Z-Wave Lands Big Partner

By Eric Griffith

September 07, 2005

Logitech's new Harmony universal remote controls will use the wireless mesh home control system; the company is also joining the Z-Wave Alliance.

Despite having actual products available from over 100 equipment manufacturers, Zensys, the creator of the wireless mesh home control technology called Z-Wave (which has its own 125-member Z-Wave Alliance of partners), struggles somewhat in the shadow of the ZigBee Alliance. The latter group barely has products available.

Z-Wave's fortunes may change, however, with new partnerships announced today. Logitech and Monster Cable are both joining the Z-Wave Alliance, and each has new products that will embed Z-Wave for control.

"Logitech joining the Alliance... is a very new type of member," says Raoul Wijgergangs, Vice President of U.S. Business Development for Zensys, noting that this is the company's first OEM in the consumer electronics space. "Before, it was largely home control -- now it's PC peripherals," he says.

Harmony 890Logitech announced two new members of its Harmony line of Universal Remotes, the 890 Pro for North America ($450, available now) and the 895 for Europe (no price announced, shipping in November). Both will still support infrared, which is used on almost all controllable consumer electronics today. They'll also build in Z-Wave chips to control hardware via radio frequency from up to 100 feet away, with no line-of-sight required.

A $100 Harmony RF base station should be stationed in various zones of a house to control IR-equipped products, while the $100 Harmony USB wireless PC transceiver will permit control of digital media (photos, videos, music, etc.) for playback via the PC. The Z-Wave remote can naturally run home controls for lights, shades, thermostats, garage doors, etc., if those items have a Z-Wave radio inside. As new products are made available with Z-Wave technology, the remotes can be upgraded to support them.

Logitech isn't necessarily limiting itself just to Z-Wave, however. Nathan Papadopulos, Logitech's Marketing Communications Manager, says that Zensys is "the best company -- at the moment -- for what we produce today. In the future, we're leaving the options open as far as the radio frequency technology we'll use for home automation."

Because the Logitech products (and other Z-Wave products) use proprietary chips, they can't be upgraded or changed to work with other protocols like ZigBee, which will run atop the 802.15.4 standard.

Monster Cable Products, which makes cables for computers, musical instruments, and audio/visual products, is creating a suite of home automation products of its own using Z-Wave.

Meanwhile, in the ZigBee camp, the 175-member Alliance states that "6,000 OEMs, vendors, service providers, designers, and educators have registered to download the ZigBee specification" so far. Today, Panasonic announced that it will use ZigBee chips from Freescale Semiconductor in future communication modules for industrial and home automation that are ready to plug into an RS-232 port.

Originally published on .

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