NEWSLETTER - Q2 2021
What is Needed to Achieve True Smart Home Ecosystem Interoperability?

This year is a turning point for the smart home -- a recent Deloitte survey found that each US household now has about 25 connected devices and 66% have smart home devices. Despite this growth, consumer awareness of compatibility between brands and devices across wireless technologies remains a challenge.

To continue to succeed, the smart home market and beyond will require robust product ecosystems that can easily work together in a home (or commercial) system. The Matter initiative, brought forth by the Connectivity Standards Alliance, aims to unify device communication so that connected devices could work better together, across both wireless technologies and smart home ecosystems. The Z-Wave Alliance has been driving this mission for nearly two decades using the Z-Wave protocol as building blocks from the network layer through the application layer. 

Interoperability has always been at the core of the Z-Wave protocol, alongside features like backwards compatibility, security, and reliability. Z-Wave’s utilization of the Sub-GHz range coupled with the fact the majority of the other protocols opted to perform at higher frequency ranges is one of the clearest ways Z-Wave can help balance out a smart home network.

In order for the promise of industry wide interoperability to happen, Matter and Z-Wave (alongside other key players) will need to collaborate. Matter benefits from Z-Wave’s large, mature ecosystem of deployed devices and technical benefits and features. Z-Wave benefits from the momentum and forward movement for achieving interoperability that Matter brings. It’s win-win.

A rising tide lifts all ships. Matter is about technology across systems and without those already deployed building blocks, the smart home cannot succeed. The Z-Wave Alliance sees Matter as a benefit to the marketplace and we have exciting things coming to Z-Wave this year both in new generation silicon and hardware security and bridging and software building blocks. For the smart home to continue to flourish, the industry needs robust product ecosystems and protocols that are capable of working side by side within residential or commercial buildings.

To celebrate 20 years of Z-Wave in 2021, we will feature insight and perspective from Alliance members and smart home industry leaders in each quarterly newsletter. 

For our Q2 edition, we interviewed Peter Shorty, Z-Wave protocol architect at Silicon Labs and a Z-Wave developer since its inception. In this interview, we chat with Peter about how he got involved with Z-Wave, Z-Wave’s technical benefits, and challenges and opportunities within the smart home industry. 
 

How did you get involved with Z-Wave? 

“I got involved with Z-Wave in 2000 when I was hired as an embedded software developer by Zensys. Zensys was a startup company developing a range of wireless lighting control products. At that point, the initial focus was not to develop a wireless mesh protocol, but to make wireless products that worked well in a home environment. We realized early in the product development that it was necessary to have reliable wireless communication, thus, the impetus for developing a wireless mesh protocol. The switch to actually separate the Z-Wave protocol from lighting control and make it a general purpose home automation control protocol came a couple of years later, when we got our first big investor.”

What is Z-Wave’s strongest value? 

“Compatibility. We are and have always been very focused on Z-Wave products being compatible, no matter what manufacturer they are from or when they were developed. Customers should not care who made a product or what spec version they are based on. If it is Z-Wave, it should just work with other Z-Wave products, and that has been a driving force for us from day one.”

What are the strongest technical benefits of Z-Wave? 

“Sub-GHz frequency. Not being in the 2.4GHz band with Wi-Fi is a big technical advantage for Z-Wave. Many other technologies for home automation see the impact from living on the 2.4GHz frequency band where they can easily get drowned out by Wi-Fi traffic, thus impacting the end user experience. Many home automation gateways do not support Wi-Fi for this reason and require a cabled Ethernet connection because co-existing with Wi-Fi is very difficult.”

"Another benefit is simplicity. The Z-Wave protocol was specifically designed for home automation and the unique needs that communicating in a home network have. We purposefully did not try to design a multipurpose protocol that could be used for game controllers, music streaming or smart cities. We focused on home automation and optimized the protocol for that one use case and made it work for end customers. Now, with the latest Z-Wave Long Range specification, we are building on this legacy and opening new doors for use cases for smart buildings outside of the home and in verticals like MDU and hospitality.” 

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for smart home adoption? 

“The biggest challenge and opportunity for smart home adoption is the controller. Right now, home automation is easy if you want to do basic things like turning a light on or off. As soon as you get into more complicated setups, however, such as changing light intensity based on what time it is or if it is sunny outside, it becomes very complicated and often requires some kind of knowledge about coding or scripting. 

"Coming up with a smart home controller that can set up a smart home for the user's needs, without the user having to program it with a complicated algorithm, is a huge challenge, but I think it can be solved with machine learning and similar technologies. Solving this would, in my opinion, be a game changer for the smart home adoption and enable everyone to set up a smart home."

Z-Wave Long Range and the Multifamily Market
 

At the beginning of 2020, the National Apartment Association predicted that the U.S. would need an average increase of 328,000 new multifamily units annually to keep up with the growing rental demographic. Now, almost halfway through 2021, we are seeing the effects of COVID-19 on the MDU market. Construction of new developments fell behind, resulting in a significant decrease in inventory from previous years. Now, more than ever, management teams are looking for solutions to bring more renters in while streamlining operations and cutting costs.

Smart home technology is a growing trend in the MDU community to support more robust building management and operations, as well as attract potential renters. By adding smart hubs and devices like smart locks, lighting, thermostats, and more, to apartments or condos, facility managers can easily monitor energy expenditures, grant access for showings, and more.

The latest Z-Wave Long Range (Z-Wave LR) technology builds on Z-Wave’s existing performance qualities, including increased range and coverage, scalability, optimized battery life, and device interoperability. Z-Wave LR is designed to provide equally strong network coverage, no matter how close or far away devices are located from the centralized gateway/hub. Z-Wave LR also gets stronger as more devices are added to the network, with the ability to have 20 times more nodes, or device endpoints, than traditional Z-Wave.

Z-Wave LR also leverages dynamic power control to offer 10-year battery life on a single coin-cell battery. Dynamic power control allows facility managers to install devices like sensors and not have to worry about it for a decade. That “set it and forget it” capability makes it possible to deploy in hard-to-access locations on an MDU property: behind walls or in utility closets, for example.

The Z-Wave Alliance consists of members who are leading the charge in developing technology solutions for the MDU market, including TrustHab, STRATIS, and Leviton. 

Leviton contributed to The Oasis at Highwoods, a 300-unit luxury apartment community. The iQuue MDU platform and an ecosystem of Z-Wave devices make it easy for residents to customize and automate their homes. Additionally, building managers benefit from the ability to remotely check in on their apartments from their smartphones. 

STRATIS IoT installed smart home technology at The Miles, another luxury apartment community. The Miles contains 203 units with JASCO Z-Wave Smart Lighting Dimmers and Switches, Schlage Smart BLE Locks, Honeywell Wi-Fi Thermostats, ButterflyMX Guest Access Control, and Alexa Voice Control. The buildings are equipped with Wi-Fi and Z-Wave standards, giving residents a secure and consistent connection. The Miles is recovering 100% of its investment in less than two years and is already benefiting from an increased property value.

Member TrustHab created its own Facilities-Based IoT Solution that leverages connected Z-Wave devices. This was installed in a student housing community in Charlotte, NC which consists of over 180 units. The goal of installing the TrustHab devices was to extend the lifespan of HVAC systems by improving efficiency and reducing energy costs. The results showed over $65,000 saved and the project saw a return on investment within seven months of completion. 
 

Have an interesting MDU case study you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it. Send more information to zwave@castercomm.com.

Are you interested in contributing to the growth of Z-Wave? Participate in the Z-Wave Alliance technical and marketing working groups to have your voice heard and contribute to the growing smart home industry. The benefits of getting involved include: 

  • Technical Working Groups: 

    • Get informed about the latest specification updates 
    • Share your thoughts with other manufacturers to improve the overall Z-Wave developer experience 
    • Contribute to the improvement of range, latency, and network efficiency of current and future low power IoT networks 
    • Help to maintain and create the Z-Wave certification programs and tools 
    • Assist with proposing new security features and develop them into specifications that will benefits all Z-Wave partners 
  • Marketing Working Groups:

    • Share ideas around how to better market and communicate Z-Wave to prospective users
    • Address topics related to the EMEA region
    • Help drive Z-Wave brand awareness through trade shows and events 
    • Contribute to membership growth within the Alliance
    • Supper Z-Wave’s brand presence in the smart home and IoT industries 

Joining is easy! Click here for more information.

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IPR POLICY UPDATES

The Z-Wave Alliance is an organization whose members create wireless specifications and other work products that it makes available to the public. This means that the Alliance needs to have the legal right to distribute these materials without violating the copyrights of its members. It’s important to ensure that when someone implements an Alliance Specification, it does not unknowingly infringe upon the patent rights of any member or, to the extent possible, any non-member. 

The IPR policy applies to every member, every individual that represents a member in connection with the Z-Wave Alliance technical process when they are serving in that role, and, with respect to patent claims, also to the direct and indirect subsidiaries of the member. 

The IPR policy applies to the Z-Wave Specification and any other deliverable developed or revised by an Alliance Working Group. This could be a Specification, software for inclusion in a Specification, a software reference implementation of a Specification, a guidance document, a white paper, or anything else that may be useful to the Alliance membership that the Board of Directors approves for development in a Working Group.

When a draft Specification is posted for final comments, the Administration of the Z-Wave Alliance will announce that the review period has started, as per the IPR Policy. During that period, every member can conduct whatever level of review it wishes (a formal search of its patent portfolio is not required) to determine whether it Owns any Necessary Claims, and if so, whether it is willing to license them on a RAND basis. Either way, the member must respond using a form attached to the IPR Policy as Appendix B.

If you don’t return the form, you will be deemed to have agreed to license any Necessary Claims Owned by you under that Specification for free, and otherwise on RAND terms.

Similarly, if you return the form, and later seek to charge a fee for licensing a Necessary Claim  that you didn’t disclose on that form, you will be in violation of the IPR Policy, and anyone you sue for implementing that Specification for infringement of that claim can defend itself by pointing to the IPR Policy.

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GETTING INVOLVED

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IoT Week 2021
August 31 - September 3, 2021
Virtual Event
To learn more about IoT Week2021 and to register for free, click here.


CEDIA 2021
September 1-3, 2021
Indianapolis, Indiana

The Z-Wave Alliance is excited to return to the tradeshow floor starting with CEDIA 2021!
Members are invited to participate in the Z-Wave Pavilion and take advantage of the opportunity to engage with a highly qualified integrator audience, desperate to add new products to their offerings. The Z-Wave PR team is ready to roll! To learn more about the multiple member display options and how you can participate CLICK HERE

To learn more about CEDIA Expo or to register for a free attendee pass compliments of the Z-Wave Alliance CLICK HERE and use code EXIV840613.


Works With
September 14-15, 2021
Virtual Conference
Works With is your gateway to the latest in IoT advancements from the biggest names in the industry. Grab your laptop and build your skills to develop and deliver IoT devices faster. Register at Works With or view the complete agenda.


CES 2022
January 5-8, 2022
Las Vegas, Nevada
Member Pavilion Space is available here
Z-Wave Members, reserve your space by 7/15/21 to receive a 10% discount on POD participation!

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