The Z-Wave protocol is an interoperable, wireless, RF-based communications technology designed specifically for control, monitoring and status reading applications in residential and light commercial environments. It has been on the market since 2005. Along with ZigBee, it is one of the most widely used wireless standards in smart homes today. The Z-Wave Alliance cites more than 1500 certified devices on the market and over 50 million Z-Wave products sold worldwide. Certification ensures that all Z-Wave products work together with each other regardless of brand, including backward-compatibility between versions.
It is a very efficient, low-energy technology which runs on a mesh network, meaning there’s no single point of failure. Many devices that use the protocol work on battery power alone, often for a year or more before needing new batteries. Others plug into the wall. The most popular products are indoor/outdoor lights, thermostats, door locks, and security devices like motion detectors.
From a security point of view a Z-Wave network has a unique ID that it assigns to every device in the network. When an extra level of security is needed, such as for door locks and other high security devices, it has another level of security which uses AES128 encryption (the same level as major banks).
This wireless technology is used by many leading home security companies and major telecommunications companies. Large brands such as Honeywell use it, as do home security device companies ADT and First Alert. Other customers include AT&T, LG and Verizon.
Despite their similarities, ZigBee and Z-Wave are not compatible with each other. However, Z-Wave has better interoperability historically than Zigbee. All Z-Wave devices generally, work with other Z-Wave devices.
Apple’s HomeKit is a new entrant to the smart home market which is still in the early stages of development. Z-Wave has been working with Apple to build an integration of the two systems.