When I originally began looking at smart home technologies, I kept running across the phrases “Z Wave” and “Zigbee.” In the end, I couldn’t figure out precisely what the distinctions were between them. In addition, I’m not sure whether I should really give a damn. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’re going through something similar.
Then I decided to go further deeper into the subject matter.
Zigbee vs. Z-Wave — which one is best?
However, Zigbee is quicker, has a broader range of signals, claims an open protocol standard and has a substantially bigger market share in the smart home industry than Z-Wave despite having a better track record of interoperability amongst devices.
This year’s smart-home standard cooperation also featured Zigbee, among Apple, Google and Amazon. Notably, no mention was made of Z Wave.
The Zigbee and Z Wave protocols have many similarities, but there are also critical distinctions that must be understood.
Several of which have been introduced this year for the first time.
The official Z Wave versus Zigbee manifesto for 2021 is here, the result of many hours of study and more than a year of individual perspective on my part. For this article, I’m hoping to provide you with all the knowledge and guidance you need to get started on your smart home project.
This comparison chart shows a high-level comparison of these protocols, but don’t forget to read on for a more in-depth examination. Z Wave
|Network config||Wireless mesh network||Wireless mesh network||Push|
|Open or closed protocol standard||Closed
(Update: Open as of Dec 2019)
|Included in 2020 smart home open source standard alliance||No||Yes||Zigbee|
|Compatible with other products||Yes||Most of the time||Z Wave|
|Security||High (AES128 encryption)||High (AES128 encryption)||Push|
|Frequency||908.42 MHz||2.4 GHz||Z Wave|
|Wi-Fi interference||No||Possibly, but likely negligible||Z Wave|
|Max Data Rate||100 Kbps||250 Kbps||Zigbee|
|Range of network||Line of sight: Up to 100+ meters (328 ft)
Indoors: Up to 9 meters (30 ft)
|Line of sight: Up to 300+ meters (984+ ft)
Indoors: Between 75-100 meters (246-328 ft)
|Total devices supported on one network||232 devices||65,000 devices||Zigbee|
|Number of products on the market||3,200||3,500||Zigbee|
|Number of certified products sold||100 million||300 million||Zigbee|
|Winner!||3 categories||7 categories||Zigbee|
What are Z-Wave and Zigbee, and how do they work?
Smart home devices can connect with each other via Z Wave and Zigbee protocols. Alternatively, you might consider them languages. Zigbee is a Spanish-speaking device, whereas Z Wave is a French-speaking device.
Home automation is the primary use case for these “wireless radio frequency communication” technologies.
Both use low-energy radio waves to speak between devices in a network known as a mesh network.
It is possible for mesh networks to connect devices by branching or hopping off one another.
For the signal and network to be more widely disseminated, this method is preferable.
So, the more mesh network devices speak the same language, the simpler it is for them to interact with one other.
What is the purpose of the Z Wave and Zigbee protocols?
There has been a rise in the number of firms developing and marketing smart home devices with the introduction of the IoT (Internet of Things) and more especially consumer IoT.
Communication between these items was required. For this purpose, protocols like Zigbee and Z Wave were developed.
Companies and their developers faced a significant problem as more and more entered the market.
There was no standard for these goods to communicate with one another.
It’s been up to the individual firms to decide which protocol to apply in their goods as there isn’t a standard. Companies have gone so far as to create two distinct models of the same product, each employing a separate communication protocol. Aiming for greater customer appeal by making sure their items worked together.
2021 will see a plethora of smart home protocol implementations.
The average customer has largely been spared from this problem. These issues may be obscured by using smart hubs such as Hubitat Elevation, Samsung SmartThings, or Wink Hub 2.
Smart hubs are able to communicate with and translate the majority of the market’s key languages and protocols. As a result, devices using various protocols may communicate with one another. As a result, it is possible to have both Z Wave and Zigbee equipment “operating together” under one roof.
Why isn’t Wi-Fi being used as the standard for smart homes?
What a reasonable question.
Wi-Fi is also used by a large percentage of today’s smart gadgets. However, there are a few noteworthy drawbacks.
To begin with, if you add additional Wi-Fi-enabled devices to your house, you run the danger of slowing down your network and making it more crowded.
Wi-fast Fi’s data throughput comes at the cost of high power consumption. Because of this, Wi-Fi isn’t the best option for battery-powered smart home devices. It’s not a pleasant experience to have to replace the batteries in your gadgets every three weeks.
Last but not least, if your Wi-Fi fails, your smart home network will as well.
Is it Z Wave or Zigbee now?
Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of each of these technologies now that you know what they are and why they exist.
Let’s start with the most obvious problem.
In December of 2019, Apple, Google, Amazon, and Zigbee announced a joint smart home standard partnership.
If you’re not familiar with this partnership, Apple has an excellent explanation here.
This is the meat of their piece, if you don’t feel like reading the entire thing:
The collaboration’s goal is to develop a new standard for smart home connection that will improve the interoperability of these devices.
Developers may therefore concentrate on making their goods compatible with a single standard, rather than having to make the same product compatible with a variety of protocols.
Z Wave is conspicuously absent from this collaboration.
It’s a given that you’ll be a bridesmaid.
Compatibility and Standardization of Protocols
As a proprietary standard, Z Wave has only ever belonged to one business since its introduction (As of early 2018, Silicon Labs).
Z Wave benefited early on from the fact that the protocol was controlled by a single corporation, making it easier to ensure strict adherence to its regulations.
Z Wave accreditation was made required for all Z Wave product manufacturers. In most cases, this meant that Z Wave items functioned better with other Z Wave products. As a result, they were able to run on both newer and older devices.
Consumers and businesses alike opposed the restricted nature of this protocol since it meant that just Silicon Labs could produce and sell Z-Wave chips that put into “Z Wave” smart devices.
When a product can only be produced by a single business, there is no market for it. Furthermore, a lack of competition often results in increased consumer costs.
Silicon Labs stands to gain a lot of money if Z Wave becomes the smart home protocol standard.
Zigbee, on the other hand, has always been a completely open standard.
Since Zigbee is an open standard, a wide range of firms have been able to produce chips based on it. It just so happens that Silicon Labs is one of those firms. They produce chips for both Z Wave and Zigbee. The primary distinction is that, traditionally, only they were able to produce Z Wave chips, but anybody can now produce Zigbee chips.
Zigbee chips are significantly less expensive than Z Wave chips since more businesses can produce them.
As a consequence, the Zigbee standard has seen an increase in company use and, eventually, consumer adoption.
However, the “open” nature of the standard has come at a price.
To ensure that all Zigbee devices operate with one other, there has been a lack of one central producer and owner of the Zigbee chips/standard (new and old).
There is a certification for Zigbee, although it is optional. There is no guarantee that a company will accomplish anything if it is accessible to the public. Even if it is in the best interest of their customers and their firm.
Is Z Wave too late to make a significant difference?
After Z Wave discovered that they had been left out of the smart home standard cooperation, they decided to make a major shift. By enabling other firms to manufacture Z Wave chips, Silicon Labs has virtually made Z Wave an open standard overnight.
In addition, Silicon Labs has opted to separate its Z Wave certification program from the rest of the company. In order to maintain the Z Wave protocol, this is a vital step.
These are the intended outcomes:
- 1) Make Z Wave chips available to more firms, hence expanding the standard’s adoption; and
- Get an invitation to the ongoing discussions between Apple, Google, Amazon, and Zigbee.
In the end, we’ll have to wait and see if this decision was made too late. However, I believe this is a positive move for Z Wave’s future.
Zigbee wins out over Z Wave in terms of protocol compatibility, therefore I’m going with that. I think Zigbee’s long history in an open standard and participation in the latest smart home standard cooperation by Apple, Google, and Amazon provides them an advantage in the future.
Both Zigbee and Z Wave technologies employ AES 128-bit encryption for their security. Moreover, they employ it at the same degree of protection as big institutions.
The acronym AES stands for Advanced Encryption Standard.
Encryption algorithms like this one are often employed in IT applications to protect sensitive data.
Although originally designed for government use, AES has now become a popular choice in the commercial sector. There’s a reason behind this.
One of the most strong encryption technologies in use today is AES encryption.
Push. The protocols of Z Wave and Zigbee are both very secure.
The amount of energy used
Because many of their devices depend on battery power, both Zigbee and Z Wave are particularly energy-efficient.
It means that in many circumstances, batteries don’t need to be replaced for a year or longer.
In the case of Zigbee, for example, each data transfer consumes just 0.05 Watt-seconds of power. It’s so little!
End devices may also be put to sleep. When the product is not in use, it goes into sleep mode. As compared to fully powered equipment, this consumes a fraction of the energy.
Both Z Wave and Zigbee use smart hubs, therefore you’ll need to have the hub plugged in all the time in order for the network to function.
Push. Power consumption is quite low for both Z Wave and Zigbee.
It’s important to keep in mind that both Zigbee and Z Wave are wireless radio frequency technologies. Because they converse and transmit messages using radio waves, this implies they do so Each protocol has a distinct frequency at which these waves travel.
At 908.42 MHz, the Z Wave radio waves are transmitted. Below 1 GHz is where Z Wave works. That is, it will never cause interference with Wi-Fi or other wireless technologies operating in the 2.4 GHz range (Bluetooth, Zigbee, etc.)
In contrast, Zigbee radio waves travel at 2.4GHz. Using this frequency might create problems, since Wi-Fi travels at this frequency.
Zigbee, on the other hand, has been shown to have little to no effect on Wi-Fi. Zigbee devices can access 16 independent, 5MHz channels inside the 2.4GHz range, which allows them to deliver short and rapid packets of data. Several of these channels are completely unaffected by Wi-Fi.
In the end, WiFi has an impact on Zigbee. The Zigbee communication is finally sent, albeit with a delay of 20 to 30 milliseconds. There is no significance to you or me.
If I had to choose, I’d go with Z Wave in the Z Wave vs. Zigbee frequency matchup. It gives Zigbee a very little advantage. Z Wave, on the other hand, does not interfere with Wi-Fi since it runs on a separate frequency. As a general rule, Zigbee’s interference is likely undetectable and insignificant.
Smart goods these days must be able to access every part of your house and property. You need your goods to be able to reach these regions, whether it’s a motion sensor in the back yard or a garage door opener.
Z Wave devices have an average inside range of around 30 feet, whereas Zigbee devices have an average indoor range of approximately 246-328 feet.
Depending on the architecture and the materials used in construction, the exact range numbers might vary from one house to the next.
Adding new items to a protocol’s scope may expand its capabilities. In this way, the mesh network becomes more secure. Until the signal reaches the user’s device, it hops across devices.
Zigbee wins the Z Wave vs. Zigbee range battle. As a result, it is possible to address this issue by adding more devices to your home’s Wi-Fi network and increasing its range.
Speed of data transmission is expressed in kilobits per second (Kbps). There’s a correlation between Kbps and speed.
Video recordings such as smart cameras or temperature readings (smart thermostats) might be sent by smart devices (smart sensors).
Data size may or may not have a role in determining speed.
With a 250 Kbps Zigbee, though, it’s the fastest by a wide amount. Compared to Z Wave’s 100 kbps.
Dial-up internet has a speed of 56 kbps in comparison. That was a few decades ago, however. Z Wave and Zigbee, on the other hand, are comparatively sluggish at speeds of two to five times faster than that.
Because the quantity of data supplied by most smart gadgets is so little, it isn’t critical that they be fast.
The Zigbee vs. Z Wave speed comparison shows that Zigbee has a 150 Kbps advantage over Z Wave.
The number of devices that can be used.
I’ll keep this short since it’s very self-explanatory.
More than 65,000 Zigbee devices can be supported by Z Wave.
Both approaches will work just well for the average homeowner. I’d want a tour of your house if you have more than 232 smart gadgets. A mansion is where you’re residing.
Zigbee and/or Z Wave should suffice for the rest of us.
You should continue with Zigbee if you have a big commercial location, like a hospital, and you want to make sure you’re not capped at any moment. But I’m assuming that’s not you.
If Z Wave versus Zigbee device support is compared, Zigbee comes out on top by a wide margin. However, if you’re a homeowner, you may expect Z Wave and ZigBee to meet your requirements.
The amount of marketshare that one product or technique has in comparison to another is an important factor to consider when comparing them.
Zigbee has around 300 more certified, interoperable goods (3,500) on the market now than Z Wave, which offers just about 200 approved, interoperable products (3,200).
Zigbee has more than 300 million certified gadgets in use throughout the globe today, according to the company’s sales figures. The number of Z Wave devices sold globally is less than one million.
There is no deception in numbers. The smart home product market has shifted in favor of Zigbee.
Many smart home buyers are concerned about product obsolescence. In the absence of a real standard, the concern is that their smart device would become obsolete overnight, operating a protocol that no longer supports.
Concerns about Zigbee’s performance are alleviated to a greater extent. Zigbee has a lengthy history of an open standard, a significant market presence, and involvement in the Apple, Google, and Amazon partnership. As far as I’m concerned, they’ll be about for the next 20 or 30 years at least.
Requirement of the Hub
For Z Wave and Zigbee devices to work, they need a hub, which should come as no surprise to anybody.
Several smart hubs are available that can handle each protocol. Many people believe in both at the same time.
Hubs like this are among the most popular in the industry.
- SmartThings is a product from Samsung.
- The height of Hubitat
- The second Wink Hub
You may use Z Wave and Zigbee together in your house if you get a hub that supports both protocols. In my own experience, this has never been an issue.
Z-Wave and Zigbee devices all link to my Samsung SmartThings hub, which I use to control my home.
When a message is sent from one product to another, since the hub can interact in many languages, it ensures that everything functions together.
Therefore, you don’t have to be concerned with picking certain protocols.
If you have a lot of devices using the same protocol, the mesh network becomes more robust and dependable, and the signal becomes stronger as well.
Push. A hub is required for both Z Wave and Zigbee.
Conclusion: Zigbee vs Z Wave
Due to Z Wave’s greater interoperability and simplicity of use, Z Wave has historically been favored over Zigbee in this “competition.”
In my view, Zigbee will win the race in 2021 and the foreseeable future, despite the fact that the competition is still a little tight.
Zigbee’s market dominance is impossible to ignore. Also, their inclusion in the awesome Smart Home Open-Source Standard Co-operation. It was also notable that Z Wave was not included in this collaboration.
My own opinion is that none of these protocols will be phased out anytime soon. Zigbee is my choice if you ask me which one I believe will be there for the next 20 years.
When constructing a smart home today, I recommend choosing one of two protocols, Zigbee or Z Wave, and sticking with it from the start. Make sure your mesh network is powerful and trustworthy by doing this.
If you’re just getting started with a smart home, I recommend going with a hub that supports Z Wave and Zigbee. Taking this approach eliminates the potential stress.
What I do is exactly what works for me. For more than a year, I’ve had no problems with this method. Thanks, The SmartThings Hub from Samsung.
If you’d like to purchase a SmartThings Hub from Amazon, click this link. It doesn’t cost anything more.
Ultimately, it’s up to you whatever protocol you employ!
Do you have any personal experiences with these methods in practice? In your opinion, does Zigbee have a little advantage in 2021 and the years to come?