Z-Wave 700 promises to give new smart home devices longer range and better battery life

The new platform can extend the smart home into the yard and enable sensors to run for more than 10 years on a coin-cell battery.

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Sigma Designs

Sigma Designs is showing off the latest generation of its Z-Wave mesh-network technology at CES. The company says its Z-Wave 700 platform will enable a new class of smart home devices that can be used outdoors, thanks to improved range of up to 300 feet, and in hard-to-reach places or even furniture, thanks to the ability to operate on a coin-cell battery for up to 10 years.

In an interview with Sigma Designs’ Johan Pedersen, the Z-Wave product marketing manager predicted that sensor devices would soon become the highest volume category for Z-Wave devices. But the low-power architecture will also be of great benefit to larger devices, such as smart deadbolts, that must also operate on battery power.

The most significant change in the Z-Wave 700’s architecture is a move away from the 8-bit Intel 8051-compatible foundation used in previous generations to a 32-bit ARM Cortex SoC (system on chip). Despite this shift, Z-Wave 700 parts will remain backward compatible with every other Z-Wave device since the platform’s inception more than 15 years ago. Sigma says there are now more than 2,400 Z-Wave certified devices on the market from more than 700 companies.

Z-Wave sensor applications Sigma Designs

Sigma Designs predicts sensors will be the biggest growth area for Z-Wave devices, thanks to Z-Wave 700's improved range and power consumption. 

Sigma Designs’ SmartStart feature will be carried over to the Z-Wave 700. SmartStart eliminates the need to manually add devices to a Z-Wave network, they can be preconfigured to join a network as soon as they’re turned on, a feature that custom installers will appreciate most. Sigma Designs says Z-Wave’s robust S2 security framework, introduced at last year’s CES, will prevent devices from being hacked while they’re joining the network, a feature that will also benefit DIYers. Sigma Designs' Z-Wave Security S2 framework uses AES-128 encryption.

Z-Wave and ZigBee are the two most popular technologies for the smart home and Internet of Things, but neither has been able to deliver a knock-out blow to the other because each offers a unique set of advantages. Where Z-Wave is limited to networks of 256 devices, for example, a ZigBee network can support up to 65,000 devices. And while ZigBee products must share radio spectrum with Wi-Fi devices in the 2.4GHz range, Z-Wave chips communicate in the 908MHz frequency band—that’s one of the reasons that Z-Wave chips consume so much less power.

With Sigma Designs in the process of being acquired by Silicon Labs, a big player in the ZigBee market, we could eventually see chipsets that support both platforms. As it stands, the Z-Wave 700 series won’t go into production until later this year, so it will be a while before real-world products that use it will come to market. 

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