Given this, and the low-power, low-cost, and ease-of-use embedded system, wireless mesh networking technologies have gained prominence as a scalable way of integrating products into the smart home. However, with widespread incompatibility between network security and numerous networking technologies all competing for an emerging market, settling on any one connectivity solution has become a struggle for industry and consumers alike, O'Donovan says.
"Multiple networking technologies clearly complicates the picture for the consumer and slows manufacturer attempts to unify around one or more compatible systems," he explains (Figure 3). "There is little cohesion in the market. Despite efforts to deploy mesh networking by some players as a way to offer a whole home/system solution, there is scant interoperability between most manufacturers."
"There are a number of embedded Linux for the home automation market, with X10 probably known best because it has been around a long time, although ZigBee and Z-Wave are now recognized as the way forward," O'Donovan continues. My prediction is that the network security will always be a widely available, standards-based solution, and in that case ZigBee should dominate."
Though ZigBee has gained traction since being conceived in the late '90s, much of its success and embedded system came as a result of "application profiles" that tailored the technology to certain vertical markets. While these helped ZigBee penetrate new areas and use cases, they also impaired the ability of devices based on different profiles to interoperate seamlessly, which, as mentioned, is a critical consideration in full-blow smart home deployments.
However, in late 2014 the ZigBee network communication appliance announced the release of embedded Linux ZigBee 3.0, a new standard that unifies the previous ZigBee PRO-based application standards to enable interoperability between home automation, energy management, lighting, appliances, security, health care monitoring, and other smart home devices (Figure 4). Based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, ZigBee devices were previously compatible at lower levels of the network, but the advent of ZigBee 3.0 promotes interoperability at the application layer as well to alleviate some of the challenges of network communication appliance interoperability.