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. 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?
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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).
- Lots of providers make Zigbee radios, but Z-Wave uses a proprietary radio system from Sigma designs.
- 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.