Z-Wave Automation Guide

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Apr 10, 2012

The smart home automation segment has exploded. Now with Axis releasing a camera integrated with Z-Wave, the technology is taking on a new wrinkle in extending I/O features with a whole category of wireless sensors.

But is this a sign of things to come for Z-Wave, or is the technology a risk? In this note, we give a brief overview of Z-Wave and describe its adoption in home security systems.

[Note: This post was significantly updated in 2018 since originally being published in 2012.]

Overview

The Z-Wave Alliance is composed of manufacturers all actively designing and producing products compliant with the network protocol. A review of member documents indicates key attributes of the 'Z-Wave' transmission medium:

  • Z-Wave is a low bandwidth, low latency ~900 MHz wireless network protocol
  • Z-Wave is licensed by Zensys/Sigma, and development permissions are exclusively granted by the company
  • Z-Wave is low power, stable, and simplified compared to 802.11. The resulting network is ideal home automation, appliance controls, and security systems.

The network is designed to be setup with one click, similar to WPS, and is source routed to prevent connections from being lost even if devices are moved. If connections are dropped, devices will automatically renegotiate with central nodes.

Z-Wave Command Structure

Given the wide applicability of Z-Wave to many different types of devices, including locks, lights, contact sensors, and environmental sensors, the data framework of structuring commands (called the command class) takes different forms. However, from a general standpoint, each command includes a single basic operation.

For example, for Door Lock Status, the Z-Wave specification requires devices return requests in the following way:

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

S2 Specification Offers Better Security

While early versions of Z-Wave devices had light security, the newest S2 specification offers heavy-duty encryption and protection against jamming and spoofing. Among the features the S2 spec claims:

  • End-to-end encryption
  • Signal jam detection
  • Device pairing steps intended to eliminate vulnerabilities such as man in the middle attacks

Z-Wave S2 is also beginning to see some use in security systems where proprietary wireless most often was used. For example, Ring has announced their DIY Alarm system based on S2. We expect to see more S2-based security systems over time.

Distance Limitations

In contrast with other consumer wireless platforms, the effective range of Z-Wave enabled devices is relatively short at 100 feet with a clear line-of-sight. Preventing cross-talk between different Z-Wave networks is a concern, and this range restriction is a function of the usage agreement with Zensys.

Z-Wave protocol places a cap on 232 devices per network, however, multiple networks can be joined together in a router to increase this maximum. This device limitation is not seen as important for most home networks, but may limit commercial deployments.

Product Conformity

Unlike other standardized security APIs like ONVIF, Z-Wave conformance is highly policed with each device given a specific conformation. For example, Axis' camera has a discrete conformance certificate:

Axis Supports Full Z-Wave Specification Data

Depending on device types, the data being communication over Z-Wave differs. For basic sensors and simple on/off devices, a binary framework applies in ~15 different command classes. However, for advanced devices like thermostats, more granular data is sent for reporting on device status (ie: temperature, set points, system status).

Axis conformance includes features that may not yet be fully implemented or used in current products.

The total number of available classes include specialized battery reporting, tamper notifications, and wireless supervision that become important considerations for intrusion and access control systems but are not vital or mandated elements of 'wireless I/O' sensors.

Product Integration

While general 'Home Automation' is the primary function of Z-Wave, home security systems have been easily adapted to make use of the network. Homeowners are able to remotely control devices like door locks, security lighting, and gate operators.

Intrusion Systems: Alarm panel keypads like the Honeywell Tuxedo Touch and the 2GIG! GC2 & GC3 alarm systems have become central controllers for many home Z-Wave networks. These panels are often configured for remote internet access, which provides an added benefit of using alarm keypads as central control for Z-Wave networks.

Door Locks: Both Schlage and ASSA ABLOY (Yale) have introduced Z-Wave enabled deadbolts and door locks. Enabled door hardware is able to be locked or unlocked through a remote interface. The following image is a Yale branded residential keypad and deadbolt:

The list of Z-Wave integrated products is growing, and has expanded to over 600 products in the last two years. The forecast of enabled products is expected to grow over the next few years because additional manufacturers have recently signed agreements to produce licensed products.

Competition

Several standards compete with Z-Wave, including ZigBee and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Many of these competing standards are also positioned to be low cost, efficient, and secure technologies. However, Z-Wave has gained the support of several manufacturing members including ADT, GE, DSC, Black & Decker, Cooper, and Leviton. Competing standards do not yet have this degree of support.

Price

Z-Wave enabled sensors devices can be purchased for less than $40 USD. Enabled door locks cost around $200 USD, and security control panels can be purchased for $150 USD.

Previous attempts at home automation were expensive. Average system costs of $10,000 USD to $25,000 USD to automate a typical house. Conventional automation systems have been criticized for being unnecessarily complex to operate for many users. Aside from being easier to administrate, Z-Wave systems and components are much less costly than tradition home automation controls.

Conclusion

Z-Wave stands to be successful where older home automation technology has not been. The technology is less expensive and easier to use than previous systems. Actual system and device performance is subject to product testing and further analysis. However, manufacturer support is strong, and enabled products are becoming more common. Market acceptance of the technology will be an interesting trend to watch.

5 reports cite this report:

Axis Launches Z-Wave IP Camera on Jan 31, 2018
Z-Wave is big in home automation but not in video surveillance. Now, Axis is announcing their first camera with Z-Wave built in, the M5065, a...
Wireless Burglar Alarm Sensors Guide on Jul 21, 2017
Wireless sensors for burglar alarm sensors are an increasingly common option for the historical labor intensive wired alarm systems. However,...
ADT Sued, Claimed 'Easily Hacked' on Nov 17, 2014
A lawsuit has been filed against ADT. The class action complaint claims ADT's wireless systems are 'easily hacked', that ADT knows this and yet...
Wireless Access Control Panels on Oct 16, 2014
One company claims they can connect access control panels wirelessly with ranges up to a mile, saving big bucks and thousands of feet of cable...
'DIY' vs Professional Alarm Systems on Apr 18, 2012
A growing yet controversial trend in alarm systems is for people to do it themselves, installing their own alarm systems and monitoring it...
Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Central Stations Face Off Against NFPA On Fire Monitoring on Sep 18, 2018
Central stations are facing off against the NFPA over what they call anti-competitive language in NFPA 72, the standard that covers fire alarms....
IP Camera Cable Labeling Guide on Sep 14, 2018
Labeling cables can save a lot of money and headaches. While it is easy to overlook, taking time to label runs during installation significantly...
Ascent / MONI Faces Lender Lawsuit and Debt Crisis on Sep 13, 2018
ASCMA, aka Ascent, aka Brinks Home Security, aka MONI, aka Monitronics is being sued by a group of their lenders who allege: As of June 30,...
October 2018 Camera Course on Sep 13, 2018
Today is the last day to save $50 on the October 2018 Camera Course, register now. This is the only independent surveillance camera course,...
VMS Export Shootout - Avigilon, Dahua, Exacq, Genetec, Hikvision, Milestone on Sep 13, 2018
When crimes, accidents or problems occur, exporting video from one's video surveillance system is critical to proving incidents. But who does it...
Door Fundamentals For Access Control Guide on Sep 12, 2018
Assuming every door can be secured with either a maglock or an electric strike can be a painful assumption in the field. While those items can be...
IP Camera Cable Termination Guide on Sep 06, 2018
Terminating cables properly is critical to network performance, but it can be a tricky task with multiple steps. Fortunately, this task is easy to...
ADT CEO Is Out on Sep 04, 2018
ADT's CEO Tim Whall is out, 'retiring' in less than 3 months, ADT announced. This comes amidst financial challenges, with the company's stock...
Why Vivint / Best Buy Failed on Aug 31, 2018
DIY has bested Vivint. In 2017, Best Buy and Vivint partnered with Vivint employees on the floor of 400+ Best Buy stores, helping customers with...
JCI / Napco Integration Battle on Aug 30, 2018
JCI and Napco are firing salvos at each other over integration issues which both sides blame on the other. The bigger problem is that central...

Most Recent Industry Reports

25% China Tariffs Finalized For 2019, 10% Start Now, Includes Select Video Surveillance on Sep 18, 2018
A surprise move: In July, when the most recent tariff round was first announced, the tariffs were only scheduled for 10%. However, now, the US...
Central Stations Face Off Against NFPA On Fire Monitoring on Sep 18, 2018
Central stations are facing off against the NFPA over what they call anti-competitive language in NFPA 72, the standard that covers fire alarms....
Hikvision USA Starts Layoffs on Sep 18, 2018
Hikvision USA has started layoffs, just weeks after the US government ban was passed into law. Inside this note, we examine: The important...
Chinese Government Praises Hikvision Following Xi Jinping on Sep 17, 2018
The Chinese government council responsible for managing China's state-owned companies praised Hikvision’s obedience to China’s authoritarian leader...
Amazon Ring Spotlight Cam Tested on Sep 17, 2018
Amazon's Ring has released their latest camera entry, the Spotlight Cam, which we bought and tested in our Consumer IP Camera Analytics...
European Mega Security Firm Verisure Pushing Security Fog on Sep 17, 2018
The European mega security firm Verisure (Securitas Direct), with a reported 2 million customers, is pushing security fog, as shown in this BBC...
IP Camera Cable Labeling Guide on Sep 14, 2018
Labeling cables can save a lot of money and headaches. While it is easy to overlook, taking time to label runs during installation significantly...
Favorite Intercom Manufacturers 2018 on Sep 14, 2018
Intercoms are certainly increasing in popularity, driven by the integration of video and IP networking. But who is the favorite? On the one side,...
Vivotek 4MP Camera Tested (FD8379-HV) on Sep 13, 2018
Next in our series of updated 4MP testing, we bought and tested Vivotek's FD8379-HV, and entry level 4MP model claiming "top-notch quality video in...
Ascent / MONI Faces Lender Lawsuit and Debt Crisis on Sep 13, 2018
ASCMA, aka Ascent, aka Brinks Home Security, aka MONI, aka Monitronics is being sued by a group of their lenders who allege: As of June 30,...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact