Z-Wave technology’s adoption varies in different parts of the world, with North America appearing to stay ahead of the curve. The U.S. is 5 years ahead of Europe in term of smart home adoption, according to Johan Pedersen, Z-Wave Product Marketing Manager at Sigma Designs.
In Asia, there is a lot of different things going on. Different countries in Asia have very different development stages, Pedersen said. In Korea, there is a rapid development of IoT services from major telecom service providers. “If you compare three years ago to now, there has been an extreme growth of Z-Wave in Korea,” Pedersen noted. There is a lot of growth activity in Japan as well. Major telecom companies there, are introducing new smart home services.
In China, however, it’s really hard to have a smart home service. Chinese are not used to paying a monthly service, so the service provider business model or smart home progress is very challenging in China, Pedersen said. “We do have a lot of Chinese members in the Alliance, but most of these companies have their business outside of China.”
There has been a huge increase in the number of Z-Wave products in the smart home market. Over 2,400 devices have been certified by the Z-Wave Alliance.
According to Pedersen, lighting devices such as in-wall switch are the most common type of Z-Wave product seen in today’s smart home market. The reason is that for consumers, lighting devices are simple, straightforward and easier to understand, Pedersen said, adding that there has also been a significant increase in sensors using Z-Wave.
It doesn’t mean Z-Wave product categories are constrained in any way. On Z-Wave Alliance’s webpage of certified products, there are 16 categories including smart hub, smart lock, smart thermostat, voice control products, smart alarms, garage door opener, smart fan control, smart plug, etc. “Companies are making all sorts of IoT products using Z-Wave,” Pedersen said.
Z-Wave Alliance Executive Director Mitchell Klein pointed out that Z-Wave is especially popular among home security applications.
Z-Wave vs. Zigbee
Asked what the differences are between Z-Wave and similar low-power protocol Zigbee, Pedersen said that “The main difference between Zigbee and Z-Wave is that Z-Wave is guaranteed to be interoperable and we have a certification program that you have to go through.”
“With Zigbee, you have more flexibility,” Pedersen continued. Zigbee users may have no interest in making an interoperable solution that is capable of communicating with other devices. They want to lock consumers into using only their products.
Z-Wave Alliance’s Klein concurred. “People chose not to use Z-Wave mostly for business related reasons, not technology capability reasons,” he said. They didn’t go for certification, and developed proprietary technology to lock in the brand or for other competition reasons.
Certified Installer Toolkit to Facilitate Z-Wave Implementation
Klein stressed that the recently launched Certified Installer Toolkit (CIT) by the Z-Wave Alliance can be very helpful to professional installers. CIT makes installation and testing of a Z-Wave smart home mesh network easier. The software in the toolkit allows installers to evaluate the health and stability of a Z-Wave network.
The CIT helps installers make sure the mesh network is robust, that the devices are all communicating properly, Klein said. “Once that’s done, they can take the toolkit with them out to the next project and ensure that you are not going to have any problems with the installation. The toolkit will reveal any potential problem areas well before you leave your project.”