Interoperability - Internet of Things
Let’s look at some of the most popular protocols and the connectivity for internet of things.
OCF stands for Open Connectivity Foundation and their mission is to ensure secure interoperability by dedicating a standard communication platform. In other words, all controlled devices such as sensors, lights, computers and more will “speak” the same universal language. Protocols are like languages for connected devices.
Different protocols exist, dictating which ecosystem your devices work in. A smartphone might “speak” one language to turn a kettle on. Or a thermostat might “speak” a different language to engage -the smart door lock when you leave the house. OCF creates the solution for this problem.
Here are some of the most popular protocols – Z-Wave, Zigbee, IR, and Wi-Fi.
The Mesh Network Protocols – Z-Wave and Zigbee
With a mesh network, devices don’t have to be next to a hub or router. The devices pass data between themselves which lets you use devices over a wider area. The Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) standard relies on the same principle. Z-Wave and Zigbee are both network protocols that let devices talk to each other.
At present, there are more Z-Wave devices than Zigbee. The Z-Wave Alliance certified over 1,700 products by 2017. If you want a Zigbee smart home, you have fewer products to choose from. The Zigbee Alliance range features 600 certified products.
Z-Wave is a more open protocol, and a true leader of interoperability – devices work together without vendors coordination. Zigbee on the other hand, is an open technology that has issue with its compatibility to other platforms. Luckily, the SURE Universal Remote app supports both Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols.
Being more accessible doesn’t mean Z-Wave will win the Zigbee vs. Z-Wave battle. But Z-Wave technology has the advantage of operating on a different bandwidth. So Wi-Fi signals won’t interfere with data transmission over Z-Wave.
That said, Zigbee boasts 128-bit symmetric encryption to keep your data safe. Z-Wave is slower than Zigbee, but it also uses less energy to send data. It’s easy to see that both protocols have their pros and cons.
What about IR and Wi-Fi?
IR is not like Z-Wave or Zigbee. It doesn’t send data packets between devices, just simple signals. Press a button on the device’s controller, which emits a light signal. The device translates the signal into a command and performs the function.
Think of TV remotes. Don’t let its simplicity fool you. With an IR blaster hub – a Wi-Fi to IR Converter – you can control older traditional devices using a smartphone. The hub translates Wi-Fi signals from your smartphone into IR signals for your old device.
The Wi-Fi protocol works using the IEEE 802.11 standard. All Wi-Fi products are compatible since they work to the same standard. It shows the importance of a single protocol.
The Wi-Fi Alliance (formed in 1999) prefers the term “Wi-Fi.” A marketing team coined the term as an easier alternative than IEEE 802.11.
Wi-Fi uses radio waves, further along the spectrum from IR. Your device sends data as a radio signal. The Wi-Fi router translates the signal back into data and sends it to the Internet. You experience delays or problems if the radio waves hit certain blocks, like water.
Wi-Fi carries more data because it works at the 2.4 GHz frequency. But that means it uses more power than mesh networks like BLE or Z-Wave.
How Do You Choose Which Protocol to Use?
It’s possible to run several devices using different protocols in the same ecosystem. Home assistants like the Amazon Echo can translate the signals between protocols. But some products need to work with a hub to translate the protocol before it gets to your home assistant.
OCF implementation is built to resolve these IoT problems such as incompatibility and security. By providing reliable interoperability between devices, we will soon be able to truly experience all device connectivity throughout our homes.
In the meantime, you might find it easiest to start off with an IR blaster hub. Bring your existing devices into a new smart home network. Or work with Wi-Fi devices – they use more energy, but you know they’re compatible.
Stay tuned to our blog, and we’ll keep you updated with news on the protocols.
Over to you – which protocol do you use right now?