The race for who will occupy the rapidly growing residential networking space is heating up. News features are being released nearly every day about companies with big names, and others with big potential, choosing sides. There’s a lot at stake in this technology turf war, and a few key differences set the leading technologies apart. Today, we’ll look at two of the front runners, Zigbee and Z-Wave.
But before we get into any of the specifics, it might be useful to review how standards in general serve to benefit the individuals and businesses at various stages of bringing them into the homes they were intended for.
For manufacturers, uniform standards create an ecosystem in which innovation can thrive. This environment allows new entrants to add functionality to controls or devices made by existing participants. Manufacturers can also devote their efforts to their respective areas of expertise rather than worrying that there is a need their range doesn’t address.
For distributors, compatibility across brands means that they can offer complete solutions, while shopping around for the best designs, functionality, and price from different manufacturers.
What’s more, distributors are a valued source of advice for integrators and installers. They occupy this position of regard because they stand behind the products they sell. Guaranteed interoperability can only help to boost their credibility by simplifying installations.
Concerns about interoperability can really weaken the value proposition in the eyes of the consumer. Building smarter, more energy efficient homes holds a lot of promise, but consumers will seek assurance before opting for upgrades. In other words, homeowners want installations that go right the first time and are easy to upgrade when the need arises.
Notably, both Zigbee and Z-Wave have made strides toward offering a widely implemented standard in home control. A key difference, however, lies in where the modules are produced (These units are what manufacturers attach to their devices to allow them to “talk” amongst other devices). All Z-Wave modules are produced by a single manufacturer, Sigma Designs. In order for a manufacturer to sell a device, it should be able to “talk” to every other Z-Wave product on the market. This is an example of a deep integration, at both the radio and application levels.
On the other hand, Zigbee is integrated only at the radio level, owing in part to the fact that modules come from a variety of manufacturers. And with device makers developing propriety software, interoperability among brands is short of guaranteed. To this point, the Zigbee Alliance, a user group for manufacturers integrating Zigbee, says it is working to address this issue.
In our next post, we’ll take a look at some of the remaining factors that differentiate these technologies. Until then, we’d love to hear your questions about working with either Zigbee or Z-Wave.