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Zensys Seeks Broader Z-Wave Adoption

Chipmaker Zensys wants to accelerate the adoption of its Z-Wave wireless home-control technology by licensing other chipmakers to manufacture Z-Wave chips and by incorporating the Internet Protocol into its low-power mesh-network standard.

Compatibility with the Internet Protocol’s Transmission Control Protocol (TCP/IP) will enable remote access to a Z-Wave home-control system in a standardized way from the Web browser of any PC or cellphone without loading special software applications onto them, said Zensys marketing EVP Lew Brown. Compatibility will also simplify the integration of Z-Wave systems into increasingly popular IP-based control systems, he said.

“Using TCP/IP transmission will help to accelerate the adoption of applications for multiple uses of Z-Wave around the home, as well as interoperability among multiple vendors,” added Martin Manniche, a senior director at Cisco’s Linksys division. Cisco is an investor in Zensys.

With a converged Z-Wave/IP standard, “all Z-Wave network nodes would be addressable from any browser in the world, and all devices in the home would be on a single IP network,” a spokeswoman continued. The advanced standard “will remain backward compatible with existing Z-Wave products while adding compliant TCP/IP services to Z-Wave nodes,” she noted.

Low-power, mesh-network Z-Wave technology is already incorporated in more than 100 products. Combined with 800-900MHz wireless technology, it delivers two-way wireless control over lighting systems, garage-door openers, thermostats and other home systems from handheld or tabletop remotes located anywhere in the house.

Zensys-made chips with a TCP/IP software stack will be available in the fourth quarter, and chips from other companies could be available within 12 to 24 months of an agreement, Brown said.

The chips would be incorporated in future Internet-connected Z-Wave-enabled routers to deliver remote PC and cellphone access to current and future Z-Wave-enabled devices in a home. Such routers could also enable Web-based wireless touchpads to control Z-Wave devices in a home.

Today, Z-Wave-enabled routers are available from at least two companies, but each uses proprietary software that delivers a different user experience, and they require software to be loaded on the remote PC to manage the home-control network from afar, Brown said.

In the future, TCP/IP could be added directly to select Z-Wave devices in the home to stream Internet content from the Web, Brown noted. That capability will become more important as Zensys transitions from its current-generation technology, which delivers control commands wirelessly at up to 40kbps, to a 200kbps version available next year in chips meant for the U.S. market, he noted. Z-Wave started out as a 9.6kbps technology.

Zensys is undertaking the new strategy “to take Z-Wave to the next level of worldwide adoption,” said Zensys CEO Tony Shakib.

A Kelton Research study conducted earlier this year found that 72 percent of Americans want to monitor their home while away, Zensys noted.

Zensys’ Z-Wave licensing program will include chip designs, stack software and APIs.