September 11, 2023
Some of us are excited about Matter, some of us are dismissive, some of us are anxious. What does it mean for my Z-Wave gear? Will my smart home system become obsolete or incompatible with devices from my favorite brands? There’s a lot of uncertainty behind Matter’s promises and not many details about how Z-Wave will play into the new landscape. In this blog post, we take a closer look at how Z-Wave and Matter can coexist and interact in the future.
To start, Matter is an emerging solution while Z-Wave is a mature smart home protocol with 20 years in the field and over four thousand certified devices. While Matter is backed by all of the big tech names, Z-Wave owns 95% of the smart home security market today. It will take a while before Matter products are widely available and even longer before their functionality and settings match Z-Wave devices.
The biggest difference though, is that Matter is just an application layer. It provides a solution for the user to interact with their network, enabling authentication between devices, providing an interface for the communication, etc but it doesn’t manage the network. Matter devices will still depend on common wireless protocols to interact with one another. These include Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or Bluetooth with all of their network range and speed issues.
Z-Wave on the other hand, is a full stack solution that encompasses the application layer, networking layer, and the physical layer of a sub-GHz network. It creates a connected environment dedicated to your smart home with signal encryption and mesh technology for a safe and robust communication. Z-Wave Long Range has added direct hub-to-device messages to the network infrastructure, allowing for even more coverage (over a mile and between buildings) and ultra-fast response time.
It's hard to imagine that security providers or serious smart home owners would give up the benefits of low-power sub-gig networks like Z-Wave in favor of the much busier and range-limited Wi-Fi or Bluetooth environments. But what if you didn’t have to choose?
Whether you’re a pro planning a sophisticated IoT project or a home automation DIY enthusiast, you’ll want to simplify the way you interact with your connected devices. You’ll want easy access from your smart phone, voice control from Alexa, Google, or Siri, and maybe even some interaction through a custom interface you built yourself. You’ll want some of your smart home devices to speak to your Wi-Fi hardware and probably at least some form of cloud access to keep an eye on things when you’re not around. Ideally, you’ll be able to mix and match devices running on different protocols in your connected ecosystem.
That’s why bridging is key and Matter is not going to change that. In fact, technology to bridge Matter to other protocols, including Z-Wave is already out there. Silicon Labs, the company that effectively owns many of these protocols, has released a dedicated software development kit to help companies link to the Matter ecosystem. The Unify SDK is a great start to a more transparent and user friendly IoT landscape.
The next step is to equip device chips with multi-protocol capabilities. So far, most IoT products have needed a dedicated chip to support each wireless standard. That’s about to change with innovative offerings from Silicon Labs (their Z-Wave 800 Modem SoC can also support Sidewalk, CONNECT, and mioty) and the new second source chip supplier for Z-Wave, Trident IoT. We’re excited for these hardware changes and their positive impact on device manufacturing.
Finally, we’ve learned that the potential of collaboration and interoperability can only be truly realized in open-source environments. Home Assistant is the most notable example of a powerful platform seamlessly connecting hundreds of brands and protocols in a single dashboard. It exploded among DIY and professional users in the past few years. While Matter was created as an open-source project, Z-Wave has historically been a proprietary technology. It’s now opened up the source code to Z-Wave Alliance members which suggests it may go full open source at some point.
Matter doesn’t make the compatibility problem go away. You’ll still need to check for the Matter logo before buying a new product for your smart home and the transition period will be bumpy. And this will only bring Matter devices to where Z-Wave has always been in terms of interoperability – look for the Z-Wave logo on the product and you know it will work with other Z-Wave devices. The most dramatic aspect of Matter’s arrival is scale. This new application layer will (hopefully) make millions of devices from the biggest tech companies play together well. But that doesn’t mean all other IoT technologies will become obsolete.
Have you noticed that the title of this post doesn’t say “Z-Wave VS Matter”? It doesn’t say “Z-Wave OR Matter?” either. This is because we believe that the smart home space will depend on multiple protocols and application layers to deliver truly customized and scalable products or services. The era of one-fits-all solutions is over. Interconnectivity and cross development are bread and butter in the Information Age.
As the open-source model continues to spread among creators and users alike, we’ll see increased efforts to share code and encourage collaborations between brands, teams, and methodologies. And we’re here for it, with the interoperability of Z-Wave as a stable foundation for the new smart home era.
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March 22, 2023 3 Comments
Let’s take a closer look at the first Z-Wave focused hub for US and Canada. We will uncover its primary benefits, UI features, how to use the Z-Box mobile app, and what sets the system apart from other hubs available today.
As we often tell our customers, there isn’t one perfect smart home platform to solve it all. The Z-Box Hub is no exception. What makes it unique is its focus on easy access to advanced automation functionality while keeping the key data and processes off-cloud.
May 05, 2022 3 Comments
Insteon just became another smart home company to shut down their services. Overnight, the platform’s servers were disconnected, leaving their customers without a functional smart home. SmartLabs, Insteon’s mother company, claims to have sold over 5 million connected devices; that’s a lot of sensors, switches, and controllers that became orphaned. Does it mean that all of this hardware is now completely useless?
It turns out that there are ways to salvage your Insteon products and continue using them, at least to some extent, on other platforms who stepped up and provided integration for this protocol. However, these workarounds are less than user-friendly and will require more time and possible frustration around a system that’s no longer backed by any official support. What’s the alternative and is it even worth it to have a connected house these days?
August 06, 2020 1 Comment
If you already have Amazon Echo set up, you know how convenient it can be. There’s nothing like walking out the front door with full hands and telling Alexa to turn off your lights last minute. But these smart lights and plugs can be slow to react as you keep adding more smart home devices and clogging your network.
Alexa only “speaks” WiFi (and ZigBee if you have the EchoPlus). It currently doesn’t support Z-Wave, the protocol of choice for home automation thanks to its high speed and low interference with other connected devices in your home. That means you can’t have a Z-Wave switch or plug speak directly to your Echo. BUT you can use a smart home hub as a bridge between your Z-Wave devices and Amazon Alexa. Now that’s a whole other level of functionality to unlock!
And if you already have a Z-Wave hub but no smart speaker, you might be thinking how cool it would be to have voice control for your automations and smart home devices. It’s a step towards a more integrated, easy-to-use smart home with improved security, comfort, and convenience.