Once your IoT project is underway and your objectives are set, you still need to choose which home automation box and dialog protocol to use to communicate with the equipment in your smart buildings. This is often where the difficulties begin because compatibilities are not always clear. Here are a few tips to help you out.
A multiple-choice equation
There are loads of criteria for selecting an IoT protocol, including availability, maturity, communication range and type, security, type of IoT platform, maintenance, and interoperability. The top concern is energy performance, aimed at maximizing object shelf life and communication range.
IoT networks fall into two major categories:
- Low-power wide-area networks: Sigfox, LoRa, and cellular technologies (GSM, 2G, 3G, etc.) are most often used by companies to connect kilometers of infrastructure to the internet or in smart city projects.
- Short-range networks: Wifi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, EnOcean, and even Bluetooth Low Energy allow data to be transmitted over short distances and are commonly used for home automation.
Ideally, secure (or closed) systems should be avoided in favor of other systems like Z-Wave, Z-Wave Plus, ZigBee, EnOcean, and even RTS, which are open and supported by multiple manufacturers. Short-range networks allow data to be transmitted over short distances, and their protocol remains functional even if a manufacturer goes away.
Top short-range IoT protocols
Bluetooth® Low Energy: very widely used throughout the world, with a range of up to 60 meters. This protocol consumes about 20 times less energy than Wifi. The latest version (Bluetooth 5) is the best suited for IoT and has twice the range of its predecessor.
Note: This network transports much less data than Wifi, even though the latest standard is capable of transmitting four times more data.
Z-Wave: wireless and easy to install, with a basic range of 30 meters. Each device connected to the system transmits data and also relays data transmitted by neighboring devices, which further extends its range.
Note: The only devices connected with Z-Wave are devices that remain active 100% of the time. Those that run on a battery are most often in sleep mode to conserve energy. They relay data only when they are on. In addition, not all equipment communicates with an objected connected using this technology.
EnOcean: wireless and battery-free. This protocol consumes half as much energy as Bluetooth® Low Energy and solves the problem of the shelf life of connected objects. It uses motion and temperature sensors to draw the energy it needs to operate from its surroundings.
Note: This technology is very far from being standardized.
KNX: Unlike the protocols described above, KNX is a globally recognized wired protocol. The leading protocol in Germany, it accounts for more than 70% of the building automation market in Europe. KNX solutions are designed to be robust and maintenance-free, comprised of high-quality, easy-to-use parts.
Note: KNX is mainly for professionals, and there is very little information accessible to the general public.
The advantage of multi-protocol solutions
The array of communication networks calls into question their compatibility with connected objects and—more generally—the interoperability among equipment that does not use the same communication protocols. The best choice is therefore to opt for a multi-protocol box. These smart gateways work with open protocols, are available everywhere, are compatible with a broad range of devices, and can support several different protocols simultaneously.
This is true of the home automation boxes offered by Overkiz, which are capable of communicating with multiple languages simultaneously.
For new construction projects, Overkiz has developed the Hattara® DIN Rail smart gateway. Installed onto the electrical panel, this home automation box supports multiple protocols (io-homecontrol, RTS, Z-Wave Plus, EnOcean, Wifi, Bluetooth®, Zigbee), and it is modular, scalable, and supports custom extensions in case you have a device that uses a particular protocol.
Starting in 2020, Overkiz includes the KNX wired communication protocol with the Hattara® DIN Rail through a new dedicated module that is compatible with all brands within the entire smart building market ecosystem.
The open and interoperable KNX protocol gives users a great deal of freedom when it comes to purchasing equipment (without being limited to products from a specific manufacturer) and paves the way for long-lasting systems that survive updates to fixtures. From heating to access control and remote control of all household appliances, KNX offers new possibilities for great comfort, better security, and increased energy savings in buildings.