Earlier this month we had the chance to talk with Z-Wave expert Dr. Christian Paetz. The author of two of the most prominent books about the wireless protocol, Z-Wave Basics: Remote Control in Smart Homes and Z-Wave Essentials, Dr. Paetz is also the primary representative of the Z-Wave Alliance. Here’s what we asked him and what he had to share.
Q: Hi and thank you for joining us! We always love getting tips and insights from smart home industry experts, such as yourself. To start things off, can you describe to our audience what you do at Z-Wave Alliance and share the Z-Wave Alliance message in a few short words?
Dr. Paetz: Z-Wave is a technology to let Smart Home devices of different manufacturers work together wirelessly. The Z-Wave Alliance is the consortium of companies that use this technology. Hence, all devices of vendors that joined the Z-wave Alliance can work together regardless of their brand and origin. There are meanwhile more than 2200 different devices that come from more than 600 members of the alliance.
Q: As you interact with so many new startups and manufacturers, what is your opinion on the current state of the Z-Wave market? What part does innovation have in the manufacturing process of Z-Wave products? What are the most popular home automation products among new and old manufacturers?
Dr. Paetz: The big beauty of Z-Wave is that it’s not only a wireless technology but it forms an ecosystem of an interoperable device. They come from very large companies such as Samsung or LG but from small companies too. This is a win-win for both sides. The large companies bring stability and credibility while the small companies offer creativity and innovation.
No wonder what many startups do Z-Wave. They just need one perfect product they specialize on and then they can sell it into a very large commercial ecosystem. A most recent example is a small Dutch company doing outside colour lights with solar panels and Z-Wave.
Q: A lot of smart home experts feel like we are in the chasm between Early Adopters and Mass Market appeal. Do you agree with that opinion? If yes, what should manufacturers do to get out of it?
Dr. Paetz: That’s true, not that much from the technology point of view but – as usual – from usability and use case point of view.
Q: Most homeowners struggle with the difficulty of a home automation set up. How do you think this will change in the near future?
Dr. Paetz: Smart Home is complex by definition. It’s quite hard for a software to guess what users really want in a certain situation. There will be better interfaces such as voice etc but this will not eliminate the
fundamental problem of the variety of possible expectations.
Q: What are the benefits of a Z-Wave ecosystem compared to other wireless protocols?
Dr. Paetz: No doubt its the fact that it IS an ecosystem. There are other technologies, like Zigbee or Thread, just to mention too. But here there is no guaranteed interoperability. The end user can never know of devices work. As a result, they have to stick with one vendor. With Z-Wave there is a guaranteed interoperability that is monitored by the Alliance by a certification program. Once customers by a Z-Wave device they know that they can use with other vendors products and even do so 10 years from now.
Q: How would you describe Z-Wave to a person who’s never heard of it before?
Dr. Paetz: Z-Wave is the idea that all electrical devices in a Home should work together and secure. This is done using a standardized wireless connection. Buy the Z-Wave devices you like from whoever makes them –
you can use them in your home together.
Q: What are your thoughts on the upcoming future of home automation?
Dr. Paetz: We see very strong growth in our segment doubling sales year over year. Of course, this growth rate will not sustain but the penetration rate will rise with better products, lower prices and better value propositions. I am still quite bullish on this market but of course, some dream scenarios communicated by large but inexperienced players in the market will not come true.
Q: A short fun question – Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomeKit with Siri? or … Which is the best AI assistant for home automation?
Dr. Paetz: To be honest, I don’t believe in the current stage of voice control for Smart Home.
Q: There are recent reports that Facebook is making a smart speaker to compete with the Echo/Google Home. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the social network will have any chance of success?
Dr. Paetz: What I see is this unconditional belief in large brands. “Whatever Google touches turns into gold. Once google enters smart home this will change the game” Same for Apple. The reality in the market is that the
large companies are all active on one of the other way, but have not changed the smart home industry. Every industry creates its own champions. So for me it’s not a no-brainier that a successful social media company is equally successful in smart home.
Q: Last, but not least, do you want to share something with our audience? Tips, insight, tricks or even something completely unrelated!
Dr. Paetz: Z-Wave is in this market for 13 years now and has sold over 50 Million devices. We have seen many companies and consortiums coming and leaving. if all the promises of some industry fellows would be true, this would be a different planet. hence, I would recommend: Don’t listen to the “We will do” statements but ask for the “We have done” information.
Thank you a lot for your time and we look forward to the bright future of Z-Wave, the Z-Wave Alliance and home automation!