Z-Wave – Basics of wireless technology for the smart home

Do the Waves Cook Your Brain?

The question still to be investigated is whether the wireless connections affect the health of the smart home's inhabitants. According to Dr. Christian Paetz  [5], Z-Wave devices emit about 1/1,000th of the energy emitted by a mobile phone during a phone call. Moreover, Z-Wave controllers and switches are only sporadically active and are not usually found close to body; their use around the house should thus be safe.

Is It Secure?

In 2013 the manufacturer of a certified Z-Wave door lock made a blunder in the implementation of the AES encryption they used, which enabled attackers to remotely open the lock and report to the controller that the home was locked even though it was open. Otherwise, no vulnerabilities are currently known.

That said, the security analysis of the Z-Wave protocol is still in its infancy, and the bad guys will certainly be pushing forward their efforts given the increasing spread of such a lucrative target.

Outlook

Of course, this short introduction, by its nature, only scratches the surface. For a more detailed discussion, the book by Paetz [5] was until recently the only available public source. More recently, however, the public specifications by Sigma Designs on the Z-Wave standard  [3] provide interested users with more in-depth information directly from the manufacturer, especially at a hands-on technical level.

The practical application of a lamp controller with Linux was demonstrated at the beginning of the year in an article on [6]. Experience has shown that many hobbyists initially start with two or three Z-Wave components. But as users discover a taste for the automatic functions, it's been reported that small installations tend to be growing slowly until they reach the level of comfort provided by a smart home.

The Author

Mike Schilli works as a software engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He can be contacted at mailto:mschilli@perlmeister.com. Mike's homepage can be found at http://perlmeister.com.

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