There are four wireless technologies that you can use when creating a smart home. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Z-Wave are all currently available solutions. You have probably heard of the first two, but the last two are relatively unknown. So, you might be interested in our ZigBee vs Z-Wave technology comparison.
Exploring the Latest in Smart Home Networking
Essentially, are alternative ways that can be used instead of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for communication between home gadgets. Both offer specific benefits. For example, Z-Wave is lower power compared to Wi-Fi, and it can deliver greater range than Bluetooth.
These technologies allow devices to connect wirelessly, but they work differently than either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Instead of creating direct links between a router or a hub and smart devices, both these technologies use mesh networks. This means data and signals are sent from the router to one device and then on to another. Consequently, the signal can reach devices that are typically out of range of the hub. It "hops" along the pathway created by each device.
In evaluating ZigBee vs Z-Wave, we found that both have qualities like high reliability and low power usage, which are essential aspects of smart home applications. Even so, they have some vital differences that need to be clearly delineated. This article highlights our extensive ZigBee vs Z-Wave comparison and provides our conclusion as to which of the two is the best option.
What Is ZigBee?
ZigBee is an open technology that has become the global wireless standard language for smart device communication. Although the technology was originally developed for commercial use, it now serves as the sensing and control standard in many residential areas.
HOW ZIGBEE WORKS
ZigBee allows smart devices to connect via a mesh network which, again, is a system that transfers information from one smart device to the next until it reaches a hub. The importance of such a connection is that you can expand and widen your network of home automation devices without the need for high-powered transmitters.
SECURITY & COMPATIBILITY
ZigBee utilizes AES-128 encryption, which is the same level of protection that major banks use, plus network keys to keep your smart devices secure. However, you should note that various devices that use the technology made by different companies, so the standards can vary. Recently, ZigBee device makers have received criticism for security measures because researchers revealed that even a door lock was vulnerable to hackers.
The ZigBee Alliance is made up of 400 member organizations that utilize, develop, and improve ZigBee's open-standard wireless connection. This implies that clients can mix and match smart home devices from different manufacturers and add new devices as their needs change over time.
NOTABLE BENEFIT & DRAWBACK
ZigBee technology needs little power; devices can be sustained by a single battery for up to seven years. They come with a green-power option that makes it possible for clients to select devices that do not need batteries at all. The biggest drawback is that this technology was developed primarily for retail and utility industries. Although it is a popular technology for home use, consumers should have technical know-how for setup and maintenance to use it properly.
ZigBee best serves the do-it-yourselfer or technology expert who needs a system she or he can install and customize with their preferences. ZigBee allows you to control your home environment with a scalable and compatible mesh network.
What Is Z-Wave?
Z-Wave is one of the original technologies for wireless networking and automation of homes. It is a proprietary technology that was developed specifically for clients to control and monitor their home smart devices remotely. The technology continues to set the standard for automated heating, appliances, security, and lighting, among other smart devices.
HOW Z-WAVE WORKS
A Z-Wave hub typically serves as the controller in your home network. It allows you to connect up to 232 devices wirelessly, making it easy for them to communicate with each other. The more connected devices you introduce into your network, the further your signal can reach. It uses a mesh system similar to that of Z-Wave which allows signals to hop from one smart device to another. This means that when two devices are connected outside the signal range, they can communicate by way of the various devices in between.
SECURITY & COMPATIBILITY
The Z-Wave Alliance is made up of 375 companies, and it recognizes about 1,500 products that are all interoperable with each other. Nine out of 10 leading communication and security companies in the U.S. use Z-Wave in the smart-home solutions they offer. This technology is used by 325 manufacturers, meaning that there are many options for devices that will communicate with each other.
Z-Wave networks and devices are assigned unique IDs for communication with your hub. This rules out the possibility of another hub controlling your hub's connected devices. Devices such as alarms and door locks require trustworthy, inviolable security. This technology uses AES-128 encryption. As long as devices "speak" the Z-Wave language, you'll have a reliable central hub for your smart-home environment.
A NOTABLE BENEFIT & DRAWBACK WORKS
The technology is user-friendly, and it provides a simple system that clients can set up by themselves. However, you can still hire a professional to install the system in your home. After purchasing your Z-Wave hub, you can decide which devices you want to connect. However, perhaps the greatest drawback is that the system is expensive, with compatible products ranging between $40 and $100 each, which can add quickly if you use many devices.
It serves best a person with a basic understanding of technology works or wants to keep his or her home efficient, secure, and easy to maintain. Z-Wave works with the most popular brands and smart devices and therefore clients don't experience a lot of limitations.
ZigBee vs Z-Wave: What's the Best Option?
ZIGBEE VS Z-WAVE: NETWORK CONFIGURATIONS
Both ZigBee and Z-Wave use mesh networks. In a mesh network, the signal comes from the central hub just like in a star network configuration. However, devices do not have to communicate directly with the central hub in a mesh network. Instead, it allows each smart device in the network to operate as a repeater and pass the signal on to another device in sequence. This affords mesh networks great versatility. They can cover greater distances and even navigate obstacles better than other wireless options.
While Z-Wave networks support up to four hops between the controller and the smart device, ZigBee networks are not limited to a specific number of hops. A Z-Wave network is limited to 232 total devices, but a ZigBee mesh can conceivably allow up to 65,000 connected devices... although you would probably run into bandwidth issues long before getting close to that number.
ZIGBEE VS Z-WAVE: POWER CONSUMPTION
Both technologies are very low-power and use a fraction of what a Wi-Fi network needs. This is a major benefit for smart devices. In fact, some devices using ZigBee or Z-Wave can run on a single coin cell battery for years. However, any device acting as a frequent repeater in the mesh network will need a bit more power. This means that battery-operated devices are not usually programmed to act as repeaters.
ZIGBEE VS Z-WAVE: SMART HOME INTEROPERABILITY
The Z-Wave Alliance ensures that every Z-Wave device complies with a strict set of standards. Each Z-Wave certified device works will all Z-Wave certified controllers. Over 600 manufacturers produce over 2100 Z-Wave certified products that can be plugged into your new or existing network.
However, ZigBee has a perceived lack of interoperability. The certification has not been harmonized, in the sense that one body and standard certifies software and the other certifies hardware. There are many interoperable ZigBee products available, but the technology's reputation for optimum compatibility is a work in progress.
ZIGBEE VS Z-WAVE: SIGNAL STRENGTH
Operating at higher frequencies reduces the range of the signal. ZigBee operates at 2.4GHz, compared to 908 MHz for Z-Wave. That higher ZigBee frequency allows for more data to be transmitted, but in turn, it reduces the range of the signal. Z-Wave signals can travel up to 330 feet in an outdoor and unobstructed setting, whereas a ZigBee signal can travel about 40 feet in a similar setting.
ZIGBEE VS Z-WAVE: SIGNAL RELIABILITY
Since Z-Wave devices have more range than ZigBee devices, you can anticipate fewer reliability issues stemming from range issues. This means that Z-Wave is more reliable than ZigBee overall. However, a perfectly designed ZigBee network can be reliable in the right environment.
ZIGBEE VS Z-WAVE: SECURITY
Both these technologies use the AES encryption standard so that no one can get control of your smart home or devices by hacking the signal. The Z-Wave Alliance has incorporated a new Security 2 (S2) framework, making it impossible for such a system to be compromised in a DDOS attack.
Your Best Option?
In our view, Z-Wave is better for most applications because of its:
If we were to choose one technology between the two, Z-Wave would be a safer and more straightforward choice. In part, this is because the Z-Wave Alliance has made it easier for clients to take advantage of the interoperability. You can simply buy products that can plug right into your network. It also has a greater range and less interference.
Z-Wave networks allow more devices to connect with few reliability issues. ZigBee has a loose certification process, making interoperability challenging under some circumstances. It has a lesser range and is more likely to run into issues with reliability when more devices are connected. We hope that you have enjoyed and learned from our ZigBee vs Z-Wave comparison and can move on to build the home network of your dreams very soon.