Six months ago, saw the 500th certified Z-Wave product: a goal that took almost 6 years to reach. Today, the announcement of a 600th product indicates rapid growth in Z-Wave. What are the primary factors for the growth?
As many readers are aware, the Z-Wave ecosystems is a fairly simple, low-cost RF mesh network that allows a broad range of devices to interoperate. This interoperability is one of the keys to success of Z-Wave. Competing standards such as ZigBee are compatible at network layers 1 through 2 (Physical, DataLink and Network layers), but beyond that, vendors are free to implement anything they want at the higher levels of the protocol stack. This leads to a situation where a ZigBee product from vendor A will not interoperate with a ZigBee product from vendor B.
That’s not to say that this can’t happen with Z-Wave. There have been a handful of high profile products that deliberately exclude other vendors’ products in their user interface. This is totally forbidden in the Z-Wave world and is heavily frowned upon by the Z-Wave alliance. Vendors who commit the “offence” strongly discouraged from continuing with such practices.
I run Z-Wave in my house and can attest to the ease of installation and range of products available. Like any foray into a new field, it requires some research and basic knowledge, but once this was complete, I was up and running in a few hours. I now have products from about a dozen vendors installed and for the most part, they all work very well. My house isn’t that big that I’ll exceed the 232 device limit and the 100 foot (open air) inter-device limit isn’t a problem. (Realistically, the range drops to 50-60 feet when traveling through walls, etc., but even so, it’s easy enough to overcome unless you happen to have a 60-foot enclosed area with no power.)
Being in the 900mhz range (in North America) gets it away from cordless phones and Wifi. There are rare occasions where interference is an issue, but this is normally in multi-dwelling units and can usually be rectified (if you can find the culprit) by changing channels on the conflicting device.
Manufacturing products with a single sourced component (Sigma Designs) is a big risk. Granting a license to manufacture to Mitsumi last year has without doubt been the comfort factor some manufacturers have need to get on-board with Z-Wave. Although, Mitsumi are manufacturing for the Japanese market (now that frequencies have been allocated), they have the license to manufacture for the global market. This gives vendors the potential of an alternate supplier.
In the last year, we’ve seen several mass market suppliers jumping into the home automation space with both feet. Examples include Lowes, Verizon and ADT. These allow people to purchase a starter kit for a few hundred dollars and grow from there. Home automation is addictive, so once people get these systems and realize what Z-Wave is and how they can expand that system, they’re almost guaranteed to invest more.
Z-Wave was recently ratified by the ITU, so is now an international standard. There has been criticism of it being propriety in the past, but the ITU ratification, puts that issue to rest.
Z-Wave is supported in over 20 countries and the recent allocation of frequencies in Japan, South America and Russia is pushing that number towards 30.
The Smart Grid has got more and more people thinking about energy monitoring. Many utility providers now provide solutions for power monitoring. RCS’s EM52 whole house energy monitor is a good example.
Mark Anderson is a long-time home theater enthusiast and lives on the bleeding edge of Home Automation. He will be covering everything related to Home Automation and AV. He is also a regular contributor to avystemsmag.com, where he covers commercial AV and automation.Please welcome Mark to the HomeToys team.
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