Tuesday July 29th 2014

  

In The News

New Generation of Water Sensors from FortrezZ

FortrezZ, LLC, a leading manufacturer in wireless water & freeze detection and prevention systems announced its new line of Z-WaveTM water sensors. The new sensors are a continuation of FortrezZ’s proven technology in leak detection. Improvements and changes over the previous generation include a completely new enclosure with more advanced sensing elements, improved power consumption, use of AA batteries, and firmware changes to allow for better communication with z-wave gateways / controllers. Color options include black and white. The new sensors also include temperature reporting and freeze detection. Temperature reports help homeowners monitor temperature variations within their home and discover potentially risky areas.

www.fortrezz.com/

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The 600th Z-Wave certified product, the RCS Whole House Energy Meter just announced.

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Mark Walters: A Fresh Perspective

Recently, I spoke with Mark Walters, chairman of the Z-Wave Alliance. Although Mark has been a little out of the Z-Wave loop for a couple of years, his return offers a fresh perspective on the growth of Z-Wave products and the overall adoption of the technology for both professional installers and the DIY crowd.

What’s the biggest development in home control today?

The announcement of a new consortium: the smart energy profile (SEP) 2.0. The Zigbee Alliance created the SEP. It started out to be a closed community with releases 1.0 and 1.1. But just recently, the alliance announced certification and interoperability testing to a whole new open consortium. What that means is that there will be an open standard for communications between the smart meter and the smart house for residential use in North America.

Before all the [home control] players had their own standards and they were holding on to them pretty tightly, but that wasn’t helping the market any. The open industry alliance will mean, I think, is that we will adopt this new standard as one of the profiles in the Z-Wave community. So Z-Wave products in the future that support that profile will be able to talk to other products over IP and share the same profile. You might have a Zigbee meter that’s talking IP over a Zigbee radio going to a bridge device in the house that talks both Zigbee SEP 2.0 and Z-Wave SEP 2.0. It opens up a lot of possibilities.

Where have you noticed the biggest change after being away for a couple of years?

We’re seeing a lot more product out in the field. The big story is what’s happening with the alarm companies, with Verizon and the success of 2GIG, as well all the gateway devices that have been launched. But the first thing that got my attention back at CES was the Evolve [hotel] installations. And finding out how many gateways have been sold with Z-Wave chips in them, the alarm panels, which are now in the millions sold and shipped. The penetration is still in its infancy, but it’s many times the size that it was two to three years ago.

Another thing was the news from the security conference in Las Vegas; they were trying to hack a Z-Wave network. It looks like home control has finally arrived! In order to attract the hackers you have to have a sufficient user community to be interesting. It’s an off-handed compliment to the home control industry. In addition, home control is continuing to move into the consumer space where it’s no longer reserved for the ultra high end.

Home control started off as the luxury item and that’s how it’s been portrayed for years, but it has applications way beyond security including security and safety being the one that’s really strong now, but right behind it is the smart home interacting with the smart grid where consumers can realize energy savings and cost savings as well.

What does that entail?

Right now we have smart home meets security and right behind that we have smart home meets smart grid with all the Z-Wave thermostats and gateways that enable you to manage your home over the internet or via your smart phone. In Europe we have smart meters with Z-Wave built in; here in the states we have smart meters usually with Zigbee and we’re seeing bridges from that technology to Z-Wave and I think that’s the next exciting use case coming up.

The “smart home saves energy” is the intersection between Z-Wave networks with a home network gateway where you can talk to the thermostat and talk to your lighting when you’re away from your house. That’s where it started. Where it’s going is that the utilities are becoming more sophisticated in managing their networks and being able to do things like load balancing and peak-load shedding.

So the future is where smart homes communicate directly with the utilities. So the utility decides that this afternoon they’ll be running short on electricity and they’re going to raise the price three times for the next four hours. If you’re at work you have no way to react to that, you may not even know that’s going to happen, but your home is smart enough and hears about his price increase over the utilities smart meter network. With preset rules, you can inch up the thermostat a couple of degrees or not run the AC.

Right now it’s used in commercial settings where utilities will give credit or decrease your rates per kilowatt-hour if you can decrease your usage during peak hours during the day. It’s coming to the U.S. soon with variable rate billing in some states, so when that starts to become more widespread, you want to have a house that’s smart enough to follow along.

Mark WaltersWhat needs to happen for wider adoption?

We’re still fighting awareness. Alarm companies are helping by rolling out home control as one of their offerings. But it has to make economic sense. I’m not going to put money in my house if it’s under water. There has to be some kind of payback. As we see energy becoming more expensive, then the ROI for home control is going to be there. Down the road, the aging in place idea is going to have an impact on that as well. For the awareness increase, the ROI has to be there, as well as other beneficial uses for the technology like aging gracefully. The distribution channels are there when we need them; the products are widely available, but it’s not been tremendously successful because the demand has been low, which comes back to awareness followed by ROI.

Is the awareness evolving quickly enough for it to happen in the next couple of years?

We’ve been saying next year for the last 20 years. I think it’s on the upward trajectory. It’s certainly are growing more rapidly each year. We’re seeing accelerated adoption but still a very small percentage of the total numbers of homes or devices that we could get. A lot of times we say what we need is to have better standards, but plain and simple it’s awareness. The are plenty of devices available now so it’s not limited by the availability of products. Has the technology evolved enough for it to be more accessible? Could it be easier? Sure. Will help adoption? Yes. But I don’t think it’s holding things back. In the end, if I want to do it, I’ll find a way to do it, so it all comes back to awareness.

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