Z-Wave Wants to Be Your Standard

By Eric Griffith

January 14, 2005

The battle for wireless home control is on, as Zensys prepares to open up access to its wireless technology in the wake of ZigBee 1.0's arrival.

In one corner we have the ZigBee Alliance, a group of 100 companies that plans to use the low-power IEEE 802.15.4 specification to run controls throughout homes and buildings.

In the other corner were just a collection of proprietary technologies—until today.

Zensys, which developed the Z-Wave mesh technology for wireless controls, announced today the formation of the Z-Wave Alliance, a group of 60 companies that will use the technology in a number of products, all labeled clearly with a Z-Wave logo to show interoperability between products and vendors.

Zensys will license Z-Wave to the Alliance to "create multiple sources for the technology in the industry," according to the announcement. This, they say, will turn Z-Wave into an open standard.

The Alliance will also embark upon a consumer education campaign that will prominently feature the Z-Wave logo.

"This is not a defensive move against ZigBee," says Raoul Wijgergangs, vice president of US business development. "It's more offensive, to make sure consumers understand what [Z-Wave] can do for them."

The Z-Wave Alliance FAQ states the belief that Z-Wave's traction will be in residences, while ZigBee will end up "primarily in industrial and large commercial environments." (The FAQ is, not surprisingly, almost entirely devoted to answering questions about ZigBee.)

Plus, it adds, Z-Wave products are out now from 100 OEMs, while ZigBee is just getting started. The FAQ downplays any success ZigBee might garner by being an open standard, and in fact challenges that claim, since ZigBee does require special protocols running on top of an 802.15.4 radio chip.

Big names in the Z-Wave Alliance include Leviton, Sylvania and Motorola. A complete list is online. Zensys has previously worked with Intel to make sure Z-Wave was compatible with Universal Plug and Play (UPnP).

Wijgergangs says there are 40 products out now running Z-Wave, and says "there will be 140 before the end of the quarter, in places like Home Depot, Lowes, and Radio Shack."

Zensys will have a new version of the Z-Wave chip ready by May of this year.

At last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a few Z-Wave-based products were announced, such as the C2k Automation Computer from Broadband Energy Networks, used for controlling multiple Z-Wave-based products and connecting them to other wireless systems. OpenPeak also is linking Z-Wave to Wi-Fi and infrared with a bridge.



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