Sigma Designs announces next-gen Z-Wave home-control product family

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Sigma Designs has fired its latest volley in its battle to dominate the home-control infrastructure market: A bundle of new products it has dubbed Z-Wave Next Gen. These are components and reference designs that original equipment manufacturers can incorporate into home-automation devices and systems marketed to consumers and custom installers.

Z-Wave technology is already embedded in more than 700 interoperable products, including lighting controls from Cooper, GE, and Leviton; electronic door locks from Baldwin, Kwikset, Schlage, and Yale; master control panels from 2Gig, Interlogix, and Mi Casa Verde; and in home control and security systems offered by ADT, AT&T, Lowes, Verizon, Vivint, and others.

Sigma Designs
As indicated by the blue inset graphic, the actual size of Sigma Designs' latest Z-Wave system-on-chip is just 7mm square.

The core of the new offering is Sigma’s Next Gen 500 series of integrated circuits and modules, which Sigma claims deliver four times as much memory, better wireless range, and 67 percent better standby battery life compared to Sigma’s current-generation product. The new chips also boast dramatically smaller packages. Sigma’s SD3502, for instance, is a general-purpose Z-Wave system-on-a-chip that integrates a microcontroller, RF transceiver, 128-bit AES security engine, and memory in a package that measures just 7mm square.

Z-Wave components operate on a mesh network, in the same general that way that Sonos wireless audio devices work. Messages are passed from one node to the next, like a digital bucket brigade, until they reach their destination. Z-Wave devices, however, have very limited range by design: You wouldn’t want your neighbor’s controller taking over the lights in your house. The downside to this design has always been that if you had a controller on one side of your house, and a device on the other, you’d need a lot of Z-Wave devices in between the two before they could communicate.

With Sigma’s new Z/IP gateway reference design, a controller will be able to translate Internet protocol (IP) commands to Z-Wave instructions and vice versa. This will enable every Z-Wave node—including legacy parts already in the market—to be assigned an IP address. The consumer benefit to this feature is that the range of the mesh network becomes much wider without your having to buy a bunch of Z-Wave modules to deploy in between.

The rest of the Z-Wave Next Gen platform includes Z-Ware, a collection APIs (application programming interfaces) for controlling Z-Wave devices; Z-Ware Apps, a collection of customizable reference designs to provide a consistent look and feel across platforms such as smartphones, tablets, PCs, TVs, and other devices; and UZB, a reference-design Z-Wave controller that functions via a USB port.

Sigma Designs will be demonstrating its Z-Wave Next Gen platform at the TVConnect tradeshow in London from March 19 - 21.

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