Z-Wave Smart Home Protocol Will Be Opened to Other Tech Providers

Silicon Labs said it is going to open the Z-Wave specification to other silicon manufacturers and software developers in the second half of 2020.

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Stakeholders have always touted Z-Wave as an “open standard,” but the popular home automation protocol has been less than that since its inception nearly two decades ago.

Even after the Z-Wave Alliance was formed in 2005, and multiple little steps were taken to “open” the protocol over the years, it still remained a less-than-open environment because only one company (first Zensys, then Sigma Designs, now Silicon Labs) made the silicon and owned the expertise for doing so. These Z-Wave “owners,” meanwhile, owned the standards-making process – implicitly or otherwise – so how “open” could it be?

Now Silicon Labs (NASDAQ: SLAB), which acquired the Z-Wave business from Sigma Designs in 2018, is making a real effort to open up the standard for real.

The chip-maker, along with the Z-Wave Alliance, have announced plans to “open the Z-Wave Specification as a ratified, multi-source wireless standard available to all silicon and stack vendors for development.”

A press release states: “With this change, semiconductor and software suppliers will be able to join the Z-Wave ecosystem, contribute to future advancements of the leading smart home standard, and develop and supply sub-GHz Z-Wave radio devices and software stacks.”

At the same time, it seems the Z-Wave Alliance will become a more independent standards-making and certification body, overseeing (and encouraging) development by competitors of SiLabs.

While the move might invite new competition for SiLabs, it should expand the universe of Z-Wave providers and products, thereby driving consumer adoption of the Z-Wave ecosystem.

“As an early adopter of Z-Wave technology, we welcome this move by Silicon Labs,” states George Land, Z-Wave Alliance board member and general manager of digital products at Trane. “Enabling an even broader ecosystem of interoperability will bolster both consumer and manufacturer confidence, driving overall growth of the industry.”

Furthermore, the new openness might endear the tech giants that have avoided Z-Wave in part because it wasn’t “open enough” compared to other protocols like ZigBee.

Indeed, Amazon, Apple and Google, along with the ZigBee Alliance, just announced plans to collaborate on a “Connected Home over IP” platform for interoperability. SiLabs, which makes ZigBee products in addition to Z-Wave, is part of the group.


Editor’s Note: This story first ran on Security Sales & Integration’s sister publication CE Pro.

About the Author

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Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration.

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