Simple DIY smart home gadgets are quickly becoming commonplace, so if you’re thinking about dipping your toes into automation and smartening up your pad, it’s important that you know the difference between the various home automation protocols out there.
Smart devices all run on a variety of different protocols. That is, sets of rules and standards for communication between electronic devices. Think of them like languages. They won’t be able to connect with one other if one device only speaks ZigBee and the other only speaks Z-Wave.
Although it’s ideal to have devices in your home that all speak the same language, there are a few bilingual goods available.In this post, we’ll go through all of the major consumer-level home automation protocols and their benefits and drawbacks.
The granddaddy of home automation protocols, X10 has been around since the mid 70’s. It started out as a powerline-based system (meaning it’s hard-wired into your walls), but eventually went wireless. It’s not known for great speed or communication between units. If you’re just gettting into home automation, we suggest picking up devices compatible with newer wireless standards, as X10 systems are typically more difficult to install in comparison.
Universal Powerline Bus is a powerline-only communication protocol designed to use a higher voltage and put out a stronger signal than x10. The only problem is that, since it’s powerline only, it’s rather expensive and hard to install. Don’t worry about this one – it’s not baked into very many new devices, and there are better options out there.
Insteon is a home automation protocol designed to bridge the gap between powerline-based and wireless protocols, so it uses both. It’s also compatible with x10 devices, so it’s not a half bad choice if you’ve got a house filled with X10 stuff already and are looking to transition to wireless.
Z-Wave is a wireless home automation protocol that runs on the 908.42MHz frequency band. It’s relatively new in terms of home automation protocols, but has grown quite rapidly in the past few years. It now boasts over 1,000 different compatible devices, giving you a wide range of options when it comes to automating your home.
Key features of Z-Wave are
ZigBee is an 802 wireless communication standard built by the IEEE.
That being said, however, some users have noted that Zigbee devices frequently have difficulty communicating with those made by different manufacturers, so it might not be the best option if you’re looking for seamless interoperability.
Of course, Wi-Fi is already fairly common, so it’s not surprising that a broad range of manufacturers have begun making smart home devices that work with it. You don’t have to install a hub/access point,all you need is a wireless router for connecting compatible devices.
BLE is short for Bluetooth Low Energy. There are tons of devices that have this baked into it – everything from bike locks to light bulbs to speaker docks – and it’s sometimes used in home automation, but usually not as the main protocol.
we recommend going with either ZigBee or Z-Wave. They’re both fast, wireless, have great range, and come inside of hundreds of different products. If your home is outfitted with an older x10 system, go with Insteon. It’ll allow you to go wireless; and although it doesn’t boast nearly as many compatible devices as Z-Wave or ZigBee, it does have a pretty good selection of products.
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