Z-Wave vs ZigBee

Before going to explain Z-Wave vs ZigBee let us first understand what they are.


Z- Wave is a wireless communications protocol used primarily for home automation. It is a mesh network using low-energy radio waves to communicate from appliance to appliance,; allowing for wireless control of residential appliances and other devices, such as lighting control, security systems,; thermostats, windows, locks, swimming pools and garage door openers.

Like other protocols and systems aimed at the home and office automation market,; a Z-Wave automation system can be controlled from a wireless key fob, a wall-mounted keypad or through smartphones,; tablets or computers, with a Z-Wave gateway or central control device serving as both the hub controller and portal to the outside.

It provides interoperability between home control systems of different manufacturers that are a part of its alliance. On May 2017, there were over 1,700 interoperable Z-Wave products. As of April 18, 2018, there were over 2,400 interoperable Z-Wave products.


ZigBee is an IEEE 802.15.4-based specification for a suite of high-level; communication protocols used to create personal area networks with small,; low-power digital radios, such as for home automation, medical device data collection, and other low-power low-bandwidth needs,; designed for small scale projects which need wireless connection. Hence, ZigBee is a low-power, low data rate, and close proximity (i.e., personal area) wireless ad hoc network.

The technology defined by the ZigBee specification is intended to be simpler and,; less expensive than other wireless personal area networks (WPANs),; such as Bluetooth or more general wireless networking such as Wi-Fi. Applications include wireless light switches, home energy monitors,; traffic management systems, and other consumer and industrial equipment that requires short-range low-rate wireless data transfer.

Its low power consumption limits transmission distances to 10–100 meters line-of-sight, depending on power output and environmental characteristics.[1] ZigBee devices can transmit data over long distances by passing data through a mesh network of intermediate devices to reach more distant ones.

ZigBee is typically used in low data rate applications that require long battery life and secure networking; (These networks are secured by 128 bit symmetric encryption keys.) It has a defined rate of 250 Kbit/s, best suited for intermittent data transmissions from a sensor or input device.

Z-Wave Vs ZigBee: What do they have in common?

  1. Both technologies are mesh networks. Each node in the system acts as both a wireless data source and a repeater. Information from a single sensor node hops from node to node until the transmission reaches the gateway. (We’ll talk more later on whether this is the appropriate topology for your application.)
  2. Both technologies use the IEEE 802.15.4 low-rate personal area network (LR-PAN) protocol; for the unified physical layer (OSI layer 1), structuring packets, and creating MAC (Medium Access Control) schemes.
  3. Both are widely used in local area sensor data networks; like in security systems, urban smart grid controllers, HVAC control systems, home automation, and lighting controls.

Z-Wave Vs ZigBee: How are they different?

  1. Z-wave has a tightly controlled product ecosystem that caters to the smart home and smart building space,; whereas Zigbee can be used for a number of applications.
  2. ZigBee uses the global standard 2.4GHz ISM frequency band, whereas Z-Wave uses the 915 MHz ISM band (in the U.S.); and the 868 MHz RFID band (in Europe).
  3. Lots of providers make Zigbee radios, but Z-Wave uses a proprietary radio system from Sigma designs.
  4. Z-Wave uses frequency-shift keyed modulation (FSK), whereas Zigbee modulation is carried out through direct sequence spread spectrum (DSSS).

Will Zigbee Or Z-Wave Work Best For Your Application?

If you’re considering different technologies for a product you’re building,; you should first be certain that a mesh topology will work for you. Mesh could be the wrong choice if you need to transmit data over long distances.

Both Zigbee and Z-Wave are, by their very nature, short to medium range. In fact, we recently spoke with some individuals at a large HVAC controls company who confessed; to putting up three times more mesh node “thermostats”; in a building than were needed just to make their Zigbee work.

If you have a break in your mesh and have to do a workaround like this,; consider the costs—they’ll add up quickly!; Additionally, mesh networks have higher latencies,; which can cause bottlenecks when several nodes try to pass through a single node to reach the gateway.

We don’t claim that mesh is always a bad choice—but it’s no secret we favor a star network topology. If you find that your product actually requires a long-range alternative to Zigbee or Z-Wave,; take a look at Symphony Link. To see a breakdown of other long-range wireless technologies,; we recommend this white paper on Selecting A Wireless Technology For Industrial IoT Products.

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