Z-Wave vs ZigBee comparative review

13 jul 2017

written by: theodor spadeson
Z-WAVE VS ZIGBEE

Introduction.

Nowadays, we can no longer live our lives without digital devices. Starting with laptops and PCs on our worktops, right to the smartphones and tablets in our pockets and backpacks, we control our IoT appliances from wherever we are.

In the era of technology, our homes become “smarter”, hence, new wireless standards appear. These wireless standards include not only the well-known Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but such as ZigBee, Z-Wave, WeMo, and Thread.

Two wireless protocols Z-Wave and ZigBee contest for consumer preferences in home automation technologies, which are steadily gaining momentum. The consequent question would be reasonable: whether this ZigBee vs Z-wave competition is important for the consumer? According to the statistical data, Z-Wave market share broke through the 60% rate, while ZigBee is lagging behind with its 20%.

0001

When you select an inexpensive home control system, a “smart home” automation system, you must make sure that all managed appliances are consonant with either Z-Wave or ZigBee. Therefore, much depends on this.

Both technologies allow you to have two-way wireless communication with each device you want to control, including remote control, dimmers, and thermostats. Both protocols support the mesh networks topology and the more functional units (devices) are on the network, the better the network’s performance.

ZigBee has a higher bandwidth, so it can transmit larger amounts of information than Z-Wave, such as, for example, the data array of your music library.

Z-Wave has its undeniable advantage: it is actually a "standard" for manufacturers of various utensils and products for home automation. That means that Z-Wave devices and products from one manufacturer are fully compliant with devices from other suppliers (with few exceptions). There are hundreds of such manufacturers nowadays, hence the choice in price and functionality is broader.

ZigBee developers are trying to do the same thing, but still, you can not so easily combine devices from different producers, as it can be done with Z-Wave-based devices.

Concerning the price, at first glance, it may seem that Z-Wave is cheaper than ZigBee, but in fact, it is not quite so. For certain reasons, the majority of manufacturers, producing home automation systems compliant with ZigBee (for instance AMX or Crestron), operate in more expensive segments of the market.

Nevertheless, the ZigBee-dimmer from Control4 can cost less than the Z-Wave dimmer from Leviton. The peculiarity of Z-Wave is that this protocol is the undisputed leader among such systems in the market DIY (Do It Yourself) and it is, in fact, the only option for an unsophisticated home master. In the case of ZigBee smart home products, it is not as easy as just visiting the store and buying the needed utensil.

However, for high-level systems, this does not matter. We would not suggest and force Z-Wave or ZigBee as a “touchstone” for choosing a home automation system. Hence, we would suggest selecting a smart solution that will completely fulfill your consumption requirements.

The following table shows the crucial differences between ZigBee and Z-Wave technologies.

Z-wave vs. ZigBee

ZigBee versus Z-Wave: Pro et contra.

The below section of our Z-Wave versus ZigBee home automation systems comparison will estimate the obvious advantages and disadvantages of the latter wireless protocols. Fasten your belts, we begin.

ZigBee.

This current radio protocol is an open standard based on the IEEE 802.15.4 specification. ZigBee wireless network technology is capable of operating within the 915 MHz-2.4 GHz frequency. This smart system will be energy efficient while operating on the lowest frequency, but simultaneously cutting down the data rate to 40 Kbps.

At the same time, it can work within the higher frequency, which is 2.4 GHz, while allowing the data rate to grow up to 250 Kbps. It is important to mention, that it can obstruct the existing WI-Fi networks on its high frequency.

Such well-known representatives like LG, Logitech, Samsung Electronics, Philips, and others support ZigBee technology and produce ZigBee-compliant products. Some of the mentioned companies also support Z-Wave, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi).

Among the available ZigBee products on the market, there are Harmony Hub/Hub Extenders from Logitech, Smart Aqualtis washing machine from Indesit Company, smart lightbulb from Samsung Electronics, Hue dimmers, and switches from Philips etc. There are three basic kinds of devices in networks, which can perform one of the following roles:

  1. Coordinator. There can be only one coordinator in the network. It never sleeps.
  2. Router.The network can contain lots of routers. It also never sleeps, serves as a node and can perform the functions of the terminal device.
  3. The terminal device. The terminal device is most often “fed” from an autonomous power source. Most of the time it sleeps, periodically waking up and pinging its host (router or coordinator) and checking if there any messages for it. Can perform simple work like sampling inputs.

Pros:

  • The ZigBee works in the 2.4 GHz frequency bandwidth (just like the WiFi technology, however, ZigBee can use different channels);
  • It can be expanded with new devices at any time;
  • The ZigBee product can be built using open source software;
  • It is created to ensure ease of controlling and monitoring appliances from remote;
  • Also, it supports mesh-network;
  • The 802.15.4 radio system has a certain advantage in terms of “high-noise” environments. The reason for this advantage is in the fact, that ZigBee smart system is based on top-grade technique of modulation and transmission of signals with an extended spectrum;
  • It does not require certification of frequencies for the use of devices based on ZigBee smart technology.

Cons:

  • Unfortunately, it requires certain knowledge to operate ZigBee-compliant devices;
  • The replacement cost will be high for an owner in an occasion when any problem with ZigBee compliant appliances occur;
  • Due to the limited coverage, it cannot be used as an outdoor communication system (only indoor);
  • The ZigBee-based communication is predisposed to attack from unauthorized people.

Z-Wave.

Z-Wave is a smart radio technology, designed specifically for remote control. Unlike Wi-Fi and other IEEE 802.11 data standards, it is designed primarily for large information flows. The discussed smart technology operates in the frequency range up to 1 GHz and is optimized for transmitting simple control commands (for example, turn on / off, change volume, regulate brightness etc.). The choice of a low RF range for the Z-Wave is caused by a small number of potential sources of interference (in contrast to the 2.4 GHz loaded bandwidth, where it is necessary to resort to measures that reduce possible interference from different household wireless devices - Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Bluetooth).

Among the famous branded products supporting the Z-Wave protocol, we can represent following: Harmony Hub Extender from Logitech, Amazon Echo, SmartThings Hub from Samsung Electronics, Nest Camera, etc.

There are two main types of devices defined by the latter wireless protocol:

  1. Controllers. Controller devices have a knack for transmission initiation and storing the information, which relates to network routing.
  2. Slave devices. "Slaves" are GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) endpoints - the type of devices that simply fulfill the controller’s requests.

Pros:

  • Many devices already have support for the mesh network. All such devices need to integrate is to be turned on. As an example, if you buy light switches and a water meter, the main control device will automatically configure these devices without the need to write any code;
  • The kit sets up integrated command instructions for all Z-Wave device manufacturers, which means all devices are compatible with each other from the very shelf;
  • The Zensys smart product works in the frequency range up to 1 GHz;
  • The Z-Wave radio protocol ensures compatibility with all devices from different producers that have the appropriate logo;
  • It can be built using open source software;
  • In addition, it can be expanded and complemented with new devices at any time;
  • Another advantage is traffic encryption. The Z-Wave radio network has over 4 billions encrypted security codes in order to prevent cloning;
  • The Z-Wave automation technology supports mesh network;
  • A separation of Z-Wave networks from each other uses a “Home ID” identifier;
  • An each node on the network has its own “Node ID”;
  • The topology of the chain is cellular, which avoids signal loss. Each device can be either transmitting or receiving a signal.
  • Due to the limited number of message transfers between nodes up to 4-way, Z-Wave can use a simple routing mechanism and reduce the memory requirements of the node.

Cons:

  • In order to get access to the Z-Wave documentation, the user must first purchase a developer’s kit;
  • Z-Wave wireless system has its top rates: 9.6 Kbps or 40 Kbps, with full compatibility, which means, that it is not possible to transmit video, audio, images, and other media files;
  • For solutions where there are more than 30 home automation utensils are required, the Z-Wave is more expensive than regular cable systems;
  • The maximum number of nodes in the network is 232 pcs.
Z-wave vs. ZigBee Comparison

From the consumer’s point of view, it would be more advantageous to choose Z-wave, because it seems easier and more reliable than ZigBee. Due to the fact, that Z-Wave Alliance has made it slight to find smart appliances capable of plugging right into existing network in addition to the greater signal range and less interference, the Z-Wave vs ZigBee choice for unsophisticated users is obvious.

Z-wave vs. ZigBee Comparison

Despite the similarities, the main difference between Z-Wave and ZigBee is that they are not compatible with each other.

Conclusion.

Coming into the consumer’s world, we would admit, that it does not really matter which smart home wireless protocol to choose, especially, when it comes to the comparison. The ZigBee vs Z-Wave in 2017 contest is similar to iPhone vs Samsung Galaxy battle: they are virtually identical in terms of functionality.

The best thing to advise you is that you should decide the range of smart devices you want, consequently checking these devices’ availability on the standard. As we have already mentioned, many branded manufacturers produce top-notch smart house networking hubs, which support two, or even more of the wireless standards.

It is very exciting to oversee the technological development and witness the new inventions to come. Will there be ONE single standard ruling the others, or there will be an endless derby? Only time will show whether ZigBee or Z-Wave for home automation wins the consumer’s preference.

Our company LANARS has a strong experience in creating software solutions for smart house devices. The latest project that our team was developing is software for a water saving device, that you have never seen before. Its name is “Aiga”. In a nutshell, it is an inline water control system allowing house owners to control the water consumption in virtue of a mobile application.

The intuitive software and its accommodation with the actual water saving device were designed, developed, and tested by our experts for users to reduce the fatigue in managing the device. Real-time dynamic modulation of the water flow rate will help you to save up to 60% of water used in the shower without any reduction in pressure. Installation of this remarkable invention does not need any professional skill. In fact, it needs only a couple of minutes of your spare time and a wrench. As to an application, you need to download it and synchronize with the Aiga device. Fully customizable settings will help you save water and track the consumption.

From an objective opinion, this device will serve as a convenient enhancement to the smart home and will meet the house owners’ desire to save on bills.