Alternative Automation Protocols
To achieve a true smart home, all smart devices must be able to communicate with each other. Here are the top smart home automation protocols.
In a secure connected world, smart home devices need to be able to share information with multiple devices. To do this, they must speak the same language, i. H. communication protocols.
Protocols are about how signals are sent from one device to another to trigger an action, such as switching the light on and off. Understanding the differences between protocols is crucial when selecting devices for an automated ecosystem, as each protocol has different advantages and disadvantages depending on the application.
Communication protocols are developed by consortia, organizations or associations whose members discuss and agree on the details of the "jargon", describe them and may even create sample materials to demonstrate them.
These groups can be "open" and allow virtually anyone to use the protocol such as KNX and Z-Wave. Alternatively, they can develop on a private basis where only one specific manufacturer is allowed to use the protocol, or the protocol is open to multiple manufacturers who must first obtain a license to use it, such as Zigbee.
Protocols are "spoken" on wireless or wired layers. If you're an early DIYer, you might want to familiarize yourself with the most popular protocols before adding new devices to your own ecosystem.
Protocols for smart home devices
One of the simplest and most reliable protocols, generally offering one-way communication. It's the number one choice for remote controls like the one for your TV.
Fast and reliable wired communication with a range of up to 100m and low susceptibility to electromagnetic interference.
Wireless internet access
Fast and reliable wireless communication with a range of approximately 25 m.
A short-range wireless protocol (approximately 10m) commonly used on phones, headphones, and speakers. The adaptive frequency hopping system detects existing signals, such as Wi-Fi, and negotiates a channel map for Bluetooth devices to minimize interference.
A wireless protocol developed by a group of companies including Nest, Samsung, QUALCOMM and OSRAM. Designed to allow devices in the protocol to communicate even when the Wi-Fi network goes down.
Zigbee is a wireless protocol that works in a mesh network. That is, it uses a device to transmit a signal to other devices, amplifying and expanding the network. Zigbee can be integrated into dimmers, locks, thermostats and more.
Similar to Zigbee, Z-Wave is an open-source mesh networking protocol. Technically, the main difference between the two is the data rate - Z-Wave is about 6 times slower than Zigbee. However, it requires less power to cover the same range as Zigbee.
KNX is an open protocol that has been on the market for decades and is also one of the most popular protocols for building automation. It works on multiple physical layers, e.g., Twisted pair cabling, PLC, infrared, Ethernet and RF networks.
With a decentralized topology, the system is not operated from a central unit, which means that each individual unit connected to the KNX ecosystem is intelligent on its own and does not depend on other parts to function. A great advantage: if one unit breaks down, the others can continue to go about their daily business.
Finally, the convenience and reliability that come with KNX are combined with a plus in terms of security, since KNX-certified products must comply with the EN-50941 (HBES/BACS) standard, which contains requirements for different security areas: electrical safety, environmental safety, functional safety, EMC (electromagnetic compatibility), reliability and performance.
Interoperability and security
Each protocol has its own appeal for this or that technology. But what if you want everyone to work together?
In general, the protocols are not yet directly compatible with each other. You can get around this with a hub that supports multiple protocols, such as a voice-activated home assistant.
Another caveat is that some hubs are unwilling to identify all devices, even if they support protocols. Lack of interoperability can be avoided by choosing only products that use the same proprietary protocol.
If you'd rather have more freedom to add devices from different brands to your ecosystem, we recommend that you do some thorough research before purchasing a new smart device.
Another good tip is to choose certified products. Certification is performed by accredited testing laboratories and ensures that a product has been tested to standards to meet safety and performance guidelines and regulations.
While certification does not guarantee interoperability, it demonstrates a manufacturer's concern to test their products during development. In any case, you can rest assured that your product is electrically, mechanically, photobiological, and chemically safe and will not interfere with the operation of other devices when you turn it on.