ISC West 2019: Z-Wave Alliance and Silicon Labs- Interview with Mary Miller

ISC West 2019: Z-Wave Alliance and Silicon Labs- Interview with Mary Miller


In this video, Frank meets with Mary Miller of the Z-Wave Alliance and Silicon Labs at ISC West 2019. This in-depth interview focuses on the evolution of Z-Wave and how the protocol has affected the security and home automation industries. They also discuss the new Z-Wave technology in the pipeline.

Z-Wave refers to a wireless protocol that is primarily used with smart home automation devices. This includes peripherals like lights, locks, switches, thermostats water valves and more. All Z-Wave devices interface with what is known as a Z-Wave controller. This controller serves as the central hub for a Z-Wave network.

A great aspect of Z-Wave hubs and controllers is that they can be accessed remotely, often through a mobile app. This essentially allows a user to control their Z-Wave devices from almost anywhere in the world. You can also integrate your Z-Wave devices in with smart scenes. This will allow your Z-Wave devices to respond based on a set schedule or with certain predetermined events or actions.

Most new alarm systems that support Z-Wave technology come with a 500-Series Chipset. This is commonly referred to as "Z-Wave Plus", and it offers an extended range and battery life when used with compatible Z-Wave Plus devices. It's also worth mentioning that the Z-Wave Plus Chipset is backwards compatible with classic Z-Wave devices. However, the classic Z-Wave devices will not be able to utilize the extended range and battery life of Z-Wave Plus devices.

As for the future of Z-Wave, the first Z-Wave 700-Series devices are starting to roll out. This represents the next evolution for Z-Wave technology. At this time, there are no alarm systems with a built-in 700-Series Chipset. However, all Z-Wave devices are backwards compatible, and even the newest Z-Wave devices should be able to enroll successfully with alarm systems that support the Z-Wave protocol.


Hi, DIYers. We're here at ISC West 2019 in Las Vegas with Mary from Silicon Labs. The new parent company of the Z-Wave technology that we are very familiar with. Lives in our security systems. Now with all the new panels this year coming out, being Z-Wave Plus, the 500 chipset series, it will support all those new Z-Wave Plus features, which Mary can talk a little bit about.

And we're also going to talk about 700 chipset, which is the future of Z-Wave. And how that's going to expand into medical, aging, wellness platforms. So I'll let Mary--

Yeah. Beyond security. Yeah. Exactly. So great to be talking to you here. I'm really delighted that you asked me to share some of my knowledge with some of your DIYers.

Yes. Thank you.

As you mentioned, we were recently acquired, the Z-Wave technology, from our old parent company. So it's been around for about 15 years. And a year ago this month, we were purchased by Silicon Labs, which as you know is a really big chip company. So we've got a much bigger footprint, which we're hoping is going to really enable getting a lot of new Z-Wave products to market because we've got a much larger sales force.


But the other really exciting thing that happened since we've joined this new organization is we have a whole new development platform that we put the new Z-Wave 700 package onto. So we're taking advantage. And this is not for your DIYers out there probably. But people that are manufacturing these products are taking advantage of a whole new development environment, which is much more plug and play. It's so much easier to develop a product. We're reducing the price of the actual development kits. So hopefully, we're going to get a lot of even Kickstarter kind of people involved with, hey, I can build something that'll go in a Z-Wave network.

That's cool.

We're totally excited--

So opening up the platform a little bit.

We're opening it up. It used to be $3,000 to get a development kit. Now it's $379.

Didn't know that. Very cool.

Yeah. I know. It's so exciting.

Very cool.

But beyond this development environment, which we think is going to drive a lot of innovative new products in the market, the other aspect of this is the actual chip itself. It's going to have an ARM core, which we've never had in the past. So it's going to have a lot of computational horsepower. That computational horsepower is going to allow manufacturers to create end devices that are intelligent-- that have some AI built into them. It won't have to go to the cloud to figure out who's moving in the room or whether that's part of the schedule.


It's going to actually be able to identify things and course correct your home. So your home will go from smart to intelligent based on smarter end devices.


Beyond that, we're going to have 10 years on a coin cell battery. I mean, that is unheard of in anything but like a one way 433. And even that is a stretch. So we're really excited about this energy efficiency that we're getting out of this new chip because we think this is going to enable a lot of new capabilities in the home. Particularly in the sensor market. So as you know, I mean there's door and windows sensors, there's moisture freeze, all kinds of things.

But the size of these things has been limited by the fact you needed to put a fairly substantial battery in it. Now a coin cell battery will allow us to shrink down the footprint itself--

Of the sensors.

Of the sensors. Right.


And beyond that, you're going to be able to put them in places you've never thought of before. Into bed sensors. You can have a Z-Wave bed sensor for example. Or a couch sensor. If you want to know if your dog's been on the couch all day, you'll be able to find that out. But I think some of these other sensors like into the bed itself and everywhere. I mean it's going to be a ubiquitous thing. So the whole home has a context. And it will be able to respond to who you are and what you need.

Now this is going to be particularly interesting to your DIYers because as the population of America is aging-- 100,000 people turn 65 every single day of the week. That means people are getting older. And they want to stay in their homes longer. I mean, for heaven's sakes, there's not even enough places to put all these old people if we needed to.

No, seriously. Yeah.

So this is where--

And it's very expensive. Right. The cost is.


So could lower the cost of that.

This could lower the cost of that. And it can provides peace of mind to the caregiver.


So if you've got a mom who's 500 miles away, you get your local DIYer to put a wonderful security package into her home, which includes these new sensors. So you know when she's getting out of bed in the morning. You know that she's gone into the bathroom. You know that she's going into the kitchen. You put a door lock in. You put some lights in so that--

And you have all this monitoring. But it's not quite as invasive as you were mentioning earlier.

Exactly. Exactly. Because you will then know what her pattern is. And if you can build it so it would alert you if that pattern was out of whack somehow. You'd pick up the phone. Mom hasn't opened the bathroom door yet today. OK. And it's 9:30. She's usually in there by 9:00. OK.


I better call mom. Uh oh. No answer at mom's. Let me call the next door neighbor who I've already gone on the call list. Let the next door neighbor in through the smart door lock that you can open remotely for somebody. And take care of mom when you're not the one down the street. But you can be there. And it just adds this whole uplift.

It's a whole different dimension to automation in a lot of ways.

It does. It does.

And traditionally, we've done lights, locks, thermostats. The traditional model.

Of course.

But opening that up into this other world is--

Into thinking about what else could I do with this. And this, you could add it on to your existing package, I think. I mean, depending on how your system works in the back end, you could add mom's home into this for you. And it becomes then a very sticky service, which is, I think, important to your end users. You don't want people changing their company that's doing the monitoring. You want to keep that guy for life.

Of course.

And if you're adding something that adds enormous value to them-- so whether it's keeping on a latch key kid, or aging in place, or even your pet, I mean there's just a lot of things that can happen. And with this new ubiquity of some of these sensors, it makes it even easier.

And when we say these sensors, we're specifically talking about 700 chipset. Chipset being the actual chip that they make and install in these devices. Right?


And on each device.

Right. That are getting littler and littler, and smarter and smarter.

Now question about existing customers-- generally, things are backwards compatible with Z-Wave?

Always backwards compatible.

Always. Great.

Always backwards compatible. A product to day will work with something that was certified back in 2004.

OK. Cool. Yeah so we do have customers who have maybe 500 chipset series controllers, which is pretty common right now. They can still take advantage possibly of some of the new 700 stuff coming out.


It's not going to have maybe some of the features. It's going to use some of that?

Correct. But a lot of it it will have.


Right. A lot of the new features will be compatible with a 500 series panel. And you'll be able to get that extended range.

Got it.

You're going to be able to get that longer battery life. All of those things will work with a 500 panel. But some of the other things-- perhaps SmartStart being one of them. Have you heard about SmartStart? Or can I tell you about it that?

I know a bit about. But I'd love you to explain it of course.

OK. Well, the number one reason people don't get a smart home environment, especially DIYers, I'm not talking about you professional people is because they're so hard to put in. I mean, it's always complicated. And everything installs--

Range and inclusion.

--in a different way. You've got to push, push, and wait for the light to turn and blink twice.

And half the time it doesn't work.

Yes. So it's frustrating. And that's why you guys have had such a corner on the market. But the upside for the installer is you can put a lot more products into the home in a shorter amount of time with this new pre-commissioned functionality. You can actually commission the devices before you did a truck roll to work with the panel. And all you need to do is plug things in and make it work.

And to be honest, our model, although we are traditional security company in the sense of our dealer role, we very much work with customers who are DIY friendly. And they want to do a lot of the stuff themselves. Especially on the automation side. I think the industry as a whole has cultivated the customer-- the end user to be the installer in a lot of ways.


And that's not always the case. And there are certain values to having to integrators. I've been an intergrator in the past.

Of course.

And I get it. And there are things that need pros. But there are a lot of things you can do yourself. And I think the SmartStart thing should help that a lot.

Right. Especially with some of plug and play devices like a plug or a sensor that you could install yourself. I mean, high voltage, and low voltage, and all of that, and thermostats, they can be tricky. But let's face it, if you wanted to just get that lamp in the living room to turn off and on when you wanted through your interface, wouldn't it be nice if all you did was take it out of the box, plug it in, and suddenly your app says, oh, we have a new light in the living room what do you want to call it? And that's how easy it's going to be.

Does it involve a QR code you scan?

It does. You scan that. I'm glad you reminded me that I need to explain what the mechanic is.

And that's on the device.

It's on the device, and you scan the code, and it automatically pops into your system because you've scanned the code through your app.

So no like putting it into learning mode, and pressing buttons, and finding identifications from the local manufacturer and manuals?

No. No. It's just too easy.


And with SmartStart, it's actually a functionality that's been enabled with the extension of what we call Security S2, which is a new higher level of encryption that is in every single certified product after April of 2017.

So for all the security gurus or maybe people--

Right. Anybody who's concerned about hacking or even privacy, this is the absolutely gold standard in security in the business.


It completely defeats man in the middle. It's an elliptical curve Diffie-Hellman. I have no idea what that means. But it's--

I don't either.

It's the same encryption that NASA uses. NSA. Not NASA. NSA, national security. Yeah.

Awesome. Cool. Very Cool.

This is Wikileaks proof.

Oh, god. Yeah, that's timely.

So OK. Just to kind of pull it all together here.

OK, good.

So we have 500 chipset Z-Wave Plus. That was the first generation of Z-Wave Plus. Now we're talking about 700 chipsets. The SmartStart and S2--

The Z-Wave Plus, by the way, that 500 gave you extended range from our old 300 series. So you've got much better coverage with fewer devices in the home.


Because as you know--

It's a longrange device-device.

It's a mesh network.


But yeah, longer range device to device. So that was the key benefit in that Z-Wave Plus upgrade. And now we've layered on the S2, which is also in the 500 series. And now with this 700, it's mandated to have SmartStart as well as S2.

So SmartStart and S2 were features that technically can operate and function in the 500 space?

They can. They can.

But it wasn't necessarily mandated.

Right. But because of the extra headroom in this new chip, it makes it really easy. And you're not using up application layer--


Memory order to accommodate those features. So now there's plenty. Plenty available for everything.

Cool. So yeah. We are going to wrap up here. We can show incredible the world of Z-Wave. And how many different brands of kind of--

There is actually. That's off. There's over 2,700 different interoperable devices. Everything from door locks to thermostats. To well, you know what the products are. We've even got a mouse trap. Yeah.

Yeah. So I mean, as far as our model goes at AlarmGrid, we've very much stayed position in the door window-- excuse me.

Lights, Locks and thermostats.

Lights, thermostats, maybe even water valves, couple of sirens here and there. So I think what we'll be looking to see and be excited for is looking into the medical kind of wellness space.

Sure. In the wellness space. I think that's going to be a huge growth opportunity. And a value add that you can sell to your customer when you're in there. And again, that stickiness of the service I think is a very important.

So allowing maybe elderly parents to stay in their homes longer. Lower costs until it really gets to the point where you do have to put them in some sort of assisted living. But In that middle area where--

And here's the trick. We're actually talking to those assisted living places so they can incorporate some of this smart technology maybe to reduce the price of taking care of mom when she actually does have to go there.

Very cool. All right. Well, Mary, it's been an absolute pleasure.

OK. You too, Frank.

Thank you very much for taking time.

Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Yeah. This is Silicon Labs. The parent company of Z-Wave. So we'll talk to you guys later.