Z-Wave is a wireless technology more suited for professional installation and not DIY applications, and its popularity has grown among smart home system integrators, according to Ava Design Technology General Manager John Chen.
The setup of non-mainstream protocols like Z-Wave and Zigbee is not as easy or intuitive as the setup of a Wi-Fi system. Because of this, it has actually become a “burden” for companies that sell DIY products using the Z-Wave standard, Chen said. They are more popular in the U.S. where DIY is a more common practice. As such, most companies providing Z-Wave products have changed lanes to the professional installation market.
Gateway is an important equipment in any Z-Wave ecosystems. It serves as the central command and connects all the Z-Wave sensors and devices.
A main difference between DIY and professional installation is where processing is done to enable automation. For the DIY gateway, processing is done in the cloud, which cuts down on the costs for average consumers. However, the processing would stop working in the case of an internet outage. This would compromise a home’s security and other functions, which is not acceptable to some homeowners.
As such, some users have switched to gateways that can still operate in an internet outage. For the gateways offered by Fibaro and Ava Design, for example, not everything is processed in the cloud. Cloud is only there for remote control on the smartphone, Chen said. “When there is an internet outage, the only compromise is that you won’t be able to control the home from your smartphone, the gateway’s automation functions will still work.”
Ava Design’s Core Strength
Ava Design initially specializes in making Z-Wave products like sensors and gateways, before switching direction to take system integration projects in 2017. Its automation solution dictates what happens when homeowners open the door, what happens when the house reaches certain temperature, and if security companies should be notified if there is a security breach at home, among other scenarios.
Chen believes Ava Design’s edge lies not in manufacturing products, but providing smart systems and services. The company currently operates mostly in Taiwan, but may expand to Southeast Asia over time, Chen said.
Ava Design’s all-in-one gateway can connect to Ethernet, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, RF433 or FR485 for different use cases. The gateway is also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. As such, users can control their homes using Siri voice command.
Ava Design recently completed a big project in Taiwan. The house has more than 100 lights placed along the driveway, in the garden, and many other places. It’s a large-scale project with 60 door and window sensors, eight air conditioning controllers and six curtain controllers. With the scene control feature built-in, Ava Design’s gateway can secure the whole house with the push of a button.
“The software inside to enable scenes and automation is a core strength of Ava Design,” Chen said.
Works for System Integrators’ Advantages
Z-Wave’s interoperable feature makes it easy for system integrators to source products from different vendors. Ava Design originally made gateways using the Zigbee standard, but it was hard to find compatible sensors. “They differ in the application level,” Chen said, adding that “It’s hard from the perspective of a solution provider or system integrator.”
Because of the low interoperability among Zigbee products, Ava Design then switched to Z-Wave. “I can just make a Z-Wave gateway, and look for Z-Wave sensors and devices on the market, and I don’t need to engage in many business negotiations,” Chen said, adding that many American companies including constructor and system integrators have switched to Z-Wave due to the interoperability feature.
A home automation system is unlikely to control just one type of lighting or other devices. Every customer has different sensor and device requirement, and from the perspective of a system integrator, he or she needs to find a highly interoperable system, Chen said.
More Powerful 700 Series Chip
With Z-Wave standard’s comprehensive set of rules, Chen is optimistic about the technology’s future development.
The Z-Wave 700 series chip, which is expected to be released by the end of 2018, will be 10 times more energy efficient than the current 500 series, Chen said. A window/door sensor running on the 500 series chip can last one year before the battery is out of power. The 700 series, on the other hand, can allow the sensor to operate for up to 10 years. The performance will surpassed that of Zigbee.
It will also have a smaller form, and the speed will jump from the current 100 kilobyte to 1 megabyte, which is faster than Zigbee.