optional for Z-Wave manufacturers to deploy. In addition, through an easy update, all gateways with 500 series chips and all devices that allow over-the-air (OTA) upgrades are able to add S2 to existing devices. Z-Wave devices also include signal jam detection and the tunneling of all Z-Wave over IP (Z/IP) traffic to eliminate any cloud vulnerability.

2. Z-Wave is proprietary.

Z-Wave is an open standard, based on the International Standard PHY MAC ITU-T G.9959.  We have a single standard and a single stack. The stack is openly licensed; all that’s required is certification to ensure interoperability.  Z-Wave is the only low-power mesh-network technology within the smart-home industry that offers such a large and diverse interoperable ecosystem, backed by hundreds of manufacturer members all collaborating and defining the interoperability and certification requirements. The Z-Wave Public Specification, released in late 2016, along with robust certification, ensures that all device and service makers implement communication using the same data sources.

3. Z-Wave is a dated technology

Though Z-Wave has been around as a technology for over a decade, the protocol continues to evolve. It’s included in many smart-home and IoT solution brands today, such as ADT Pulse, SmartThings, Wink, Vivint, Control4, AT&T, Verizon, Nokia, and more. Brands target Z-Wave as a platform as they determine that mesh networking is essential to developing a successful smart-home solution.

Today, the Z-Wave ecosystem consists of over 2,100 diverse, certified products from hundreds of reputable manufactures. Where other technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are just now developing mesh solutions as smart-home adoption grows, Z-Wave has a long history with mesh and now provides a reliable, efficient, secure, and tested solution.

4. Z-Wave only works in a mesh-network setup with many devices.

Z-Wave is a low-power mesh technology that’s designed specifically for smart-home applications. However, Z-Wave works well in simple point-to-point networks with just a few devices, too. Z-Wave uses a lower frequency than common household wireless products such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and other 2.4-GHz protocols. It’s not subject to their interference and traffic jams, which makes Z-Wave more reliable for mission-critical tasks and status.

5. Z-Wave is hard to integrate into products.
 
The Z-Wave developer kits offer a wide range of information and developer resources that allow a new manufacturer or service provider to get started and integrate with Z-Wave. Developer kits, which provide solutions for embedded devices and gateway/controllers, come with access to technical and support documentation plus resources such as training videos and extensive test certification tools to prepare devices for Z-Wave certification. Z-Wave reference modules, complete with an antenna, are ready for manufacturers to drop into a product to integrate Z-Wave. To date, 70 million Z-Wave chipsets have been deployed.

6. Z-Wave devices require a dedicated computer to control

Z-Wave devices can be accessed and manipulated by a variety of controllers in a wide range of different forms, from a computer with a USB dongle to a battery-powered key fob with a single control button, and everything in between. Many hubs/gateways today deliver a smartphone/tablet app that can be used to remotely access their smart-home system, but the Z-Wave ecosystem contains a multitude of different controller devices for in-home access.

7. Z-Wave can’t be added to an existing product.

Using Z-Wave’s unique capabilities and modular design, it’s entirely possible for manufacturers to add Z-Wave to their existing systems. For existing controllers, Z-Wave capabilities are able to be added via a USB-connected dongle. As a result, any controller with a USB port can run the Z-Wave IP abstraction layer (referred to as Z/IP) simply with a plug-in upgrade and new software.

8. Z-Wave isn’t usable for same-brand solutions.

For vendors producing all components of a given solution, Z-Wave is still an attractive technology. Whether it’s used for point-to-point communication between a simple controller and a device, or they make use of the mesh capabilities to achieve better range and more robust control of devices, Z-Wave will fit that given system.

Because of Z-Wave’s interoperable ecosystem, the vendor is able to take advantage of new possibilities for solutions built on Z-Wave modules. Installers or technology-enthusiastic homeowners can combine multiple solutions with Z-Wave modules and create an end result that’s better than two independent systems.

9. Z-Wave regional radio frequencies limit product availability.

The lower frequencies used by Z-Wave to avoid the busy 2.4-GHz spectrum means that there are regional variants of Z-Wave radio frequencies and, as a result, products in the market. In practice, this has little effect on device availability due to global variations on a lot of other parameters as well. Consumer preferences for design are different, but more importantly, power standards and socket types are different. In reality, product portfolios will vary in a similar spread, making the choice of the right Z-Wave module just another part of a long list of regional compliance requirements to consider.

10. Adding a Z-Wave device to an existing network is difficult.

When incorporating a Z-Wave device into an existing network, both the new device and the network’s controller/hub need to be put into inclusion mode at the same time to authorize the addition. The method for placing a device in inclusion mode may be different from one device vendor to another, or even within devices in a portfolio of a single vendor. However, the device manual will always describe how to activate the inclusion mode. This process may be slightly more involved than those implemented by proprietary standards, but those standards don’t have the option to include any vendor’s devices in their networks.

11. Z-Wave device inclusion is a slow process.

Inclusion into a Z-Wave network is efficient for all device types, but the user experience of including a device can be affected significantly from vendor to vendor. Waiting time is based on how much a controller decides to ask of information from the device, and when it’s asked. The interview process done by a controller varies after the inclusion process. Some controllers will ask for all capabilities and states of the device before proceeding, while others will hide much of this communication behind a dialog, e.g., asking the user to enter a name.

Okay, we usually have 11 myths, but here’s an extra one:

12. Z-Wave has a high cost barrier to entry for developers.

Because Z-Wave technology is offered as modules, including required components to operate, they’re often considered more expensive than other solutions. Compared to a chip-based design, the modules save a lot of time otherwise spent on design, testing, and sourcing of components that need to be included to operate the radio. Those development costs must be factored into the overall cost of integrating technology into a product. It’s similar to how higher-level programming languages, such as .NET, are gaining popularity despite having more constrained options for development and runtime environments. The overall cost and time to market makes a difference.

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