It’s fair to say that our post earlier this month – Z-Wave Controller Compatibility Frustrations Grow as Dealer Vents – ruffled a few feathers.
So here’s the response from the Z-Wave Alliance. It’s full of interesting and revealing information, straight from the horse’s mouth.
Is it just perception that compatibility has gotten worse?
The Z-Wave Alliance and Sigma Designs, maker of Z-Wave technology continue to work to help manufacturers move beyond interoperability to compatibility with all devices in the market. The perception that compatibility has gotten worse comes from the fact that the Z-Wave ecosystem has experienced tremendous growth in the past several years with currently over 2100 certified devices on the market. With Z-Wave Plus, an updated certification program introduced several years ago, we created categories known as “device types” which focus specifically on device functionality from the user point of view, allowing devices to be better recognized by Z-Wave controllers.
Plus or Minus
According to the Alliance, Z-Wave Plus devices now make up almost half of global modules…
In 2017, 98% of new certifications were Z-Wave Plus with overall Z-Wave Plus certifications making up nearly half of the lifetime total – and we are hopeful that compatibility will become even better in the future.
So does all that Plusness translate to better compatibility?
Certification addresses interoperability first and foremost, but Sigma Designs has taken steps to address compatibility as well. To clarify the difference, it is important to know that interoperability ensures that Z-Wave “device types” from different manufacturers can communicate with one another, such as door locks and lighting devices. Compatibility ensures that “device types” are enabled in the gateway.
Wait what? If we’ve got to start and explain to users about the difference between “interoperability” and “compatibility” I reckon we’ve lost 99% of the population straight away.
The Controller Problem
So what about the controller issues that sparked this debate?
Last year a well-defined set of minimum required “device types” was established for manufacturers of controllers; these new requirements mean that the gateway (controller) must support lighting, thermostats, door locks, and other minimum required “device types.” Sigma Designs continues to increase these requirements and has introduced platforms for manufacturers that make it quicker and easier to create controller products, while at the same time establishing a very high level of device compatibility. Gateway manufacturers may choose to work with specific partner brands, and this is a business decision on the part of the two manufacturers beyond the control of Sigma or the Alliance.
Because of Z-Wave’s interoperability promise, they are not allowed to completely block any manufacturer’s product from working with the gateway, so what you see is a minimum level of functionality offered to non-preferred brands, and full functionality provided for preferred brands. If the choice of brands and products offered by a gateway manufacturer are not to the consumer’s liking, they may choose to purchase the gateway or service from another brand that does not favor preferred brands. With over 230 different gateway controllers to choose from around the world, consumers have many choices when looking for a gateway provider.”
So as well as Z-Wave, Z-Wave Plus, interoperability and compatibility now we have to consider that some controllers only have a “minimum level of functionality” and not the “full functionality” of others?
How is the end-user expected to know any of this? More importantly why should they have to?
I’m really starting to believe the further we get into the 21st century the worse things are getting for the smart home owner. When there were only a dozen X10 modules to choose from at least things were simple. More choice is not translating to a more seamless smart home.
Sure, people who buy a Z-Wave socket to control an appliance remotely are probably going to be OK. But the people who want to take things seriously, the ones willing to spend lots of their hard-earned on a comprehensive system and controller are the ones that are really getting a raw deal.
This is not an attack on Z-Wave. Like I’ve said before I own plenty of Z-Wave kit myself. They are far from alone here, these issues encompass an entire industry.
But things are not improving, in fact they are getting worse. As end users it’s time for us all to put pressure on those involved in designing and building these systems.
Because this mess cannot continue.