Make Your Own Z-Wave Device

Have you always wanted your very own Z-Wave widget-thing-a-ma-bob-doohickey? Silicon Labs recently released the Thunderboard Z-Wave (TBZ) which is an ideal platform for building your own Z-Wave device. Officially known as the ZGM230-DK2603A, the TBZ has sensors galore, expansion headers to connect even more stuff, comes with a built-in debugger via USB-C and can be powered with a single coin cell. Totally cool! I am working on a github repo for the TBZ but right now there are three simple sample apps in Simplicity Studio to get started.

ThunderBoard Z-Wave

Thunderboard Z-Wave

Features

  1. ZGM230 Z-Wave Long Range Module – +14dBm radio – 1mi LOS RF range
    1. ARM Cortex-M33, 512/64K FLASH/RAM, UARTs, I2C, SPI, Timers, DAC/ADC and more
  2. Built-in Segger J-Link debugger
  3. USB-C connectivity for SerialAPI and/or debugging
  4. RGB LED, 2 yellow LEDs, 2 pushbuttons
  5. Temperature/Humidity sensor
  6. Hall Effect sensor
  7. Ambient Light sensor
  8. 6-Axis Inertial sensor
  9. Metal sensor
  10. 1Mbyte SPI FLASH
  11. Qwiic I2C connector
  12. Break-out holes
  13. SMA connector for antenna
  14. Coin cell, USB or external power
  15. Firmware development support via Simplicity Studio

Sample Applications

There are three sample applications in Simplicity Studio at the time of this writing (Aug 2022 – SDK 7.18.1);

  1. SerialAPI,
  2. SwitchOnOff
  3. SensorMultilevel

The TBZ ships with the SerialAPI pre-programmed into it so you can use it as a Z-Wave controller right out of the box. Connect the TBZ to a Raspberry Pi or other computer to build a Z-Wave network. Use the Unify SDK to get a host controller up and running quickly or use the PC-Controller tool within Simplicity Studio for development and testing. The SwitchOnOff sample app as the name implies simply turns an LED on/off on the board via Z-Wave. This is the best application to get started as the ZGM230 chip is always awake and is easy to debug and try out. The SensorMultilevel sounds like a great app as it returns a temperature and humidity but at the moment it does not use the sensor on the TBZ and simply always returns a fixed value. SensorMultilevel shows how to develop a coin-cell powered device. Additional sample apps are expected to be available in future SDK releases but I am working on a github repo with a lot of sensor support.

Naturally a single Z-Wave Node doesn’t do much without a network. You’ll need some sort of a hub to connect to. Most of the common hubs (SmartThings, Hubitat, Home Assistant, etc) will at least let you join your widget to the network and do some basic control or status reporting. You need either a pair of TBZs or perhaps purchase the even cheaper UZB7 for the controller side and then the TBZ for the end-device. Then you have a network and can build your doohickey and talk to it over the Z-Wave radio.

Getting Started

Plug in the TBZ to your computer and open Simplicity Studio which will give you a list of applicable documents including the TBZ User Guide. Writing code for the TBZ definitely requires strong C programming skills. This is not a kit for an average Z-Wave user without strong programming skills. There is a steep learning curve to learn how to use the Z-Wave Application Firmware (ZAF) so only experienced programmers should take this on. I would recommend watching the Unboxing the 800 series video on the silabs web site to get started using Simplicity Studio. I hope to make a new video on the TBZ and publish the github repo so stay tuned.

Have you created a Thing-a-ma-bob using the TBZ? Let me know in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s