On our most recent IoT Podcast episode, Alan called into our voicemail hotline asking about the future of Zigbee and Z-wave. He notes that we often discuss how WiFi and Bluetooth fit in with Project CHIP, which announced recent news about its progress, not to mention Thread support appearing in some devices. Like many other smart home owners, Alan is invested in devices that use these Zigbee and Z-wave. He also has Samsung SmartThings in his house.
This is a timely question given that we appear close to devices that support CHIP and more devices that use Thread. We’ll have to see how the industry adopts and moves to and fro between all of the options, of course.
However, we do have some thoughts, given what we currently know.
There are now 180 companies involved with Project CHIP. Among those brands are Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung to name just a few; you can find the full list at the bottom of this page. As a result, we suspect Zigbee and Z-wave will be less relevant in the coming years as this group adopts the CHIP standard. Keep in mind though: The Zigbee Alliance has wrangled all of these companies together, so there may be more hope for Zigbee’s future.
With the first CHIP devices expected by year-end, any Zigbee or Z-wave devices bought this year are likely to work for several years out.
Details on support for them haven’t yet been made public, although on the Project CHIP site, one FAQ about this topic has the following answer: “…Amazon, Apple, and Google are committed to continue support for developers and their products.”
That’s not much information to go on, but as we know from previous experience, product support doesn’t typically disappear as soon as new standards are implemented. So if you can’t wait for CHIP before buying new smart home devices, you should get at least a few years out of them. Indeed, the CHIP working group has said it will support gateways and bridges for older devices.
On the Z-wave front, there’s been recent activity that could keep those products on the market for some time to come. Silicon Labs, as well as other Z-wave device makers, has been working on the new Z-Wave Long Range standard announced last year. We asked about it and here’s what Silicon Labs told us, via email.
We have several customers working on Z-Wave Long Range products, both in DIY and security, but none that we are able to share publicly yet. Given that a Silicon Labs Z-Wave 700 series based product can be very simply upgraded with a software update to support Long Range, we expect both new and existing Z-Wave customers to upgrade future product platforms to Z-Wave Long Range to leverage the benefits of one mile range and up to 4000 node network size.
Once those products appear, you’ll have sensor options that reach beyond the range of what Project CHIP and Thread offer, which is a positive. These would be ideal for larger properties. I’m concerned, however, that those products will go head-to-head with other longer-range radio technologies, such as LoRaWAN and the similar Amazon Sidewalk network. Z-wave LR does have the benefit of more “history” and easier integration into products though.
Hopefully, this explains why our focus has been more on the radio technologies that will work with Project CHIP and less about Zigbee and Z-wave, which still add value to the smart home.
To hear Alan’s question in full, as well as our discussion, tune in to the IoT Podcast below: