After Amazon, Apple and Google, together with the Zigbee Alliance, announced the development of an open, free communication standard for smart home devices and Apple HomeKit has opened a little further, the market is moving: Z-Wave is also becoming an open standard.
Z-Wave has not been part of the announcement by the tech giants and has so far been excluded from the new open standard called “Connected Home over IP”. Z-Wave is used as a communication standard in many smart home systems and – in theory – enables cross-vendor communication and interoperability if the Z-Wave standard is used, which is to be ensured by certification from the Z-Wave Alliance , In practice, there are always problems with individual functions of the components when used across manufacturers, since not every smart home system allows access to every parameter.
There is no monopoly on radio chips
So far, however, the Z-Wave radio chips could only be manufactured by Silicon Labs, which prevented competition and price wars. This is changing now and Silicon Labs also allows other manufacturers to develop and produce radio chips with Z-Wave technology. The biggest criticism of the industry regarding the theoretically open standard is thus eliminated, because Silicon Labs was able to control the ecosystem for years by exclusively selling the chips. The opening of the standard should be completed in the second quarter of 2020.
Z-Wave Alliance becomes independent
The Z-Wave Alliance, which will be responsible for the certification and further development of the standard in the future, will also be spun off from Silicon Labs into its own independent company. Details on this will be announced in the next few months. Software companies and chip manufacturers are to be involved in the further development of the standard in the future.
More widespread, instead of crowding out
By opening Z-Wave, Silicon Labs hopes that the radio standard will become more widespread and thus be able to assert itself against the upcoming “Connected Home over IP” standard from Amazon, Apple and Google. In addition, because of the high risk, manufacturers are reluctant to rely on a standard whose components can only be purchased from a single supplier. Silicon Labs is hoping to open up its own radio chips, despite the competition from other manufacturers, by opening up and increasing its market penetration.
Silicon Labs is not entirely dependent on Z-Wave, since chips are also produced for other standards, so that the manufacturer is used, for example, in smart home devices such as Amazon’s Echos, Philips Hue, Rings cameras and Ikea’s Tradfri series.