I’m giving a presentation on Z-Wave where you can ask questions and get answers about the opening of the Z-Wave specification among other topics. There are more Tech Talks scheduled and several recent topics were recorded. Follow the links below.
Good news! We have added new Tech Talks. Join us on Tuesdays and Thursdays for live virtual, technical discussions hosted by a lead engineer with time allocated for your questions. We’ll cover topics like battery optimization with BG22, using Z-Wave for your Smart Home Solutions and more. You don’t want to miss these next talks.
Register by clicking here: Tech Talks: Z-Wave Smart Home Solutions by Doctor Z-Wave Tomorrow April 23 at 4 p.m ET
Battery Optimization with BG22 Tues, April 28 at 3 p.m. CT Max Performance on BLE – Simultaneous Connections, Beacons and Scanning Thurs, April 30 at 3 p.m. CT SubGHz Proprietary and Connect Software Stack Tues, May 5 at 3 p.m. CT How to Measure and Debug Network Performance – Using Silicon Labs Network Analyzer Thurs, May 7 at 3 p.m. CT
If you missed the Spring Z-Wave summit in Amsterdam, you won’t want to miss the fall summit in Austin Texas this fall! The Z-Wave summit is a great place to meet other Z-Wave developers and hear about the latest technology and marketing advances Z-Wave has to offer. The summit is a three day event that is packed with valuable information and learning for both developers and marketing people. The first day is an evening networking get together, the 2nd day is mostly roadmap presentations and information about how Z-Wave is doing and where it is going. The final day splits into two tracks with developers learning about details of the Z-Wave technology and marketing folks learning how to leverage the Alliance resources and all the events coming up.
Join us October 2-4, 2019 for the Z-Wave Fall Summit 2019 in Austin. Hot topic will be the 700-series! The 3-day event features a keynote & reception on the evening of the 2nd by 2-days of informative and insightful Developer’s Forum Technical Track and a Business / Marketing Track and a member networking evening event on the 3rd. All members are invited to attend!
10/2/2019 to 10/4/2019
10/2/19 – 5pm-9pm – Opening Reception
10/3/2019 – 9am-5pm – Developers/Marketing forums and Evening Reception
W Hotel 200 Lavaca Street Austin, Texas 78701 United States
Notes from EU Summit in May
The EU summit was right on the heels of the 700 series general release so it’s been a very busy time for everyone. The Z-Wave roadmap has major releases every 6 months and minor between them. Silicon Labs plans on a long life and improving volume shipments for Z-Wave and is investing in the technology to realize these gains. Attendance at the summit was up again with attendees from around the world.
Certification costs recently went up but adding frequencies (countries/regions) is now just paperwork and free. The all important Certification Test Tool (CTT) was recently updated to version 2.8.4. If you are heading to certification with your new whiz-bang product you’ll want to test it with the latest version of all the scripts. The CTT is actively being improved so future releases will be even more powerful.
All 700 series Certifications must be Z-WavePlus V2. The logo remains the same but V2 raises the bar on several fronts. The main upgrade for V2 is that devices largely advertise their capabilities without the need for Hubs to write custom drivers for each and every device. Specifically, Configuration Command Class now requires the name/default/min/max values as well as some text describing the function of the parameter to be returned via a GET command. However, 500 series are not required to support V2 but are recommend if you have the code space for it. For Hubs the bar has been raised significantly with Security S2, SmartStart and many interoperability improvements that will require some resources to achieve certification.
Expect the RF range minimums to go up from the current 40m (132′) with the improved radio of the 700 series. The range requirement hasn’t changed yet but there are lots of discussions on the topic. Most of the devices I’ve worked on (over 3 dozen) have consistently achieved over 100m of line-of-sight RF range so I expect the minimum to probably double. This does make testing a bit more difficult as finding a location with 100m of open space can be a bit of a challenge, especially in winter!
The presentations at the EU summit (and most of the previous ones) can be viewed from the Alliance web site. You need to be a member to gain access to them. My presentation (along with Axel Brugger) was a deep dive on using the 700 series and getting familiar with Simplicity Studio for developing end devices. Hans Kroner gave a similar presentation on developing gateways using ZIPGW/ZWare. While you can view the presentation online I highly recommend attending in person so you can ask questions and get straight answers right there on the spot.
Fun and Games
The members night was at The Beach which is an indoor beach games facility with lots of crazy stuff. Great food, Great music, Great games made for an enjoyable evening after a long day of stuffing information in your brain!
The US Summit was held in Austin Texas Oct 2-4
The US summit was held at the Silicon Labs office and at the nearby W Hotel in Austin Texas. Another excellent turnout with lots of informative sessions from technical training to marketing by leveraging the Z-Wave Alliance.
Interoperables are BACK
Mitch Klein received a Lifetime Achievement award from CEDIA a few months back. As the leader of the Interoperables band we had quite the show all to ourselves along with plenty of food, drink and excellent conversation. By far the most beneficial part of the Summit is the chance to talk to your fellow Z-Wave developers, marketers, executives and enthusiasts.
I finally made the trip to the home of Z-Wave, Copenhagen Denmark. Z-Wave began as Zensys back in 2001. My journey with Z-Wave began shortly after that in 2003 when I was disgusted with my highly unreliable X10 home automation experiments. I just couldn’t get that X10 junk to work! It was cheap, but it wasn’t worth my time and frustration so I was looking around for other technologies that would be reliable. I experimented with several custom baked wireless solutions but quickly realized that wireless is really hard and complicated. Z-Wave caught my eye because it was a real mesh network and actually worked. From there I have continued to be impressed by the technology improvements always with full backward compatibility and wide choice of fully interoperable products from many manufacturers.
My purpose is to meet the engineering team and to learn in much greater depth the details of Z-Wave and especially the new 700 series. We have an intense group of smart engineers working diligently on the many aspects of a wireless system as complex as Z-Wave. One team is busy with the gateway specific parts of the protocol and the Z/IP Gateway and Z-Ware code. Another team is working on the protocol and solving very complex issues that we find are happening in the real world. The support team (of which I am part) helps customers get their products to market quickly by answer their questions and providing training. And of course there are the marking and sales folks who make sure you all know about the benefits of Z-Wave.
The Z-Wave team in Copenhagen resides in this modest building. Danes love to bicycle to work or take the excellent train/bus system. Only a few travel via car unlike those of us in the US who just love sitting in traffic for hours. The food in Copenhagen is wonderful with plenty of international choices as well as the Danish favorites. My hotel room is more of a spaceship pod than a boring room with the Danish penchant for efficient minimalism. The view of the windmills in the distance and the quaint classic European architecture are beautiful.
Z-Wave EU Summit
The other purpose of my visit across the pond is to attend and speak at the Z-Wave EU Summit. If you are a Z-Wave developer, I highly recommend attending as you’ll learn about the latest Z-Wave technology and best practices to build robust IoT products. We have two technical tracks in addition to the marketing track. Meeting with your fellow Z-Wave developers to share your experiences and learn from theirs is the main value of the summit. The only way to get that experience is to attend in person. See my other postings about last years EU summit and the US summits to get a feel of what goes on.
The summit is next week in Amsterdam. Click HERE for more details on the summit.
The long awaited 32-bit ARM based Z-Wave transceiver chip has finally been officially announced. The 700 series announcement is on the home page of the Silicon Labs web site so this is a big deal for SiLabs and Z-Wave. The companies joined forces just eight months ago and we already have a major advance in Z-Wave technology.
The 700 series is a major improvement to Z-Wave for both consumers and developers. For consumers, the lower power and longer radio range means more reliable communication and longer battery life. For developers the main advantage is we’ve finally moved beyond the 1980s 8051 8-bit CPU with very limited debug capability into a modern 32-bit ARM CPU with full serial wire debugging capabilities. We can FINALLY single step thru code instead of having to use PRINTF!
700 Series Features:
Longer RF range
150% in the US and 200% in the EU due to improved RF sensitivity and increased transmit power in the EU
Lower Power = Longer Battery Life
Improved semiconductor technology and a faster CPU yields significant battery life improvement and 10 year coin cell operation
Lower Cost – Worldwide Support
Improved RF blocking means the country specific SAW filter is not needed saving cost and making a single SKU for worldwide operation
No external serial memory is required and OTA firmware update is now mandatory
Easier Product Development
Integrated Debug Environment (IDE) with full ARM debug, single step, trace, and energy profiler speeds product development
100% Interoperable and Backwards Compatible
The 700 series is fully interoperable with all mesh-networked Z-Wave devices all the way back to the pre-100 series Z-Wave devices
When Can I Get One?
If you already signed up for a free Beta devkit, then one should be on its way in the next few weeks. Devkits have begun shipping but quantities are limited and will take until the end of January before all the Beta samples are shipped. The Beta signup closed back on October 1st so if you missed the deadline you’ll have to wait until later in Q1 to request one from your Silicon Labs salesperson. The official “general availability” (GA) release is the end of Q1 at which time the datasheets, chips, devkits and software will be released at the 7.xx full release version. Datasheets require an NDA until the GA release.
You can get started today using the Simplicity Studio IDE and begin developing code and explore the SDK. The software is free and can be downloaded from here.
My Initial Thoughts
I’ve had a 700 series Beta DevKit for a few weeks now working with our Alpha release partners to get some early feedback. We’ve had some hiccups and the firmware needs more work but the silicon is solid. I have joined my 700 series devkit to my home and it communicates fine with my very early pre-100 series Z-Wave light switches attesting to the ongoing commitment Z-Wave has to be fully interoperable and backwards compatible.
The Z-Wave Summit is usually held only once each year in the USA and it is not to be missed. I’ll give a brief overview of what was discussed at the summit in the short post below. But if you didn’t attend in person, you missed the most valuable aspect of the summit which is the chance to meet and talk to other Z-Wave developers. This year the summit was hosted by Bulogics in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia PA. Bulogics is a Z-Wave certification house so they know everything about Z-Wave and how to have a good time!
The 700 series was officially “revealed” at the summit with many presentations talking about the new ARM based Z-Wave transceiver. The summit has over 140 attendees from 70 companies not including all the Silicon Labs and Alliance employees. This is the largest attendance of a summit to date and reflects the rapidly growing world of Z-Wave.
Matt Johnson, IoT Sr. VP, described the roadmap for multiprotocol chips which include Z-Wave, zigbee, BLE and Wifi as well as proprietary protocols. For the immediate term though the focus is on getting the 700 series shipping. The real key for Z-Wave is the interoperability and certification ensuring every Z-Wave device can communicate with every other device.
Z-Wave product manager Johan Pedersen presented the important improvements in the 700 series over the 500 series:
ARM M4 32-bit CPU
150% RF range improvement in the US and more in EU/Asia
Lower power and faster wakeup time making coin cell operation a reality
Lower cost due to elimination of the external NVM & SAW
Single HW build for all regions due to elimination of the SAW filter
Longer battery life with 1.8-3.6V operation
By far my main interest as a developer is that we finally have a real CPU with an M4 and serial debugging so I can finally single step my code and figure out where I went wrong!
The next natural question of course is when will the 700 series be a reality? The answer is “soon”. Ugh. Developers kits are supposed to be available soon and the parts will be shipping in early 2019.
On the second day of the summit the groups are split between marketing and technical geeks like me. More presentations on things like the new Z-Wave Plus V2 requirements which will go into effect with the 700 series release. The V2 requirements significantly ups the bar for support for various command classes with the goal of making Z-Wave devices to fully inform the hub of their capabilities. There should be little or no custom coding to support most V2 devices – the device will tell you everything it can do.
The presentation by Alex Capecelatro, founder of Josh.ai, described the future of voice control which sounds amazing. Alex described just how hard voice control really is and has a long way to go before it really works the way we all want it to. I liked his quote from the New York Times: “We overestimate what technology can do in 3 years but underestimate what can be done in 10 years”. Z-Wave has come a long way in the dozen years it’s been around.
Configuration Command Class
I gave a presentation on Configuration Command Class Version 4 and all the wonderful things it can do. The most notable point is that 2/3rds of the Z-Wave Plus certified devices have at least one Configuration Parameter. Yet many hubs have no way of modifying or displaying to the user the current value of parameters. Z-Wave Plus V2 mandates support for Configuration Command Class V4 for both hubs and devices so you need to get busy! My presentation title is: “The Chicken vs Egg is over: Moving Your Product to Configuration Version 4” which can be downloaded from this link: Z-WaveAlliance2018EricRyherd.
Once again the band The Interoperables played at the evening get together at a local brewery. These guys are really good for having only practiced a couple of times!
DrZWave joins Silicon Labs
That’s right, I have officially joined Silicon Labs as an FAE covering the Eastern US. I can be contacted at drzwave@Silabs.com.
Merrimack, NH March 19, 2018 – Express Controls LLC announces the release of Version 2.0 of the EZMultiPli three-in-one multi-sensor and Z-Wave repeater. The Z-Wave Plus certified device is one of the first available SmartStart devices on the market and is available for purchase now on Amazon.
Color Indicator Night Light
Z-Wave® Range extender
Wall Powered – No Batteries, No wires
Screw tab for secure installation
The new features for the 2.0 version are the addition of a screw tab for secure mounting and SmartStart. The tab on the enclosure enables secure mounting in either a standard outlet or a decorator outlet common with GFCI circuits used in kitchens and baths. The tab ensures children, elders, cleaners or maintenance personnel can’t easily remove the sensor. Secure mounting means the Z-Wave network is robust and reliable since EZMultiPli typically is a key repeater in the Z-Wave mesh network. Never worry about the batteries dying since EZMultiPli is wall powered. Installed by anyone with just a screwdriver – no wires, no batteries, no damage to the walls drilling holes.
Sigma Designs SmartStart technology makes installation easy and secure. If your home automation system supports SmartStart, the first step is to scan the QR code on the back of EZMultiPli. If EZMultiPli was purchased as part of a kit containing several SmartStart devices, the QR code may have already been scanned at the factory. The next step is to simply plug EZMultiPli into a wall outlet and it will automatically join the Z-Wave network. Inclusion should begin within a couple of minutes but may take longer if several SmartStart devices are added at the same time. SmartStart uses the latest Security S2 encryption technology for all radio communication ensuring your system is secure.
Express Controls provides expert consulting services for the design and manufacture of wireless Internet of Things (IoT) products for Z-Wave product development teams. Express Controls has been been developing IoT products using Z-Wave protocol since 2003 and the 100 series Z-Wave RF transceivers. Currently we are developing Z-Wave products using the latest Sigma Designs fifth generation 500 series RF modules which enable us to quickly prototype any IoT device you can imagine. We have resources available for PCB design and layout as well as industrial design and 3D printing to help visualize the entire IoT product quickly. Leverage our knowledge of the nuances of the Z-Wave protocol to bring your Z-Wave product to market quickly.
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is THE trade show for smart home technology and all things cool and new and geeky. It’s a massive show and I only spent one day there and never made it out of the Sands convention center which is one of the smaller venues. If you’ve never been to CES it is something to see. The crowds are enormous and the tech is brand new. So new, some of it will never actually make it to market as there is plenty of smoke and mirrors.
My purpose is obviously to seek out the latest news about Z-Wave and chat with my clients. The Z-Wave Alliance invited me to man the “Ask the Expert” desk at the show for a few hours which I was happy to do. My expert knowledge of Z-Wave answered simple questions like “what’s Z-Wave?” (It’s like wifi but low power) to complex questions about the rules around Security S2 and SmartStart.
The most common question is always what’s the difference between Z-Wave and Zigbee? My short answer is that Zigbee is like silos. If you can develop an app, gateway and all the devices you need, then Zigbee will work OK. Z-Wave however was a mesh network from day one and every Z-Wave device can talk to every other Z-Wave device regardless of the manufacturer. Z-Wave is built around standardized command classes so every hub knows precisely what format a temperature sensor is sending the data. Is it in celcius or Fahrenheit? Tenths of a degree or hundredths? With Z-Wave, the format is fully specified. The other protocols let you decide the format which is fine if you have the huge budget to do it all. But if your investors have you on a shoestring budget then Z-Wave is the way to go. I have much longer answers to the Z-Wave vs. Zigbee question but much too long to keep your interest in a quick blog post.
The big announcement for Sigma (other than the acquisition by Silicon Labs) is the announcement of the 700 series. Unfortunately details remain shrouded in secrecy but Sigma has put a stake in the ground of having developers kits by summer 2018. Finally having a real 32 bit ARM processor will be a huge productivity improvement for us IoT developers.
I had limited time to walk the floor but it does seem that smart home has finally taken off. There are so many companies making cool gizmos it’s overwhelming. From sun tracking solar powered umbrellas to cameras of every size and resolution to lots of new hubs there is no way one person can take it all in. You’ll just have to see for yourself.
The Z-Wave Alliance booth is even bigger this year filled with companies hawking the latest IoT thingamagiggy using Z-Wave. Every one of them able to talk to all the other Z-Wave doodads. The booth was busy all day long. I did wander past the tiny Zigbee booth buried in the back of the hotel with a few people in it but nothing like Z-Wave.
Silicon Labs is a well respected semiconductor manufacturer with an array of microcontroller products from 8-bit 8051s thru modern low-power ARM CPUs. Silicon Labs has been chasing the IoT market since before IoT was a “thing”. Their low power micros have industry leading features often integrating the latest connectivity solutions like USB, Zigbee and now Z-Wave. With a market cap of nearly $4B, Silicon Labs (SLAB) has a lot more financial muscle than Sigmas (SIGM) mere $265M could provide. All Z-Wave licensees should rejoice that a much larger company is now supporting Z-Wave with the accompanying increase (we hope) of resources.
In my opinion, the most interesting part of the announcement is that SiLabs is buying Z-Wave and not Sigmas primary business of Set-Top-Box processors. The announcement states: “Sigma Designs is in active discussions with prospective buyers to divest its Media Connectivity business”. The announcement goes on to say that if Sigma can’t unload its “Media Connectivity business” then SiLabs will buy just the Z-Wave portfolio for $240M thus making the rest of Sigma worth only $42M assuming someone is willing to pay that much for it.
Z-Wave was originally invented by Zensys based in Copenhagen Denmark in 1999. Originally the Z-Wave protocol used Chipcon radios (acquired by TI) and Atmel processors (acquired by Microchip). In 2003 Zensys announced its own custom designed “100 series” Z-Wave transceiver which was a complete Z-Wave capable IoT System-On-Chip. In 2008 Zensys was struggling financially. Fortunately Sigma stepped in an purchased Zensys for an “undisclosed amount”. Nine years later, Sigma has sold Z-Wave for a very nice ROI of perhaps 100X. Mergers and acquisitions in the semiconductor industry are frequent as technology and markets shift in unforeseen ways.
Z-Wave is growing like crazy as the number of 100% inter-operable mesh networked Z-Wave devices on the market continues to increase. There are now over 600 Z-Wave licensees with over 2100 products already on the market. With the recent addition of the AES-128 encrypted Security S2 communication and SmartStart to simplify the building of the Z-Wave network, Z-Wave shows it is continuing to evolve while still being completely backwards compatible with all the existing devices all the way back to the 100 series.
The future is nearly impossible to predict. I certainly don’t claim to have a clearer crystal ball than the next guy. But this acquisition bodes well for the future of Z-Wave. The additional resources should accelerate the introduction of the ARM Z-Wave microcontrollers which in turn will bring more Z-Wave products to market faster and cheaper. The soon to be announced next generation transceivers are expected to utilize modern ARM processors and make a significant leap forward in debug capabilities that are not present in the current 8051 8-bit CPUs. Z-Wave developers will finally be able to single step through their code instead of relying on printf to output a few cryptic characters giving you meager clues where your code has gone wonky.
The acquisition of the Z-Wave portfolio by a financially strong IoT silicon manufacturer is a “good thing” for the future of Z-Wave.
Welcome to my blog where I’ll shed light on some of the mysteries around Z-Wave and the Internet of Things (IoT). Along the way I’ll post examples of the best ways to do things with your Z-Wave devices and some cool ideas on things you can do with Z-Wave devices. Look for reviews of Z-Wave devices and software that will make your home into a SmartHome.
I make my living by helping Z-Wave developers implement Z-Wave technology into their IoT devices. Several categories are specific to these folks and are a bit heavy in the technical details of Z-Wave so for you Z-Wave users you might want to stick to the reviews and Hubs sections. My company is Express Controls so if you need some help with Z-Wave check us out and we can help you get your product to market quickly.
I went to RPI in the early 1980s where I honed my skills soldering and writing software. My first two jobs were designing graphics workstations and some of very first (and very primitive) GPUs of the day. I went on to designing chips for video conferencing compression engines, the cockpit display of the F22 fighter, Wireless Ethernet (before it was a standard) and a variety of chips for big and mostly small companies. Most of the chip designs were done as a contractor while I was also starting my first company, VAutomation which made “cores” for 8 and 16-bit CPU as well as USB and Ethernet interfaces. I sold VAutomation in 2001 and started playing with Z-Wave in 2003. I am the 31st Z-Wave licensee (there are now several hundred). At that time I went to work for a camera chip company that Cypress Semiconductor purchased and then I moved into working for Cypress. Since 2014 I have been building Z-Wave IoT devices before the Internet of Things (IoT) was a “thing”.