Z-Wave is a wireless communication protocol based on mesh networking using low-energy radio waves around the 900 MHz frequency band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Devices equipped with a capability to use this protocol can wirelessly communicate with one another, thus enabling the implementation of smart and automated systems.
Pros: Advantages of Z-Wave Wireless Communication Protocol
Developed in 1999 by Denmark-based Zensys Holding Corp. and maintained by the Z-Wave Alliance, Z-Wave remains one of the established standards for home automation and smart systems deployment alongside Zigbee, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth technologies.
Applications include wireless and remote control of security systems, including doors, windows, and locks, as well as lighting fixtures, climate control equipment, and home appliances. It essentially supports Internet of Things implementation.
Below are the advantages of this wireless communication protocol:
Ease of Implementation: Similar to other wireless communication protocols and standards, it is easy to implement and does not require rewiring and sophisticated cabling because enabled devices communicate wirelessly and most of them run in batteries
Low Interferences: Another advantage of Z-Wave is that it does not suffer from major radio interference issues and physical obstructions because it operates around the 900 MHz band of the electromagnetic spectrum compared to the 2.4 GHz band used by Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz, Bluetooth, and Zigbee
Network Coverage: The fact that it uses electromagnetic radiation with lower frequencies than the 2.4 GHz frequency band used by competing wireless communication protocols give it an additional edge in terms of range that can extend to 100 meters or more, and it can go through most solid objects such as walls and floors
Mesh Networking: A topology based on mesh networking can expand further the coverage of a specific network because capable devices become signal repeaters, and the more devices connected in a mesh, the stronger the network becomes
Power Efficiency: It is ideal for small battery-operated smart devices because it is fundamentally a much lower power alternative to Wi-Fi technology but with a wider range than both Bluetooth and Zigbee technologies
Interoperability: The protocol is owned and maintained by a private organization to ensure adherence to standards, thus ensuring that all enabled devices are compatible and completely interoperable with one another
Cons: Disadvantages of Z-Wave Wireless Communication Protocol
The ease of implementing an automated system based on Z-Wave provides a notable advantage over other wireless communication protocols. Mesh networking also increases the network coverage and thus, the usefulness of the protocol. However, like in any other protocols, it has inherent drawbacks and limitations.
Below are the disadvantages of this wireless communication protocol:
• Data Transmission: This protocol is not suitable for streaming and large data transfers similar to ZigBee and unlike Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies because it is primarily designed for low-latency of small packets of data at rates of up to 100 kilobits per second
• Limited Number of Nodes: Unlike Zigbee that can support up to 65000 nodes on a single network, another significant drawback of Z-Wave is that it only supports up to 232 nodes while also limiting the number of allowable hubs into four
• Tree Topology: The protocol supports only a tree topology structure, which has specific disadvantages to include difficulty in configuration, performance issues corresponding to an increased number in nodes, susceptibility to dense network traffic in bottleneck areas, and limitations in the length of a segment, among others
• Implementation Cost: A system based on Z-Wave is relatively inexpensive to deploy because there is a wide selection of affordable devices in the market, but the cost of implementation can go up when expanding the network coverage
• Security Issues: The protocol is also inherently secured but it still needs specific security measures implemented by a knowledgeable user to make it less vulnerable to hacking that can compromise the privacy and security of a network
• Closed System: Updates to the protocol and the software or firmware of enabled devices are dependent on the Z-Wave Alliance and there are no open-source resources that would allow users to implement their own fixes and modifications
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Babun, L., Aksu, H., Ryan, L., Akkaya, K., Bentley, E. S., and Uluagac, A. S. 2020. Z-IoT: Passive Device-class Fingerprinting of ZigBee and Z-Wave IoT Devices. ICC 2020 – 2020 IEEE International Conference on Communications. ICC 2020 – 2020 IEEE International Conference on Communications. DOI: 1109/icc40277.2020.9149285
- Badenhop, C. W., Graham, S. R., Ramsey, B. W., Mullins, B. E., and Mailloux, L. O. 2017. “The Z-Wave Routing Protocol and its Security Implications.” Computers & Security. 68: 112-129. DOI: 1016/j.cose.2017.04.004