If you own a talking virtual assistant like Alexa, a wearable device like FitBit or a smart television, you are already experiencing IoT at fundamental levels. Though these standalone devices don’t make up for an IoT based home automation solution, they still communicate with each other for data and insights.
Generally, brand manufacturers have their own distinct operating protocols for their range of products and services, where the language of one device wouldn’t be understood by another device, or data interoperability would simply be restricted and more.
If you’ve opted for a complete home automation system from one single brand, where your entire house is automated with relevant gadgets like smart doorbells, smart surveillance systems, smart illumination and more, companies ensure a standard operating protocol is established for streamlined communication and presentation through relevant IoT solutions.
The problem only arises when you have multiple devices from different brands and companies. For homes that are made up of siloed smart systems, where every individual gadget is from a different brand, communication among devices becomes difficult.
For instance, when you’ve connected a smart bulb with your Alexa, two different devices are operating in tandem with each other. So, for Alexa to reduce your room’s brightness, the assistant needs to communicate your instructions to the bulb.
In such cases, there needs to be established a common protocol that brings standalone devices into one wholesome ecosystem. While this might appear trivial now, IoT is gaining significant ground and we can’t deny that IoT solutions are becoming increasingly inevitable in our life. That’s why we need to know about basic IoT protocols for efficient functioning of multiple IoT devices as one single unit.
If you’re into home automation solutions or IoT app development, it becomes more crucial to know about protocols. This will enable your customers to prefer your products for its versatility and efficiency because they know your device wouldn’t stop functioning if an incompatible device is connected to an ecosystem.
To help you get started, here are some of the fundamental wireless protocols for home automation you should know about.
10 Best Home Automation Protocols For 2021
Developed by Zigbee Alliance, this is an open-source protocol that allows developers or IoT architects to build mesh networks where signals can jump among devices for communication. The network does not require devices to dial out to a WiFi network before jumping. The entire ecosystem is made up of a hub that needs to be perpetually connected to an internet source. Running on radio frequency, Zigbee paves the way for fast communication among devices.
Zigbee is currently used by Amazon Echo, Philips range of Hue bulbs and more.One of the major benefits of Zigbee is that one hub can power multiple devices. Besides, it is open-source and simpler to develop compatible devices.
As far as power requirements are concerned, Zigbee is built for low power consumption. So, it ultimately reduces dependence on batteries. Powered by a 128-bit banking-level encryption system, Zigbee is our top pick.
Insteon is more of a hybrid protocol that functions on a patented dual-mesh ecosystem. Thanks to this, Insteon deploys both wired and wireless communication channels to streamline data and information. In this network, messages can travel in more than one way.
It is compatible with all other Insteon devices. It also shows compatibility with the X10 network and allows you to add additional wireless functionality to an existing network. With respect to usability, it is extremely easy to use and deploy. It does not require you to be tech savvy at all. Anyone can actually deploy an Insteon-powered home automation system in their place.
Sensors and embedded systems are the lifelines of IoT devices. To streamline communication among such units, the most ideal protocol we could suggest is 6LoWPAN.
This is designed for performance for battery-powered devices like temperature sensors and systems that require very less energy. This protocol is also super-optimal to control and handle residential electronic appliances like dishwashers and washing machines.
Another mesh-based networking system, Thread was developed and released to compete against Zigbee. Some of the biggest market players like Samsung, Nest, Qualcomm and more came together to develop Thread. Despite being a mesh network, what sets Thread apart is that unlike Zigbee, it does not require perpetual internet connection. Data transmission happens even when the hub is not connected to the internet.
Similar to Zigbee, Thread also functions on radio frequency (802.15.4) and is open source. Developers reveal that because of the stringent security requirements, infrastructure based on Thread should be developed from ground up.
Thread is also IP-based, which means it stands out from its market competitors like Zigbee. Thanks to this feature, Thread can directly work with networks like Ethernet, 4G and WiFi.
EnOcean is designed for home automation solutions that are dependent on energy-producing technologies. The protocol is a blend of energy converters and ultra-low-power electronic devices that facilitates the transmission of data and communication among controllers, switches, sensors, gateways and more without any power source.
The entire world is familiar with Bluetooth technology now. From commercial wearables to sound systems, Bluetooth powers several devices today and consumers around the world know how to connect and work with Bluetooth technology.
As far as its protocol standards are concerned, Bluetooth Mesh is powered by a standard named Bluetooth Low Energy or colloquially known as Bluetooth 5.0. Its functionality is similar to that of Z-wave and Zigbee.
It offers commendable latency and speed and its performance is very similar to what Zigbee brings to the table. The biggest advantage of Bluetooth Mesh is that it is literally everywhere. Almost every single device today that rolls out of the conveyor belt has Bluetooth technology by default. This makes the way for compatibility. However, there is a catch here that only Bluetooth 4.0 and 5.0 are supported by the mesh protocol.
Despite being popular, Bluetooth is relatively new and lacks the standards and robustness of some of the other protocols in the list. It is yet to evolve as an ecosystem, where it can be compatible with devices outside of its compatibility and most importantly, it lacks IP functionality.
Z-Wave is an open-standard IoT protocol that is developed by the prominent Silicon Labs. This is yet another mesh network-based protocol that is compatible with all other Z-Wave devices. However, the only catch with Z-Wave is that there is a limit to the number of times signals can be transmitted through devices, which is 4. This makes it less prone to congestion.
Functioning on a radio (908.42MHz) frequency, Z-Wave has a wider range and has very less interference with other devices. It is one of the fastest growing protocols in the world because of the support shown by over 450 companies. Despite this fact, experts suspect its longevity considering the fact that standards in the protocols have undergone several changes over the years.
Nevertheless, it is easy to deploy, offers commendable performance, reduces energy requirements and is future-proof in the fact that Z-Wave will show backward compatibility with outdated devices.
So far, we’ve only been covering enterprises and large-scale protocols. For smaller devices and ecosystems that deploy relatively cheap gadgets and low memory and power systems, an ideal protocol is MQTT. Abbreviated as Message Queue Telemetry Transport, this lightweight protocol is perfect to streamline simple data across sensors and applications.
Probably one of the oldest and most prominent protocols to build automation modules, KNX is open source and works across multiple mediums such as infrared, RF, twisted-pair wiring, Ethernet and more.
Unlike other protocols mentioned here, KNX is decentralized. Meaning, it does not need a hub to operate and every single KNX unit is a standalone ecosystem by itself. This gives an advantage that the network will continue to function even if one device or unit malfunctions.
Thanks to the massive reach of WiFi, this is probably the most cost-effective protocol for developers to build IoT networks and automation solutions. They are designed to handle massive volumes of data seamlessly. Also, WiFi networks offer optimum security standards because they deploy AES 256-bit encryption. It has a commendable range and with the evolutions happening with WiFi, we could soon be witnessing WiFi units capable of transmitting data to units that are located a kilometer away.
WiFi is ideal for both medium and small home automation systems, where large volumes of data can be easily transmitted across short distances.
However, some of the limitations of WiFi include the requirement of perennial power supply, higher power consumption and interference with other devices powered by WiFi. For quick and commercial applications, WiFi works perfectly.
So, these were the 10 home automation protocols you should know for 2021. For all those IoT enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and specialists out there, we believe this list gave you comprehensive insights on how you could go about designing your ecosystem for optimum compatibility and performance.
If you have other equally powerful protocols in mind, let us know them in the comments. We would love to hear from you.