Which smart home communications protocol to use?

I was just reading about UWB a fairly new communications protocol for smart home devices that seems to be gaining a lot of traction with Samsung and Apple, and it got me wondering what people’s experiences are with different types of smart home communications.

I am not very well versed in all of this, but has anyone had any informative experiences trying out different systems?

Hey Matt,

UWB is a high-bandwidth, short-range protocol meaning it can send a lot of data quickly over a very short distance. Mobile phone vendors are interested in it for it’s ability to share big files (such as video) between users. For most applications of ‘smart home technology’ that we are interested in, such as sensor readings and control of high power devices, we only need to send small packets of information but we want these to be reliable over medium distance (i.e the entire house and perhaps the driveway for electric vehicles).

UWB in personal devices is very new and at present protocols are not well established, in general it’s worth steering clear of the ‘next big thing’ communication protocol until common, open standards have been agreed. Besides there’s nothing you can control with it for now.
For controlling things with your smart phone, Bluetooth and WiFi are the obvious options but both have limitations, so most systems opt for a hub or gateway device that connects the WiFi on your phone with other communication protocols.

Your main options are Zigbee and Z-wave at present. These are likely (though not certain) to be supplanted by Connected Home over IP (CHIP) in the future - but it’s not worth worrying about this for now. There are lots of articles outlining the relative strengths and weaknesses of each protocol, such as this. In short, there are more Zigbee devices available and they tend to be cheaper than Zwave, but the latter is more reliable over longer distances.

The hub that we use for our PowerShaper project (and that many Carbon Coop staff have in their homes) is the OpenSource and privacy focused Home Assistant, running on a Raspberry Pi single board computer. Such systems are able to integrate with range of protocols via USB dongles or add-on boards, making them more future proof to the changing smart home landscape.

We may start maintaining a list of known working and recommended devices if there is sufficient demand from the membership.


Thanks for that detailed explanation @Matt! Agree with you, that at this stage the practical mean that anything I do get will probably fall into one of the options that you have outlined.

I guess it is interesting to see what big brands are putting weight behind, because even if it is not the ‘best’ option there is a good chance it will gain some traction in the future.

I will probably start by looking at some Zigbee temperature humidity sensors and then go from there!

I read somewhere [citation needed!] that Zigbee tends to be home automation stuff and Z-Wave seems to be what home security products have settled on. This was reflected in what I found online when I was looking for door/window opening sensors, though I did manage to find a Zigbee one. (For a indoor CO2 sensing project…)

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