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Z-Wave logo.jpg
Industry Home automation
Physical range 100m

Z-Wave is a wireless communications specification designed to allow devices in the home (lighting, access controls, entertainment systems and household appliances, for example) to communicate with one another for the purposes of home automation.


Z-Wave technology minimizes power consumption, so it is suitable for battery-operated devices. Z-Wave is designed to provide reliable, low-latency transmission of small data packets at data rates up to 100kbit/s,[1] unlike Wi-Fi and other IEEE 802.11-based wireless LAN systems that are designed primarily for high data rates. Z-Wave operates in the sub-gigahertz frequency range, around 900 MHz. This band competes with some cordless telephones and other consumer electronics devices, but avoids interference with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other systems that operate on the crowded 2.4 GHz band. Z-Wave is designed to be easily embedded in consumer electronics products, including battery operated devices such as remote controls, smoke alarms and security sensors. Z-Wave was developed by a Danish startup called Zen-Sys that was acquired by Sigma Designs in 2008.

As of 2015, Z-Wave is supported by over 325 manufacturers worldwide and appears in a broad range of consumer and commercial products in the US, Europe and Asia.[citation needed] The lower layers, MAC and PHY, are described by ITU-T G.9959[2][3] and fully backwards compatible. The Z-Wave transceiver chips are supplied by Sigma Designs and Mitsumi.

Some Z-Wave product vendors have open source options for the hobbyist communities. They require users to start with a complete Z-Wave transceiver from a Z-Wave OEM such as an Intermatic USB stick. The xPL project also provides open source support for Z-Wave products,[4] but requires Microsoft Windows.[5]

Since 2010, there has been a project called Open-zwave that seeks to offer development support without expensive software development kits.[6] Another project has created a Z-Wave daughter board for the Raspberry Pi, a credit-card-sized single-board computer.[7]

Z-Wave is a protocol oriented to the residential control and automation market. Conceptually, Z-Wave is intended to provide a simple yet reliable method to wirelessly control lights and appliances in a house. To meet these design parameters, the Zensys or Sigma Designs Z-Wave package includes a chip with a low data rate that offers reliable data delivery along with simplicity and flexibility.

Z-Wave works in the industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) band on a single frequency using frequency-shift keying (FSK) radio. The throughput is up to 100 kbit/s (9600 bit/s using older series chips) and suitable for control and sensor applications.

Each Z-Wave network may include up to 232 nodes, and consists of two sets of nodes: controllers and slave devices. Nodes may be configured to retransmit the message in order to guarantee connectivity in the multipath environment of a residential house. Average communication range between two nodes is 100m, and with message ability to hop up to four times between nodes, this gives enough coverage for most residential houses.[8]

Z-Wave Alliance[edit]

The Z-Wave Alliance is a group of companies (over 325 as of 2015) who have agreed to manufacture wireless home control products and services based on the Z-Wave standard. Principal Members include ADT, Evolve Guest Controls, FAKRO, Ingersoll Rand Nexia Intelligence, Jasco Products, LG Uplus, Nortek Security & Control, SmartThings and Sigma Designs.[9]

As of 2015, Sigma Designs has certified more than 1,350 products as conforming to the Z-Wave protocol and interoperability standards.[9] Z-Wave applications include lighting, HVAC, security systems, home theaters, automated window treatments, swimming pool and spas controls, and garage and home access controls.[10]

In October, 2013, Sigma Designs and the Z-Wave Alliance announced a new protocol and interoperability certification program called Z-Wave Plus,[11] based upon new features and higher interoperability standards bundled together and required for the 500 series system-on-a-chip (SoC), but encompassing some features that had been available since 2012 for the 300/400 series SoCs. In February, 2014 the first product was certified under the new certification program.[12]

Radio specifications[edit]

  • Bandwidth: 9600 bit/s, 40 kbit/s or 100 kbit/s, speeds are fully interoperable
  • Modulation: GFSK Manchester channel encoding[8]
  • Range: Approximately 100 m, assuming "open air" conditions, with reduced range indoors depending on building materials. Note that the SAW filters on the Z-Wave modules from Sigma Designs limit the range to around 30 m, whereas certain modules from Mitsumi can reach 100 m in "open air" conditions.
  • Frequency bands: The Z-Wave Radio uses the 868.42 MHz SRD Band (Europe); the 900 MHz ISM band: 908.42 MHz (United States); 916 MHz (Israel); 919.82 MHz (Hong Kong); 921.42 MHz (Australia/New Zealand); 865.2 MHz (India).[13]

Z-Wave units can operate in power-save mode and only be active 0.1% of the time, thus reducing power consumption substantially.

Z-Wave network setup[edit]

Z-Wave utilizes a mesh network architecture, and can begin with a single controllable device and a controller. Additional devices can be added at any time, as can multiple controllers, including traditional hand-held controllers, key-fob controllers, wall-switch controllers and PC applications designed for management and control of a Z-Wave network.

A device must be "included" to the Z-Wave network before it can be controlled via Z-Wave. This process (also known as "pairing" and "adding") is usually achieved by pressing a sequence of buttons on the controller and on the device being added to the network. This sequence only needs to be performed once, after which the device is always recognized by the controller. Devices can be removed from the Z-Wave network by a similar process of button strokes.

This inclusion process is repeated for each device in the system. The controller learns the signal strength between the devices during the inclusion process, thus the architecture expects the devices to be in their intended final location before they are added to the system. Typically, the controller has a small internal battery backup, allowing it to be unplugged temporarily and taken to the location of a new device for pairing. The controller is then returned to its normal location and reconnected.

Topology and routing[edit]

Each Z-Wave network is identified by a Network ID, and each device is further identified by a Node ID.

The Network ID (also called Home ID) is the common identification of all nodes belonging to one logical Z-Wave network. The Network ID has a length of 4 bytes (32 bits) and is assigned to each device, by the primary controller, when the device is "included" into the Network. Nodes with different Network ID’s cannot communicate with each other.

The Node ID is the address of a single node in the network. The Node ID has a length of 1 byte (8 bits). It is not allowed to have two nodes with identical Node ID on a Network.[14]

Z-Wave uses a source-routed mesh network topology, and has one Primary Controller and zero or more Secondary Controllers that control routing and security. Devices can communicate to one another by using intermediate nodes to actively route around and circumvent household obstacles or radio dead spots that might occur. A message from node A to node C can be successfully delivered even if the two nodes are not within range, providing that a third node B can communicate with nodes A and C. If the preferred route is unavailable, the message originator will attempt other routes until a path is found to the C node. Therefore, a Z-Wave network can span much farther than the radio range of a single unit; however, with several of these hops a slight delay may be introduced between the control command and the desired result.[15]

In order for Z-Wave units to be able to route unsolicited messages, they cannot be in sleep mode. Therefore, battery-operated devices are not designed as repeater units. A Z-Wave network can consist of up to 232 devices, with the option of bridging networks if more devices are required.

As a source-routed static network, Z-Wave assumes that all devices in the network remain in their original detected position. Mobile devices, such as remote controls, are therefore excluded from routing.

In later versions of Z-Wave, new network discovery mechanisms were introduced. So-called "explorer frames" can be used to heal broken routes caused by devices that have been moved or removed. Explorer frames are broadcast with a pruning algorithm and are therefore supposed to reach the target device, even without further topology knowledge by the transmitter. Explorer frames are used as a last option by the sending device when all other routing attempts have failed.[citation needed]


Z-Wave is based on a proprietary design and a sole chip vendor. Although there have been a number of academic and practical security researches on home automation systems based on ZigBee and X10 protocols, research is still in its infancy to analyze the Z-Wave protocol stack layers, requiring the design of a radio packet capture device and related software to intercept Z-Wave communications.[16][17] An early vulnerability was uncovered in AES-encrypted Z-Wave door locks that could be remotely exploited to unlock doors without the knowledge of the encryption keys, and due to the changed keys, subsequent network messages, as in "door is open", would be ignored by the network.[16] This vulnerability was not due to a flaw in the Z-Wave protocol specification but instead was an implementation error.


  1. ^ "About Z-Wave Technology". March 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  2. ^ "Recommendation G.9959". Feb 2012. Retrieved 2015-07-06. 
  3. ^ "ITU-T G.9959 standard is close to Z-Wave tech". Jan 17, 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  4. ^ "Z-Wave World". 2007-02-26. Retrieved 2010-01-07. 
  5. ^ "xPL Monkey - Home Automation - Z-Wave". xplmonkey.com. 2009. Retrieved 2013-03-17. 
  6. ^ "open-zwave - An open-source interface to Z-Wave networks. - Google Project Hosting". code.google.com. Retrieved 2013-03-17. 
  7. ^ http://razberry.z-wave.me/
  8. ^ a b Mikhail T. Galeev (2006-10-02). "Catching the Z-Wave | Embedded". embedded.com. Retrieved 2015-07-26. 
  9. ^ a b http://z-wavealliance.org/z-wave_alliance_member_companies/
  10. ^ http://products.z-wavealliance.org/
  11. ^ http://z-wavealliance.org/sigma-designs-z-wave-alliance-introduce-new-z-wave-plus-certification-program/
  12. ^ http://products.z-wavealliance.org/products/953
  13. ^ http://www.sigmadesigns.com/zwave_frequency_coverage.php
  14. ^ "Understanding Z-Wave Networks, Nodes & Devices". Vesternet.com. Retrieved 2012-11-19. 
  15. ^ Loughlin, Thomas. "Z-Wave Christmas Lights". Thomas Loughlin. Retrieved 3 December 2012. Any further and I would see a slow down in the control of any device on the network. We did get it to work at about 130 feet but it took about 3 minutes for the device to get the on/off message. 
  16. ^ a b Fouladi, Behrang (2013). "Security Evaluation of the Z-Wave Wireless Protocol" (PDF). Sense Post. 
  17. ^ Picod, Jean-Michel; Lebrun, Arnaud; Demay, Jonathan-Christofer (2014). "Bringing Software Defined Radio to the Penetration Testing Community" (PDF). BlackHat USA. 

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