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Which Tech Should Power Your Smart Home?

February 7th, 2019

The best smart home system is the system that achieves your goals in the most secure and reliable way. Knowing how to choose the right system starts with deciding what underlying technology you want to power your system. Four common technologies are ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Z-Wave. Learn the differences between these technologies and decide what tech you want to power your new system.

Ethernet

Ethernet is a wired technology that connects computers and other electronic devices within a small geographic area, like a room, office or home. You probably remember connecting your computer to the internet with an ethernet cable before the days of wireless internet.

So where do you see wired Ethernet in smart homes today? In reality, not too many places. Historically, video transmission needed the higher bandwidth and reliability that a wired connection could deliver. Today, many cameras can operate over either wifi or via a wired connection, but for many homeowners, the convenience of wireless makes the placement of cameras much simpler when they don’t have to balance the placement of a camera with the pulling of a dedicated wired connection. There are certain types of cameras, or certain camera locations, where a wired Ethernet connection is still needed in order to deal with tricky environment issues that may make wifi ineffective.

Pros:

Extremely reliable connection while plugged in

Cons:

Unless you run cables in your walls, it will be difficult to connect devices throughout the entire home on one network

Thief could physically unplug your ethernet cable connection

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a radio-wave technology that transports data between devices within a 30-foot range. You might connect your phone to your car speaker to play a podcast or download photos from your computer to your phone.

Bluetooth is used in certain systems to allow a cell phone to connect to and enable hands-free system disarming , linking your phone to the central system control unit. Many smart speakers, light switches,  smart locks and even air quality monitors use this technology.

Pros:

Requires virtually no power

Hackers would have to be within the short-range transmissions to exploit the network

Cons:

Only 8 devices can communicate at any given time

Limited to a small area

Devices set to “discoverable” can be hijacked and then receive and pass viruses. This can be avoided with good digital security hygiene and is not common, at least in part due to the very short range over which Bluetooth transmits.

Wi-Fi

This technology allows devices to connect to the internet without any wires. While Bluetooth acts as a wireless connector between devices, Wi-Fi serves as the wireless connection to the complete local network, and then on to the internet.

Cameras are among the most common devices that you will find using the wifi network in a smart home. A wifi network allows for the higher bandwidth transmission required for the streaming video to be supported. Wifi is also the technology used to support items like smart televisions and gaming consoles.

Pros:

Largest service area of all wireless options

Most widely used wireless network

Often needed in addition to other wireless connections

Cons:

Susceptible to interference

Every device needs to connect to a central hub

Bandwidth can fill up fast with too many devices

Z-Wave

This technology is also wireless. When a device has Z-Wave capability, they can build a mesh network with all other devices with that capability and communicate via low radio frequency.

Our very own smart home system is built on Z-Wave technology. We may be biased, but we truly believe Z-Wave smart technology is the best tech for any full-service system. You can connect your smart home devices onto one, controllable system. That system is secure and can offer you all of the benefits of a wireless connection without any of the downfalls.

Pros:

Larger coverage area than Bluetooth

Less interference with the devices

All z-wave devices can work with each other

Has a dedicated cellular connection that cannot be cut by intruders

Uses less power than Wi-Fi

Cons:

Less power means it can’t play HD video on its own

Make sure you only purchase Z-Wave capable devices

The Bottom Line

When you are choosing what type of smart home system you want to invest it, what’s important to you? If you care about security and the number of possible devices you could add to your system in the future – a Z-Wave ecosystem is the right fit for you.

It is important to realize that in addition to these commercial technologies, most security devices like door/window sensors, motion sensors, glass break, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors use proprietary communications technologies to ensure security. These proprietary systems are designed to work in a complete system environment, and often employ additional encryption to ensure these vital life-safety and security capabilities.

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