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K4 - 5: Z-Wave™ technology

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Some basic technical information about Z-Wave™

(Information collected in the Fall of 2017. Primary Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-Wave and the Z-Wave™ Alliance)

Z-Wave™ is a wireless communications protocol used primarily for home automation. It is a mesh network using low-energy radio waves to communicate from appliance to appliance, allowing for wireless control of residential appliances and other devices, such as lighting controls, security systems, thermostats, window blinds, locks, swimming pool heaters and garage door openers.

Like other protocols and systems aimed at the home and office automation market, a Z-Wave™ automation system, utilizes a gateway or central control device. This central controller itself can be controlled from a wireless key fob, a wall-mounted keypad or with the gateway device serving as both the hub controller and portal to the outside, via the Internet from smartphones, tablets or computers. This central controller provides interoperability between home control systems of different manufacturers that are a part of its alliance.

Z-Wave™ operates at 908 MHz in the US.

The Z-Wave™ MAC/PHY is globally standardized by the International Telecommunications Union as ITU 9959 radio, and the Z-Wave™ Interoperability, Security (S2), Middleware and Z-Wave™ over IP specifications were all released into the public domain in 2016, making Z-Wave™ highly accessible to "Internet of Things" developers.

Z-Wave™ is the leading wireless home control technology in the market today, with over 2100 certified interoperability products worldwide. Represented by the Z-Wave™ Alliance, and supported by more than 600 companies around the world, the standard is a key enabler of smart living solutions for home safety and security, energy, hospitality, office and light commercial applications.

What is a Mesh network?

Formal description: A mesh network is a local network topology in which the infrastructure nodes (i.e. bridges, switches and other infrastructure devices) connect directly, dynamically and non-hierarchically to as many other nodes as possible and cooperate with one another to efficiently route data from/to clients.

Translation: Conventional networking is a star or tree, a spoke-hub distribution system - every end-user connects directly to a central hub. The resulting network map looks like the spokes of a wheel or a star.

Your land-line telephone and the electricity to your home is a star or tree network. Each telephone connects back to the Central Office by way of one set of wires. If the wires from your house to the telephone pole outside your house get knocked down, you loose your connection - although your neighbors telephones continue to work. However, if the telephone pole a block away gets knocked down, you AND your neighbors loose telephone service. Cellular telephones try to compensate for this by attempting to connect to multiple Cell Towers, but that ability is limited by physical geography, just as with the wires on the telephone poles.

With a mesh network in the Z-Wave™ context, your light-switch talks to your thermostat, which talks to your doorbell, which talks to the control application (app) running on your Tablet, Smart Phone, or computer, by way of the Z-Wave™ Hub. In other words, each device talks to each other device (that it can reach via its radio), and asks those devices to pass along its status message. Or in the reverse direction, your Z-Wave hub passes commands to ALL the devices in your house and each device decides if the message is something that it needs to pay attention to, or just to forward it along to its friends.

Your Z-Wave™ Hub, is a stand-alone computer which is "always on." It could be a K4-Box™, an Amazon Echo Plus™, Google Home™, or any number of other devices from other vendors.

Z-Wave™ is based on a mesh network topology. This means each (non-battery) device installed in the network becomes a signal repeater. As a result, the more devices you have in your home, the stronger the network becomes. While Z-Wave™ signals easily travel through most walls, floors and ceilings, the devices can also intelligently route themselves around obstacles to attain seamless, robust, whole-home coverage.

Z-Wave™’s devices can communicate point-to-point for up to 120 feet on their own, but with their ability to hop signals, effective ranges of up to 600 feet are easily achieved, and Z-Wave™ networks can be linked together for even larger deployments. Each Z-Wave™ network can support up to 232 Z-Wave™ devices allowing you the flexibility to add as many devices as you’d like to make sure your Smart Home is working it’s hardest.

How do I get started with Z-Wave™?

Source: http://www.z-wave.com


CEDIA logo CEDIA - Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association
Founded in 1989 for home technology professionals Z-wave alliance logo Z-wave Alliance - Established in 2005, the Z-Wave Alliance is comprised of industry leaders throughout the globe that are dedicated to the development and extension of Z-Wave as the key enabling technology for 'smart' home and business applications.

App Fatigue - Application fatigue - Too many apps, too little time. Is "an app for that" really necessary?

From a consumer perspective, there are just too many apps. New apps, by in large, are not providing nearly enough value for consumers to come back, and most simply replicate existing experiences with a story of a better design. Apps are not an order of magnitude better than their predecessor; thus, adoption drops off as quickly as it started.

If users download a given app, there’s a growing probability that they will send it packing soon if they don’t see obvious value in it. Why? There’s increasing awareness that even free apps bring with them associated costs and headaches, making it much easier to cut the cord than in the past.

If you don't use it -- get rid of it. If it asks for permissions you don’t think it should have -- get rid of it.

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Alternative Home Automation Technologies


Originally developed in the 1970s, X10 is the old grey head of the home automation world. It has many shortcomings, but became extremely popular as it was the only game in town for many years.


Universal Power line Bus (UPB) uses the home’s built-in wiring to transmit home automation control signals. Developed to overcome many of the shortcomings that X10 experiences, UPB is a superior power line technology to X10. UPB is not X10 compatible. If you already have X10-compatible products and you want your UPB and X10 compatible products to work together, you need a controller that talks to both.


Designed to bridge wireless home automation to powerline automation, INSTEON devices communicate over both power lines and via wireless. INSTEON is also X10 compatible, thereby adding wireless capability to an existing X10 network. Finally, INSTEON technology supports home automation novices: even non-technical individuals can set up and add devices to the network.


Similar to Z-Wave, ZigBee is strictly a wireless home automation technology. The technology has been slow to gain acceptance with home automation enthusiasts largely because ZigBee devices frequently have difficulty communicating with those made by different manufacturers. ZigBee is not recommended for people new to home automation unless they intend to use only devices made by the same manufacturer.


Manufacturers have begun designing smart home devices to work with existing Wi-Fi networks in the home. Connecting with a home network usually just requires the password. The disadvantage of taking this path is bandwidth. If you already have several devices that access your Wi-Fi signal frequently, your smart home devices might be slow to respond. Also, because Wi-Fi is power hungry, it drains the batteries of battery-operated networked devices quicker than other protocols.

Wireless home automation is susceptible to Radio Frequency (RF) interference.
This means that your WiFi can interfere with your Home Automation and vice versa -- so can your wireless telephone, cellular telephone, smart TV, TV remote control. All of these wireless devices can interfere with each other. (Many TV remote controls require "line-of-sight" access to operate as they are infrared controls, rather than RF.)

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Questions and Answers about Z-Wave™

How many Z-Wave™e devices can I control?

Z-Wave™ is a highly scalable technology – it can control anywhere from one device all the way up to 232 devices in just one smart home network. With Z-Wave™ you can build your smart home one device at a time – adding more smart home products when it suits you.

What is the difference between Z-Wave™ and Z-Wave Plus™?

One of the many benefits of Z-Wave™ is that regardless of what version, Z-Wave™ devices are able to communicate with one another. Z-Wave Plus™ is the latest certification standard offered and gives you a high level of security and compatibility between products. Z-Wave Plus™ has been optimized for easy set-up and installation. Z-Wave™ classic is also fully interoperable but may require physically placing the smart hub near the product being added to the network.

What is Z-Wave™'s range?

Without any obstacles such as walls and furniture, the range between two Z-Wave™ products is about 100 meters or 328 feet. When obstacles in your home reduce that range, Z-Wave’s mesh networking allows a Z-Wave™ signal to “hop” through other Z-Wave™ products to reach the destination device to be controlled. If there is a wall interfering with this signal, all you need is a simple Z-Wave™ repeater to work around the wall so the signal can continue on to its final destination. Z-Wave™ supports up to 4 hops so the total home coverage will grow depending on the amount of Z-Wave™ products in the network. The maximum range with 4 hops is roughly 600 feet or 200 meters.

How is Z-Wave™ powered?

Z-Wave™ is a very efficient, low-energy technology. While your smart home hub will need to be plugged in to keep the network up and running, many Z-Wave™ deices work on battery power alone, often for a year or more before needing new batteries. Other devices can plug into the wall, and there are even Z-Wave™ controllable AC outlets, which let you make your entire home's electrical system "smart" and energy-efficient by controlling and optionally monitoring energy usage.

Will Z-Wave™ interfere with my Wi-Fi?

No, Z-Wave operates on a different wireless frequency than Wi-Fi. Even though your smart hub will plug into your Wi-Fi router, the hub communicates with other smart devices on a different frequency making interference nonexistent.

Is Z-Wave™ secure?

Yes, a Z-Wave™ smart home network has a unique ID that it assigns to every device in the network, and that ID is different for every hub so your neighbor’s smart hub cannot control your devices. When an extra level of security is needed, such as for door locks and other high security devices, Z-Wave™ has another level of security which uses AES128 encryption at the same level that major banks use to protect your financial information. Z-Wave™ AES encryption is supported by most Z-Wave™ hubs today and is required on all hubs with the Z-Wave Plus™ mark on them.

Smart Hubs

A hub is really the brain of your home – controlling and sending commands to the other connected devices in your home. Think of your Wi-Fi router – it sends Wi-Fi signals to your laptop, cable box, Amazon Echo and other devices to keep you online. The hub sends commands via Z-Wave™ to other devices in a similar way. The hub also is the main device that communicates with your smartphone and your router to allow you to access your home when you’re away. Some hubs have multiple smart home radios in them (Z-Wave™, Bluetooth, etc) so that they can perform different functions and support different products.

How do i add devices to a z-wave hub

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Unanswered Questions about K4