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Can Alarm Dealers Survive the Battle to Control the Home?

The Z-Wave Alliance is a consortium of more than 200 independent manufacturers that build wireless home control products based on the Z-Wave standard. Mark Walters, chairman of the group, joins the conversation to discuss the increasingly competitive home automation/home security landscape.



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What are the major adoption hurdles for the commercial space?

I don’t know that there are any major hurdles for adoption in the commercial space; it so happens that the focus of our partners has been residential and SMB. Z-Wave is optimized for local networks, with 232 or fewer devices, roughly 10,000 square feet or less. When it is used in large building control applications it is almost always tied together with some other technology or technologies. An example is the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. There are over 65,000 Z-Wave devices in that one structure, with each guest room having its own Z-Wave network. These individual networks are tied into a whole building control solution by using several other networking technologies. Z-Wave was chosen for the guest rooms because the products were available and because each room could be retrofitted in about four hours, which obviously minimized cost and disruption.

What is the impact of wireless technology on a product’s energy consumption?

If it is done right, the additional energy required to communicate via a wireless technology is orders of magnitude lower than the energy used for its local operation. In instances where battery life is impractical, it is because the wrong wireless technology is being used. For example, Wi-Fi has great bandwidth but more than is needed for control and monitoring, hence a waste of power draw. Additionally, when a system is poorly designed so that the battery-operated devices are polled too frequently, you get less-than-ideal results.  

Within Z-Wave certification standards, we mandate that best practices be used, ensuring the maximum battery life for all device types. Z-Wave has one of the industry’s lowest power consumptions for its given bandwidth and range. Z-Wave uses low-powered radios combined with mesh networking to get extended battery life, whole-house coverage, and built-in fault tolerance. These are features that have been optimized for this application space over the past 12 years.

Homeowners increasingly have the ability to remotely control devices like thermostats, door locks, security lighting, gate operators, as well as view video camera feeds. What do you see on the horizon as far as increased functionality and feature sets for home automation and security?

One of the trends I see coming that excites me is the ability for the control and monitoring system to learn what is “normal” and to provide alerts based on abnormal conditions. One example would be if a yard gate opens in the middle of the day. If it has never done that before it’s an event that merits a notification, so the system shoots out an SMS alert. If it isn’t OK, the homeowner has been duly notified; if it is OK, the homeowner just indicates this back to the system with a quick response to the SMS. No programming is required, and the system gets more intelligent and valuable over time.

Who would give up all this learning to save a few bucks in a changeover? This is also a great feature when monitoring an elderly person remotely. The front door has been open for four hours, or the temperature is 20°  cooler than it typically is, so the system sends an SMS. Again, no programming would be required; just a change in pattern followed by confirmation.

Data/cyber security is a big concern with any physically accessible wireless network. How is Z-Wave protected in this regard?

In this particular area, virtually all technologies including Z-Wave are using industry standard AES128 encryption algorithms to secure the data payloads.

Would you like to share any other thoughts on the future of the connected home and the market opportunities that will be available to installing service providers?

My view — and it seems to be the market view as well — is that customers and providers should focus on interoperable solutions, so that nobody gets locked into proprietary solutions that are risky from a sustainability perspective, and are often more expensive. There is security in numbers. With a technology solution like Z-Wave, there are multiple suppliers for each system component, and where interoperability is assured via a stringent certification process.

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Article Topics
Business Management · Cable Providers · Home Automation · Home Controls · Home Security Systems · Hot Seat · Mark Walters · All Topics

About the Author
Rodney Bosch
Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.
Contact Rodney Bosch: rbosch@ehpub.com
View More by Rodney Bosch
Cable Providers, Home Automation, Home Controls, Home Security Systems, Hot Seat, Mark Walters, Telcos


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