Up until now, a convenient, cost-effective and reliable connected home technology has been something of an urban legend. Fortunately, the time of myth and legend has come to an end, thanks to Z-Wave, the de facto standard in wireless home control that is actually delivering on this long-awaited promise.
DIY Home Automation at SmartHomeUSA
What is Z-Wave?
Z-Wave is a low-cost, two-way, wireless mesh network communications technology that enables consumers to monitor and manage their lights, thermostats, garage door openers, smoke detectors, security systems and other home control products easily, conveniently and securely from anywhere in the world using a remote control, touch pad or Web interface.
The main characteristics of Z-Wave are low cost per node, low sensitivity to interference and distortion, full home coverage (every device is a repeater that automatically relays the signal from one device to another) and security.
The Z-Wave chip, which is has already been embedded into dozens of next-generation home control products, is currently available for $5.00. This price will be cut in half by the first quarter of 2005, enabling mass-market adoption. This significant cost reduction is possible because Zensys has re-designed the chip to a smaller die size using a new lithography process. In addition to the smaller die size, a substantial number of external components were also integrated into the chip, reducing the total cost of the module even further. In fact, thanks to these changes, Zensys anticipates it will be able to offer a sub-dollar chip by 2006.
I’ve Heard This Beforeâ€¦
Many technologies claim to be the â€œnext big thingâ€ but few ever are. What makes Z-Wave different from the other connected home technologies that have fallen by the wayside due to cost, inconvenience and mediocre performance?
First of all, Z-Wave is 100 percent focused on, and optimized for, the home. Unlike other protocols, Z-Wave understands its sweet spot and isn’t trying to be everything to everybody. What’s more, Z-Wave is more than just a philosophy. Zensys has been shipping tangible Z-Wave products since 2003.
Z-Wave is also much more cost effective than its competitors. Prices of Z-Wave products are currently $10-20 more than devices that aren’t Z-Wave enabled. By 2006, there will likely be no price difference between a standard home product, such as a lamp or garage door opener, and one that is Z-Wave enabled. In the next 18 months, control abilities will be a â€œgivenâ€ in home products and most will be based on the Z-Wave standard/
Equally important as cost, Z-Wave is fully interoperable. Zensys has set-up a rigorous interoperability program that tests all Z-Wave products on their ability to route together, address all nodes, network together, etc. Essentially, this means Z-Wave is brand agnostic. A Home Pro remote control can work on Intermatic lights and the HomeSeer Web page can control a Wayne Dalton garage door opener, making owning and operating multiple Z-Wave devices pain free for the consumer.
Lastly, Zensys is unique in that it has secured the support of the top manufacturers in the home control space. Zensys now has over 100 companies actively selling or developing Z-Wave products. This distinguished group includes industry-leaders Danfoss, Leviton, Intermatic and Wayne Dalton. This translates into more choices for the consumer and increased credibility for Z-Wave as the new standard in wireless home control.
The Vision Becomes Reality
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Z-Wave is the enormous impact it is having, and will continue to have, on the average household.
Initially, many consumers will start upon their home control journey by purchasing a Z-Wave Starter Kit to automate and control a couple of key light fixtures. This kit comes with a Z-Wave remote control and two or three Z-Wave receptacles for the power outlets. Installation of the Starter Kit is unbelievably simple and can be accomplished in short order by consumers with no networking or PC experience. Installation is completed by simply plugging in the power cords of the selected appliances into the receptacles and programming the remote control. Once this occurs â€“ the average installation time is ten minutes â€“ users can control the selected lights and appliances with the click of a button.
Once a consumer starts using Z-Wave, it is simple to expand to other rooms and add new applications. For example, a consumer controlling their lights with Z-Wave can then add a Z-Wave thermostat to his/her home and control it with the same remote. Other examples of Z-Wave in action include lowering the drapes, turning down the lights and turning on a movie from the comfort of your couch using one simple remote control, or, from a safety aspect, having the lights on the first floor of your home switch on at night as soon as the garage door is opened, enabling each family member to walk into a well-lit house.
In addition to the convenience and security features mentioned above, Z-Wave also has applications that will improve the quality of life for consumers. Imagine a networked home that reminds your elderly mother when to take her medication or a system that optimizes your energy expenditure by turning down the thermostats when it doesn’t detect movement in your house. These are just a few examples of how Z-Wave can play a role in consumer’s lives in the future.
Z-Wave is delivering on the promise of the connected home, providing reliability, interoperability, convenience and relatively low-cost all in a chip the size of a dime.
By capitalizing on this new, yet proven, technology, consumers can not only make their lives more convenient but also safer and more efficient. What’s more, we have only begun to see the possibilities of the next phase of the connected home. Regardless, of what applications arise, you can be confident Z-Wave will be at the forefront.