ZigBee, Z-Wave...what's the difference?

Here's the 411

There are a wide variety of technology platforms, or protocols, that smart devices are built on.  Some work well together, others don't.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology is found in everything from bike locks to light bulbs to speaker docks, and sometimes in home automation. BLE does not use a lot of power and has a fairly limited range compared to other networking protocols, so it’s not recommended for devices like security systems and motion sensors, which must be connected all the time.

Thread

A new IP-based wireless networking protocol developed by a consortium of technology and security companies, Thread is built on open standards and designed as a low-power, “mesh network.” This means one Thread product will pass the signal along to another until it reaches its intended destination. This relay system greatly extends its range. But Thread does not bring together disparate networks.

Wi-Fi

Homes that have a wireless router do not require a hub to connect Wi-Fi-compatible devices. But bandwidth and response time may be compromised if the house is already filled with Wi-Fi-connected devices. Wi-Fi also consumes a lot of power, so it’s not ideal for battery-based smart products like doorbells and locks.

ZigBee

ZigBee is another low-power, mesh-network structure that offers excellent range and speedy communication between devices and is the only open, global wireless standard.  ZigBee is typically used in products related to smart energy, health care, equipment monitoring, remote controls, and home automation.

Z-Wave

Z-Wave also uses a “mesh network” and has extremely low power requirements, which is ideal for battery-operated devices. Z-Wave is typically recommended for home security and automation with short-range remote functions, such as lighting, heating, motion monitoring, and entertainment systems.

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