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.
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.
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.
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.
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.