Why Wireless Is the Wild West of Security

Here is a look at the latest in standards and new products in wireless security technology.

The biggest question today about the state of wireless security is if the party is just about over or just beginning? If it’s the latter, do you have a ticket to the dance? On one hand, new wireless technology applications are many and exciting. On the other hand, this new wireless technology world could quickly tumble down on us. We could easily call this the Wild Wild West of wireless technology.

It seems like everything everywhere is now being wirelessly connected. Research from IDC predicts the “Internet of Things” (IoT) market will be worth $7.1 trillion in the next six years. Further, Gartner Inc. has reported that the smart home products market, a subset of the IoT market, could add $1.9 trillion to the global economy. Now you have a good idea what everybody is chasing.

Your goal is to see what share of this expansive market can be captured. Remember, the security industry was the first industry to provide “Machine to Machine” (M2M) technology (digital and tape dialers) to the residential market. It would be a travesty to lose decades of security industry momentum. 

More Standards, Please

One of the biggest industry technical challenges is wireless connectivity of the multitude of new and legacy home automation/security products. The battle for a communications standard has been fierce among technology groups such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee and Z-Wave. Wireless security manufacturers have been making every effort for multiple wireless communication capabilities.

Have you heard about the Thread home networking protocol? Well, I am sure you have heard about the Nest product by Google, which along with six other companies (Samsung Electronics, Yale Security, Silicone Labs, Freescale Semiconductor, Big Ass Fans and ARM) have formed the Thread group. This new protocol is expected to help all IoT devices’ wireless connectivity. The plan is to allow anyone to easily and securely connect 250+ low-power devices in a mesh network that would include both Internet and ‘cloud’ access. According to Thread, existing 802.15.4 wireless devices will be able to run with a software enhancement. Look for the Thread logo coming soon to a device near you.

Many wireless controls today have the capability to communicate with Z-Wave devices. This wireless communication technology, which is entering its fifth generation, is also known as the 500 Series or Z-Wave Plus. According to the Z-Wave Alliance, some of the new improvements include: 50% improvement in battery life; 67% improvement in range; 250% more bandwidth; three RF channels for improved noise immunity and higher bandwidth; new plug-n-play network-wide inclusion feature; improved self-healing and fault tolerance with explorer frame feature; standardized method for over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates; and improved product information capture for the certification database. It is estimated there are more than 20 million classic Z-Wave products in use, and many more are expected with the new Z-Wave Plus certification.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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