Science and technology

How to decide on a wi-fi protocol for residence automation

In the second article on this collection, I talked about local control vs. cloud connectivity and a few issues to contemplate in your residence automation setup.

In this third article, I’ll talk about the underlying expertise for connecting gadgets to Home Assistant, together with the dominant protocols that good gadgets use to speak and a few issues to consider earlier than buying good gadgets.

Connecting gadgets to Home Assistant

Many completely different gadgets work with Home Assistant. Some join by means of a cloud service, and others work by speaking with a central unit, reminiscent of a SmartThings Hub, that Home Assistant communicates with. And nonetheless others have a facility to speak over your native community.

For a tool to be actually helpful, one among its key options have to be wi-fi connectivity. There are presently three dominant wi-fi protocols that good gadgets use: WiFi, Z-Wave, and Zigbee. I will do a fast breakdown of every together with their professionals and cons.

A be aware about wi-fi spectra: Spectra are measured in hertz (Hz). A gigahertz (GHz) is 1 billion Hz. In common, the bigger the variety of Hz, the extra knowledge will be transmitted and the quicker the connection. However, increased frequencies are extra prone to interference and don’t journey very properly by means of strong objects. Lower frequencies can journey additional and cross by means of strong objects extra readily, however the trade-off is they can not ship a lot knowledge.


WiFi is probably the most broadly identified of the three requirements. These gadgets are the simplest to stand up and operating in case you are ranging from scratch. This is as a result of virtually everybody excited by residence automation already has a WiFi router or an entry level. In reality, in most nations within the western world, WiFi is taken into account virtually on the identical degree as operating water; if you happen to go to a lodge, you count on a clear, temperature-controlled room with a WiFi password offered at check-in.

Therefore, Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets that use the WiFi protocol require no extra hardware to get began. Plug within the new machine, launch a vendor-provided software or an online browser, enter your credentials, and also you’re accomplished.

It’s necessary to notice that the majority moderate- to low-priced IoT gadgets use the two.4GHz wi-fi spectrum. Why does this matter? Well, 2.4GHz has been round so lengthy that just about all gadgets—from cordless telephones to good bulbs—use this spectrum. In most nations, there are usually solely a couple of dozen channels that off-the-shelf gadgets can broadcast and obtain on. Like overloading a cell tower when too many customers try and make cellphone calls throughout an emergency, channels can grow to be overcrowded and prone to outdoors interference.

While well-behaving good gadgets use little-to-no bandwidth, in the event that they battle to ship/obtain messages as a consequence of overcrowding on the spectrum, your automation can have blended outcomes. A WiFi entry level can solely talk with one consumer at a time. That means the extra gadgets you could have on WiFi, the larger the possibility that somebody on the community must wait their flip to speak.


  • Ubiquitous
  • Tend to be cheap
  • Easy to arrange
  • Easy to increase the vary
  • Uses current community
  • Requires no hub


  • Can endure from interference from neighboring gadgets or adjoining networks
  • Uses probably the most populated 2.4GHz spectrum
  • Your router limits the variety of gadgets
  • Uses extra energy, which suggests much less or no battery-powered gadgets
  • Has the potential to impression latency-sensitive actions like gaming over WiFi
  • Most off-the-shelf merchandise require an web connection


Z-Wave is a closed wi-fi protocol managed and maintained by an organization named Zensys. Because it’s managed by a single entity, all gadgets are assured to work collectively. There is one customary and one implementation. This implies that you by no means have to fret about which machine you purchase from which producer; they are going to at all times work.

Z-Wave operates within the zero.9GHz spectrum, which suggests it has the most important vary of the favored protocols. A central hub is required to coordinate all of the gadgets on a Z-Wave ecosystem. Z-Wave operates on a mesh network topology, which implies that each machine acts as a possible repeater for different gadgets. In idea, this permits a a lot larger protection space. Z-Wave limits the variety of “hops” to four. That implies that, to ensure that a sign to get from a tool to a hub, it may well solely journey by means of 4 gadgets. This might be a constructive or a adverse, relying in your perspective. 

On the one hand, it reduces the ecosystem’s most latency by stopping packets from touring by means of a major variety of gadgets earlier than reaching the vacation spot. The extra gadgets a sign should undergo, the longer it may well take for gadgets to grow to be responsive.

On the opposite hand, it implies that you could be extra strategic about offering path out of your community’s extremities again to the hub. Remember, the decrease frequency that permits larger distance additionally limits the pace and quantity of knowledge that may be transferred. This is presently not a problem, however nobody is aware of what measurement messages future good gadgets will wish to ship.


  • Z-Wave compatibility assured
  • Form mesh community 
  • Low powered and will be battery powered
  • Mesh networks grow to be extra dependable with extra gadgets
  • Uses zero.9GHz and may transmit as much as 100 meters
  • Least doubtless of the three to have sign interference from strong objects or exterior sources


  • Closed protocol
  • Costs probably the most
  • Maximum of 4 hops within the mesh
  • Can assist as much as 230 gadgets per community
  • Uses zero.9GHz, which is the slowest of all protocols


Unlike Z-Wave, Zigbee is an open customary. This is usually a professional or a con, relying in your perspective. Because it’s an open customary, producers are free to change the implementation to swimsuit their merchandise. To borrow an analogy from one among my favourite YouTube channels, The Hook Up, Zigbee is like going by means of a restaurant drive-through. Having the identical customary means you’ll at all times be capable of communicate to the restaurant and they’re going to be capable of hear you. However, if you happen to communicate a special language than the drive-through worker, you will not be capable of perceive one another. Both of you possibly can communicate and listen to one another, however the which means might be misplaced.

Similarly, the Zigbee customary permits all gadgets on a Zigbee community to “hear” one another, however completely different implementations imply they might not “understand” one another. Fortunately, as a rule, your Zigbee gadgets ought to be capable of interoperate. However, there’s a non-trivial probability that your gadgets will be unable to grasp one another. When this occurs, you could find yourself with a number of networks that would intrude with one another.

Like Z-Wave, Zigbee employs a mesh community topology however has no restrict to the variety of “hops” gadgets can use to speak with the hub. This, mixed with some tweaks to the usual, implies that Zigbee theoretically can assist greater than 65,000 gadgets on a single community.


  • Open customary
  • Form mesh community
  • Low-powered and will be battery powered
  • Can assist over 65,000 gadgets
  • Can talk quicker than Z-Wave


  • No assured compatibility
  • Can type separate mesh networks that intrude with one another
  • Uses the oversaturated 2.4GHz spectrum
  • Transmits solely 10 to 30 meters

Pick your protocol

Perhaps you have already got some good gadgets. Or perhaps you might be simply beginning to examine your choices. There is so much to contemplate once you’re shopping for gadgets. Rather than specializing in the lights, sensors, good plugs, thermometers, and the like, it is maybe extra necessary to know which protocol (WiFi, Z-Wave, or Zigbee) you wish to use.

Whew! I’m lastly accomplished laying residence automation groundwork. In the following article, I’ll present you how you can begin the preliminary set up and configuration of a Home Assistant digital machine.

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