Why this matters: In an ideal world, you wouldn’t need to worry about which communications standard your smart-home or IoT devices rely on, everything would just work together right out of the box. That’s essentially the way it works with the rest of your home network, whether you’re using Wi-Fi, power-line, or MoCA, right?
But we don’t live in a perfect world, and when it comes to the IoT devices that are essential to building out a smart home, the market is a balkanized mess of competing and incompatible standards. In addition to Z-Wave, there’s Thread (based largely on technology from Google’s Nest Labs), ZigBee (an IEEE standard favored by Philips), AllJoyn (developed Qualcomm, but then passed on to the Linux Foundation), the Open Interconnection Consortium (backed by Intel), and Apple is just getting started with its HomeKit initiative. And then there’s Bluetooth Low Energy (a variant of the same technology used for wireless headphones). But as popular as Bluetooth is, the technology that would enable you to control Bluetooth devices over the internet is still in its infancy.
Sigma Designs’ decision to release the interoperability layer of its Z-Wave technology to the public domain is smart given that AllJoyn and the Open Interconnection Consortium have previously announced plans to pool their resources, and that the Thread Group and the ZigBee Alliance have forged a similar partnership. Putting this technology in the public domain won’t settle the IoT standards wars overnight, but it could shape the product-design decisions companies are making today.
While hobbyists will be free to do whatever they wish with the Z-Wave standard, any developer or manufacturer who desires to have their commercial products labeled as Z-Wave Certified will need to join the Z-Wave Alliance and submit their products for testing.
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