On this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Ryan Chacon is joined by Z-Wave Alliance’s Mitch Klein to discuss Z-Wave. Ryan and Mitch begin the podcast by introducing Z-Wave and how it compares to other technologies in the industry. Mitch then discusses how matter fits into what Z-Wave is doing before talking about the importance of interoperability. The conversation then moves more high-level, with Mitch sharing insights on challenges in the smart home space, how he sees the tech evolving, and what is a long-range Z-Wave device.
Mitchell Klein is Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships at Silicon Labs, where he drives numerous initiatives to expand and accelerate the global adoption of smart home and smart cities applications. An IoT leader with 30 years of experience, Klein has dedicated his career to designing and implementing strategic programs that bring IoT technology deployments into the mainstream. In 2019, he was honored with a CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes innovative and visionary leadership in the technology design and installation industry. Klein has consulted for numerous consumer electronics brands and has led business development for URC for several years. Before URC, Klein owned and operated his award-winning installation firm for over 14 years. In addition to his role at Silicon Labs, Mitch is continuing his 2015 appointed role as the Executive Director of the Z-Wave Alliance, a consortium of wireless home technology companies dedicated to solidifying Z-Wave as the standard for wireless smart home and home automation products.
Interested in connecting with Mitch? Reach out on Linkedin!
About Z-Wave Alliance
The Z-Wave Alliance is a standards development organization dedicated to developing and advancing Z-Wave® technology as an open and internationally recognized ITU standard (G.9959) for smart home and IoT solutions. Alliance members lead the home controls market, providing leading-edge products and systems that deliver increased comfort, convenience, energy conservation, safety, and security. Z-Wave® is a registered trademark of the Z-Wave Alliance.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:48) Introduction to Mitch and Z-Wave Alliance
(04:10) What is Z-Wave?
(06:11) How does Z-Wave compare to other tech?
(08:48) How does matter fit in?
(10:54) Importance of interoperability
(13:33) Challenges in the smart home space
(16:11) Evolution of the tech
(17:50) Long Range Z-Wave Devices
– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast. The number one publication resource for the internet of things. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. And on today’s episode, we have Mitch Klein, the executive director at Z-Wave Alliance. For those of you may be unfamiliar, the Z-Wave Alliance is a standard development organization dedicated to developing and advancing Z-Wave technology as an open and internationally recognized ITU standard for smart home and IoT solutions. You probably heard from Mitch before on the podcast, he’s been a fantastic guest in the past, and obviously no change on this episode, we talk a lot more about Z-Wave, what it is, the first certified Z-Wave long range device. What that means for the industry. We talk a lot about interoperability too, what it means, why it’s important, challenges in the space, the future of the space, the future for the Alliance, things like that, that they’re really focused on. So, all in all, tons of great content here, one thing I do ask, if you are watching this on YouTube, please leave a- or please like the video and subscribe to our channel if you haven’t already done so. So if you’re listening to this on a podcast directory somewhere else, please subscribe, allows you to get the latest episodes as soon as they are out. But other than that, we have one quick message before we get into this next episode.
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– [Mitch] Ryan it’s wonderful to be back again.
– [Ryan] I know, it’s great to have you.
– [Mitch] Yeah.
– [Ryan] Always a pleasure. Let’s, for our audience who may be a little less familiar, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit more about your background experience, all that kinda stuff.
– [Mitch] Yeah, well, I can take the next hour and fill you in, but I think I’ll go in the brief, the short form. I am currently with Silicon Labs, I’m director of alliance of strategy. So basically, alliances are all about the different technologies and platforms, some of which will be talking about shortly. I’m also the executive director of the Z-Wave Alliance. Of course my heart still lives in Z-Wave. And happy to talk about that in a moment, but over a 30 year career, I can just tell you that I started doing smart homes long before smart and home were ever put in the same sentence. Like many of your listeners, I’ve crawled through attics and tried to snake wires through walls and make things that were never intended to be automated to automate them and been through all the trials and tribulations, from being an installer all the way up to developing products. So it’s been a great ride and I’m still enjoying it right now.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So you mentioned the Z-Wave Alliance. Tell us a little bit more about kind of what that is, what the alliance’s goals are, the focus, the reason for it existing, you know, that kind of thing.
– [Mitch] Right, right. Just at a slightly higher level, alliances are, technical alliances are established really to develop further the technologies behind in this case, it’s Z-Wave, right? So the Z-Wave Alliance is an organization of about 300 member companies that develop products for the Z-Wave ecosystem, utilizing the Z-Wave platform. The technology itself is something that we work on together to try and drive, say the new products, maybe some new features. I mean, as you know, technology is always advancing, they’re always new use cases. And the Alliance focuses on being able to determine what those would be, what the priorities are. And we also focus on, on the go to market side too. So it’s great place to be.
– [Ryan] Yeah, absolutely. So Z-Wave, from a technology perspective, tell us high level kind of what it is, how it works, the purpose, let’s start there.
– [Mitch] Okay, great. Z-Wave is a platform, full stack, if you will. That is designed for products to communicate to each other, understand what the communication is, and either pass it along to another device that needs to know what’s going on and actually be able to take an action as a result. So you’ve probably heard of others, Bluetooth or WiFI would be examples of technology platforms, but what makes Z-Wave different is that it’s full stack. And that just simply means that not only is it a, a mechanism to send and receive information, but it also has the application layer, which means the level that enables devices to understand what that transmission means. Okay And because of the full stack, it is fully interoperable. So it is not brand specific. You could mix and match any brands together that are utilizing Z-Wave. So you could have, for example, a house with three door locks, one from Schlage, one from Yale and one from Quickset and they would all be able to communicate with each other. So you could set a scene that says, like, say goodnight, and all the doors would be locked, if you will. So… That’s kind of where we are. We’ve got over, we just passed our 4,000th certified device. We require certification for anyone that utilizes the Z-Wave intellectual property. And that ensures that devices will be interoperable because the testing requires that. The other cool thing is it’s fully backwards compatible. And you know, we have have some folks that may have installed the very first Z-Wave device back in 2001 and have found that it still works even with the latest products that are out in the marketplace.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So how does, Z-Wave kind of compare to other technologies that are out there that work on devices being compatible and communicating with one another?
– [Mitch] Yeah, I kind of alluded to that before that it’s a full stack. So let me see if I can give an example. Let’s say you let’s use email. I’m gonna use this example. Email is ubiquitous. You can send and receive email, no matter what device you have, whether it’s a phone or a PC or computer, what have you, you can send and receive email. But if I send you an email in Japanese and you receive that email, you’ll get the email just fine. But you won’t be able to understand what it is ’cause you don’t speak Japanese, okay? So what, what Z-Wave does is it, it enables all of that communication to ensure that the end result is understood. So like email, we have the transport layer, we have all the technical layer, the network layer, et cetera, but also the application layer that requires devices to be interoperable. So you can have WiFI devices that will be able to send and receive WiFI, but without the same application layer on top, you know, the products won’t necessarily work together. But you’ll be able to send and receive the message. So ZigBee would be an example of a product that only within the last several years has mandated the same application layer so that, you know, ZigBee devices will work with ZigBee devices, but Z-Wave has always been like that. So I don’t know if the, is that making any sense?
– [Ryan] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I appreciate you. ‘Cause I know like, when people talk about Z-Wave, there’s also, you hear Zigbee, just a better understanding kind of how it all works together and the purpose of it. So that when somebody’s out there looking for, let’s say smart home devices and they’re making sure that they work together, what they should be looking for and how to kind of understand that decision making process.
– [Mitch] Yeah, there’s only one version of Z-Wave.
– So any Z-Wave device, whether it’s an old one or a new one will be work, supposed to be working together, ZigBees are also, I mean, don’t get me wrong, ZigBee is also a very good platform. But, there’ve been different versions of ZigBee. So you could have two ZigBee devices with the same logo, but one was really designed for say, advanced meter infrastructure. And another one was designed for, for lighting. And another one was designed for smart home. And those three devices may or may not communicate with each other and is really hard to know which ones will work with which whereas with, with Z-Wave, there’s only one version.
– [Ryan] And how does matter fit into all this?
– [Mitch] And that’s another great question, okay. Matter for those of you that are not familiar with it, real quickly, you, what you had was some of the biggest names, you know, apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung, Smart Things, et cetera. And about 200 other companies all getting together and saying, “You know what? We need to fix the fact that products just don’t work together and that it requires the actual end users to understand what product do I have. What’s gonna work with it.” And basically there’s too much effort on the consumer part to know. And more often than not, you’re mix and matching products that don’t work together unless of course it’s called Z-Wave. So what matter is, is matter is that application layer. So remember, I want to go back to the email thing, right? So if we’re using that email and you put matter on top of that, matter is a standard that is, let’s just say, is gonna release its version 10 in the first slew of products later this year, probably sometime mid to late fall. And it’s designed to provide for full interoperability between matter products. So it becomes very clear. You buy a product with matter. It works with matter period. Okay. So that’s coming. The thing is that it doesn’t specify which platform it’s on. This is an IP based application layer that will run on WiFi and will also run on thread. And, we’ll have to make sure that you have the right products in order for matter to work with your existing non matter products. But this backwards compatibility is something that we’re working on and Silicon Labs is already providing solutions for, for some companies to be able to ensure that compatibility with non matter products.
– [Ryan] Okay, gotcha, gotcha. Yeah, we’ve been, we’ve had a couple guests on talk about it here briefly, but we really haven’t dove too far into it. So I appreciate you kind of elaborating on things a little bit there for us.
– [Mitch] Oh, I can dive as deep as you’d like Ryan.
– [Ryan] So, so let me ask you another question, we talked about interoperability, you’ve mentioned it a couple times. Can you just, just for our audience’s sake for some of ’em out there, explain exactly what it means and why it’s so important that devices are, are interoperable when it comes to, especially the smart home space.
– [Mitch] Right, right. Well, first of all, what we want to avoid is requiring a consumer to understand the full, all of the different technologies, okay? So the bottom line is there’s no one platform that is perfect for everything, which is why there are so many different platforms. Interoperability ensures that from a user perspective, you just buy what you want and buy what you need and that’s that. You don’t have to worry about, well, will this sensor work with my security system or- Well, will this door lock work with, you know, with, or will this light dimmer work with that light bulb? There are multiple platforms, that is not likely to ever change. And why interoperability is important is because it becomes frustration free. I mean, I’m confident many others have had the same situation that I’ve had, whereby you bring a product home from the store and you find that, you know, you unbox it, you’re all excited and it just doesn’t work with your system. That’s an understanding that shouldn’t be a requirement for a consumer. You shouldn’t have to know that, you should just know, I wanna put a door lock in. And just buy the one that you like, buy the one that looks the way you want it to look and has the features you want, and it should just simply work. And that’s the promise that Z-Wave has been making for 20 years. But that’s just Z-Wave and Z-Wave doesn’t cover all of the different platforms. All of the different use cases. You’re not gonna find a Z-Wave camera, right? Again, it’s got a different purpose for that. So this interoperability with matter, which is, we’re very excited about that. Both from the Z-Wave side and the Silicon Lab side, because that’s going to really help further along that concept of just buy what you want and it will work with whatever you have. That’s the goal of interoperability.
– [Ryan] Gotcha. Yeah, I, I think it’s a lot of people, especially, one the consumer side don’t realize how everything necessarily fits together and they shouldn’t have to. It’s when you get a new device or a smart device and you’re building out kind of your smart home feature set of devices. You don’t wanna have to worry about if they work together or not, they, it just should, if you’re thinking about it from a consumer standpoint. So, so yeah, this has really been kind of helpful to kind of dive into that side. And, I guess in that same light, what are some of the challenges you’ve seen in the smart home space when it comes to interoperability, when it comes to the different devices on the market, like just, just in general, from a higher level standpoint, what are some of the challenges you’ve seen consumers face through the adoption of these different devices for their homes?
– [Mitch] Well, we’ve already talked about the first, the first challenge, which is really knowing what platform you’re on in the first place. But the other thing is the challenge from a manufacturing side is no one platform covers all aspects of the smart home. And I alluded to that before, if you want a camera in your system, right? You’re gonna be pretty much committed to WiFI or ethernet if it’s hardwired, because WiFI provides that huge bandwidth necessary to drive video. However, if you want it to be a battery device, if you ever run a battery video, you’re talking hours, you know, as opposed to perhaps a battery operated sensor under Z-Wave, which could last you five to 10 years. So that’s why I say these technologies are fit per, fit for purpose. And the challenge has always been, how do we put together these disparate platforms and these disparate products so that a consumer could, can just simply enjoy whatever they need. What we’ve seen over the years is what we call, “A walled garden.” And that’s been a relatively successful approach. So for example, if you’re a, an apple fan and you like home kit, there’s a walled garden of products that are specifically designed for home kit and all the home kit products will work with home kit. But there’s a large, but, you gotta make sure whenever you buy a product that it specifically says, “Works with home kit” and that same can be said for other platforms as well. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid. This is the challenge for a consumer. How do you commit to something like that? When you really don’t know, not just now what you want, but what am I gonna want in two to three years? Is all my stuff gonna work or am I gonna have to replace everything that, that I bought a year, two years ago?
– [Ryan] Sure, yeah. That’s a legit, legit concern for sure.
– [Mitch] Exactly, right. So again, anyway, so that that’s, that is the big challenge, not just for consumers, but also for the manufacturer as well.
– [Ryan] Makes total sense.
– [Mitch] Exactly, yeah.
– [Ryan] Yeah, absolutely. So then where does, not just this one challenge we’re talking about, but where do you kind of see the space going in general? We’ve, we’ve talked about, you know, maybe more specifically on the Z-Wave side, what are you most excited to kind of see, develop and progress? Like where, where is, where are things going?
– [Mitch] Yeah, that’s a, also a really good question. You know, you mentioned matter, there is some concern that certain platforms like a Z-Wave or something will become irrelevant and everything’s gonna switch over to matter. And the reality is that’s not going to happen because again, we’re talking fit for purpose and we’re talking hundreds of millions of devices that are out in the marketplace already that are not gonna go dark soon, because a new platform comes out that says, “Hey, we’re interoperable.” So what I do tell any consumers, as well as our members of the Alliance, as well as Silicon Labs customers, is keep doing what you’re doing, because the products that you have or the, that you buy or that you wanna buy, or that you’ve already installed will be able to work with things down the road, because there will be a thing such as a bridge. And I’ll use that term loosely, ’cause sure, there’s a lot of other terms that are used for it, you know, whether it’s border router or what have you. But ultimately, they’ll be software somewhere, whether it’s in the cloud, or device or something like that, that will ensure things are backwards compatible. Even if you buy some of the newest gear going forward, that is how the promise will be delivered. Is by ensuring that things going forward are interoperable and things going backwards will still work with the stuff that you already have.
– [Ryan] Right, yeah, fantastic. One thing I did wanna ask about on the Z-Wave side or read about the long range devices being, or the first certifications for long range devices, what is, what, what does that exactly mean? Kinda why is it important? Why does it matter kind of what is, what is it, what’s all going on there?
– [Mitch] Okay, that’s also a good question. So Z-Wave long range that addresses a couple of challenges. And the obvious one is in its name, it’s, right? It’s a long range. The, the technology was expanded to include long range, so it can go up to a- We’ve tested it up to about a mile and a half or so. So from point to point, roughly one and a half miles, granted that’s ideal circumstances. And I wouldn’t wanna make that promise, you know, in someone’s home. But if you think about it, you wanna be able to let’s say from, from the house to your mailbox or to the pool house or to the dog collar down, you know, in the backyard. But the real promise for Z-Wave long range is being able to get that product, Z-Wave products into large scale MDUs, you know, like apartment buildings or condominiums. Or into hospitality, you know, large scale as well as into larger size homes, whereby you can run upwards of 4,000 devices on one single system, which is, which is really big. There’s no other platform that can do that right now. And again, because everything is backwards compatible, Z-Wave long range products will continue to work with Z-Wave that’s out in the field now. So basically, you know, you’ll have, Z-Wave, that’ll be both its standard mesh configuration as well as its long range and we’ve tested it. In Copenhagen, we got a little further distance, but I’ll stick with about, say safely, say that we’re getting a mile out of it.
– [Ryan] Wow, that’s impressive.
– [Mitch] Yep. So again, size of the system and the distance that it can run and we’re getting an awful lot of attention in potential use cases in smart communities, smart cities. Street lights, things like that too. So goes beyond just the home.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s the natural progression, it seems like, for these devices. Is, I know there’s been conversations in the past with like WiFI and, and WiFI not being able to handle longer distances, and WiFI Alliance working to kind of solve that and stuff. So it’s, it definitely makes sense as to being what’s needed because these devices and these use cases are just continuing to expand. And there’s no reason why things shouldn’t work together and you should have to worry about different types of different devices having to be integrated if you don’t want to. So we talked about apartment building, probably campuses, talking about communities. Big, large homes and properties, so absolutely makes tons of sense. So, so that’s great to hear and excited to kind of see that come out.
– [Mitch] Yep. Yeah, we are too and so the first few products have already been certified and are hitting the market. It’s premature, I’ll let them do the announcements. I shouldn’t be doing it for them, but we have had a handful of products already released into the marketplace and some big names. And we’ve got quite a few, few more products in the process of being certified.
– [Ryan] Okay, fantastic. Last question before I let you go here, just if our audience wants to learn more about, Z-Wave just, what’s going on with the Alliance, different devices out there. What’s the best way to do that and kind of stay in touch?
– [Mitch] So Z-Wave.com. Is the public site. There’s actually a lot of really good information on that site about the products and about the use cases and also some guidance to help to build a system for yourself. Or you can add onto a system. You can go to zwavealliance.org from a trade side. You’re certainly welcome to go to that site as well. That site is in the process of being redeveloped. So may not be updated for another month or so. Worst case, you can reach out to me, Mitch@zwavealliance.org, and I’d be happy to either answer your question directly or perhaps put someone with a more technical expertise to be able to respond and help you out.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, well, Mitch, it’s always a pleasure to have you. I appreciate you taking the time to kind of talk to our audience and for the, on the podcast, I think we got a lot of value outta this. We’ve been hearing a lot about these different technologies and it’s better, it’s good to kind of have you on to kind of shed light on what’s actually happening in the space. And a lot of our audience, majority of our audience are, you know, consumers in the sense that regardless of the industry they work in, smart products are probably in their daily lives. So this helps them better understand exactly what to look for and how to kind of go about that buying decision.
– [Mitch] Oh yeah. And I feel your pain and I share your excitement. Well, both. Absolutely. Well, Mitch, thanks again so much for your time. Look forward to having you back and yeah, I really appreciate it.
– [Mitch] My pleasure, Ryan, great to be back.
– [Ryan] All right, thank you. All right, everyone. Thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT For All Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel and be sure to hit the bell notifications so you get the latest episodes as soon as they become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching and we’ll see you next time.