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Wireless Smart Home and Smart Electrical Technologies: Wi-Fi, RF, Zigbee

Wireless Smart Home and Smart Electrical Technologies: Wi-Fi, RF, Zigbee

We use various wireless technologies in our daily lives through different devices, even in an average smartphone equipped with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC. There are also many types of wireless smart home and smart electrical products available, each with different technologies. Let's briefly review them!

RF Solutions

Radio frequency (RF) devices represent the entry-level tier in wireless technology, typically offering the most affordable price points. However, devices equipped solely with an RF receiver, without Wi-Fi, can't be considered true smart devices. The RF receiver only allows one-way communication, so these devices cannot be controlled via phone or smart systems; they can simply be remotely controlled within a 20-50 meter range.

Nonetheless, RF technology is a useful supplement to Wi-Fi devices. While Wi-Fi enables remote control of devices via the internet, RF provides a consistently reliable local wireless connection and remote control independent of the Wi-Fi network. Thus, devices combining Wi-Fi and RF are versatile and suitable for a range of uses.


Wi-Fi Solutions

Wi-Fi solutions are genuine smart devices, offering numerous advantages and are also quite affordable. Key benefits include direct connection to the Wi-Fi router, eliminating the need for a local controller, gateway, or hub. Each device operates independently and can be controlled remotely via Wi-Fi. They have a low data traffic requirement, do not heavily burden the Wi-Fi bandwidth, and can be set up as standalone units within minutes.

However, Wi-Fi technology has a drawback: its high power consumption (approximately 0.2-1.5W) makes it unsuitable for battery-operated devices until recently. Companies like Shelly have started to introduce Wi-Fi sensors, but Wi-Fi is still mainly used in smart devices connected to the electrical grid to ensure a continuous power supply. Hence, motion sensors, window sensors, and other types of sensors typically use RF or Zigbee/Z-Wave technologies, requiring a gateway to connect to the internet.


Zigbee / Z-Wave Solutions

Zigbee (and its similar but incompatible counterpart, Z-Wave) are two dedicated wireless smart home protocols. Widely adopted, many manufacturers' products use these technologies on a scale similar to Wi-Fi systems. Their advantage lies in significantly lower power consumption compared to Wi-Fi, allowing them to operate on batteries for extended periods.

Like Wi-Fi, Zigbee/Z-Wave supports two-way communication between devices. However, unlike Wi-Fi solutions, they require a local gateway to connect Zigbee/Z-Wave devices to the Wi-Fi network, enabling remote control. They support mesh networking, where smart devices connected to the mains power relay information between the central controller and distant devices, making them particularly useful in larger homes or offices.

Zigbee/Z-Wave devices communicate directly with each other over a dedicated smart home protocol channel, avoiding the congestion of Wi-Fi networks used by numerous other home and office devices. Although they tend to be more expensive than Wi-Fi devices, the cost of a gateway becomes less significant in larger installations with many devices.