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Scalable to 2,000 Devices

New Z-Wave Spec's Longer Range Seen Expanding Capabilities Beyond Smart Home

The Z-Wave Alliance announced Tuesday a specification enabling four times the range and 10 times the devices that can operate on a network. Z-Wave Long Range is in testing by three companies and is expected to be in beta in late Q4 or early Q1, Mitchell Klein, alliance executive director, told us. General availability is expected late Q1, Klein said. To do long-range communications in a mesh network like standard Z-Wave, end devices need to carry a “significant amount of overhead” to maintain mesh connectivity, Klein said. The direct connectivity of Z-Wave LR is a lower cost solution with fewer “hops” to other devices and less lag. That frees up a network to scale to more than 2,000 devices, up from the current 232 devices per gateway, Klein said.

The higher node count will make Z-Wave LR suitable for multiple dwelling unit property management and hospitality markets, Klein said. Z-Wave installations are currently used in some hospitality installations, including the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas; the next-gen version enables larger installations without repeaters, he said.

Another benefit of the latest spec is longer battery life. Designers will be able to use coin-cell batteries vs. alkaline ones, with a lifetime of about 10 years. That’s important to security system dealers who are challenged by homeowners not knowing how to change batteries, requiring them to send out a technician, he said. The smaller form factor of coin-cell batteries also enables smaller end devices, Klein said.

Z-Wave LR is backward-compatible and interoperable with previous generation devices, Klein said, allowing users to add LR products to an existing Z-Wave network. Current Z-Wave systems can cover a typical home, Klein said: LR takes a network “beyond” the home. That could mean smart home coverage to the pool house in a luxury home or to the mailbox at the end of a long driveway at a rural home “so you know if the mail has come,” he said.

The advanced spec opens up Z-Wave to vertical markets, Klein said. On a construction site, Z-Wave could be used to monitor power consumption of power tools -- for safety and information purposes, he said. The alliance, which was a subsidiary of Silicon Labs, announced its status as a not-for-profit standards development organization in August. That will open development for the platform, Klein said. The alliance is “aggressively recruiting” for working groups “to take things beyond what one company could do in terms of resources.”

Z-Wave Alliance expects to bring in more silicon vendors that will give Z-Wave additional market access, Klein said. He noted some companies and countries, including in China, aren’t permitted to do business with a single-source supplier. The Z-Wave LR specification will be managed and certified under the Z-Wave Plus V2 certification program, which mandates the inclusion of the enhanced S2 security framework, plus SmartStart, a setup feature using Quick Response codes.