The market for the Internet of Things (IoT) is continuing to grow and become more commonplace for consumers and engineers alike. The rise of IoT has caused an explosion of new IoT products to be released, with various ecosystems claiming superiority over others. With all the options now available, buyers are left overwhelmed and unsure as to which technology best fits their design needs. Two popular IoT ecosystems are ZigBee and Z-Wave. Both are great wireless solutions for home automation, smart energy, telecommunications, health care, remote control (RF4CE, or radio frequency for consumer electronics), building automation, and retail services. However, they differ in their specifications and applications and are therefore suitable for different uses. Understanding the differences between ZigBee and Z-Wave can be tricky. Read along for a comparison and what you need to know about ZigBee and Z-Wave.
ZigBee is a low-power wireless mesh network standard for battery-powered devices. As a solution for wireless control and monitoring applications, ZigBee has become very popular in home automation, data monitoring, management systems, and industrial equipment. ZigBee’s technology was designed to support the development and deployment of custom profiles—making it an efficient solution for manufacturers to create wireless products for common applications.
Z-Wave is a proprietary System on a Chip (SoC) home automation protocol designed to support control, monitoring, and status reading applications. Although less flexible than ZigBee, this technology benefits from a strict certification process that allows buyers to avoid roadblocks that are often experienced with ZigBee and other solutions. This process allows all Z-Wave devices to function in a seamless interoperable manner. In recent years, Silicon Labs acquired the Z-Wave protocol from Sigma Designs and is now the only licensed manufacturer of Z-Wave chips. One of the latest advancements in the Z-Wave product portfolio, is the Z-Wave 700 platform produced by Silicon Labs. This platform enables smart-home applications to be more intelligent; allowing consumers to control various sensors using minimal power at a broader range.
How Do ZigBee and Z-Wave Compare?
ZigBee and Z-Wave are capable of operating as mesh networks. Devices on these networks can last for years on a coin cell battery when used in sleep mode or a couple months while transmitting a constant signal. Aside from these two main similarities, Table 1 outlines the differences in specifications between these technologies:
Table 1: ZigBee and Z-Wave specifications. (Source: Author)
Why Choose ZigBee?
- Provides more flexibility in its profile development, which led to its popularity among original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
- Numerous suppliers allow OEMs to have more options from which to choose.
- Open portfolios make it a highly versatile wireless solution (Although the protocol is fairly complex).
- More connected devices allow for more resources and community support for the application that is being built.
Why Choose Z-Wave?
- Longer range than ZigBee. Z-Wave range is 100m line-of-sight whereas ZigBee is only 20m.
- Operates at 908MHz, which avoids interference with other wireless signals commonly operating at 2.4GHz, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth®, and ZigBee. Interferences can result in lost or unreliable signals.
- Uses less power than ZigBee. Depending on the application and configuration, a set of AA batteries could keep the Z-Wave module going for years.
- One of the biggest advantages for Z-Wave is its interoperability. The Z-Wave standard ensures that all deployed devices are compatible with one another, regardless of the manufacturer. This makes Z-Wave a truly open system that removes constraints on product choices for consumers. Additionally, Z-Wave is completely backwards compatible. Device or technology obsolescence has forever been a major concern for vendors. Z-Wave has therefore made it a key requisite to ensure that all new devices will communicate effectively with older devices.
ZigBee and Z-Wave each have their benefits. While they can be used for many of the same wireless solutions, choosing between the two comes down to the requirements of your selected application.
About the Author
Tyler Wojciechowicz is an Applications Engineer at Symmetry Electronics. He has his Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from Milwaukee School of Engineering and 8 years of hands-on experience as an Electrical Engineer. He specializes in IoT applications, microcontrollers, embedded programming, timing, sensors, and power management. In his current role, he works closely with field sales to advise on optimal part substitutions, product suggestions, and sales tools. He is adept in developing instruction manuals, reference designs, tutorials, product comparison matrices, and marketing campaigns for reputable suppliers across multiple markets. Throughout his career, he has also been involved in new product development, prototyping, engineering consultancy, schematic and board design, 3D modeling and mechanical design. He is highly involved in the electronics manufacturing community and is constantly seeking out the latest innovations that are going to propel the next big thing.
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Source: Mouser Electronics