ADT advertises compatibility with smart home appliance technology. They are not the only home security company in the business that can connect with smart home devices. Most of the major players in the residence and business security market offer some sort of smart home connectivity. With the advent of smartphones, rapid technological advancements in the past decade and the convenience of wireless, smart homes that allow all your appliances and electronics to communicate with each other are rapidly becoming the norm.
Smart home tech has more than one competitor, however, in terms of the system used by the manufacturer to allow the appliances to communicate. Similar to when VHS and Sony Beta competed for market share in the 1970s, it is unclear at this point which communication protocol will ultimately become the industry standard.
The smart offerings increase daily. From thermostats to locksets and more, every appliance and gadget around the home is becoming “smart.” Smartphones, tablets and the merger of the two allow consumers to control everything no matter where they may be in the world. Consumers are hungry for the convenience that this technology, through dedicated apps, lets them monitor and control their home.
There is a “singularity” movement underway which will ultimately merge the way you work and how you live into a single way of communicating.
The ability of your home security system to integrate smart home appliance technology has become a critical component of any security company that wants to be successful in the home security field.
History of Smart Home Appliance Technology
People have been predicting smart homes and interconnectivity of all your home appliances and products for almost a century. Shortly after home appliances went electric in the early part of the 20th century, scientists and others starting thinking and writing about the next step. As early as 1939, Popular Mechanics magazine speculated about the “all electric” home. Science Fiction stories, TV shows like Star Trek and even cartoons like the Jetsons had their versions of smart home appliances.
Companies did not become serious about smart home tech until about a decade ago. The real explosion of interest and manufacture only began in 2010. Saving energy became a buzz word. Major energy savings could be realized if the utility companies were able to communicate with an individual homeowner’s appliances. Monitoring and managing appliances that use a lot of power, such as HVAC units and dryers, would allow utility companies to manage the electrical grid more efficiently. Consumers could save as much as $70 billion over 20 years if smart home technology were implemented nationwide.
The key problem, besides cost, used to be integration. There were too many different manufacturers and suppliers. There needed to be a way to make them all compatible and communicate among themselves and the utility company.
Around the time smart appliance technology started to be feasible, people began using smartphones. Developers began creating apps that allowed people to do things with just one device: their phone. The public wanted to be connected with everything and everybody.
Companies started focusing on consumers. They wanted to provide the consumer with a way to monitor things like the temperature in their house and refrigerator and be able to control them from afar.
Communication protocols, however, became a stumbling block. Most people did not buy from only one manufacturer. They needed a cost effective and simple method that would allow any company’s device to communicate with the homeowner the same way. Like VHS and Beta, having two or more standards would not work, as there were too many companies in the appliance field.
Today, those standards are starting to take shape, and companies are starting to choose. The home security companies, including ADT, seem to be all gravitating towards for smart appliance integration is the Z-Wave standard.
What is Z-Wave
Z-Wave is a wireless network that operates outside the Wi-Fi, FM, and other radio bandwidths, from 902-928 MHz and does not interfere with the vast majority of wireless transmissions. Z-Wave provides two-way communication between the device using it and whatever interface. Z-Wave uses very little power. A small watch battery, for example, will allow some appliances to use Z-Wave communications for years without replacing it.
Z-Wave and other smart appliance communication protocols are not directly compatible with a PC or smartphone. They need to go through a third party, such as a cellular, home Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable, to pass the communication from one to the other.
ADT has selected Z-Wave as the communication protocol for their home security system. This allows ADT users to add any smart home appliance device using Z-Wave to their ADT interface. The ADT smartphone app or internet portal allows the user to control the Z-Wave devices.
Advantages of Z-Wave
Z-Wave is considered one of the most stable and robust communication protocols used by appliance manufacturers. Most users point to four key advantages:
- Limited Interference – Unlike a standard powered device, Z-Wave uses a wireless mesh network. Each Z-Wave device transmits to each other, actually strengthening the signal as it goes along and connects to the Wi-Fi or cellular system. Only one signal is sent at a time, so there is no interference with other communication packets.
- Reliability – The Z-Wave signal will repeat until it receives an acknowledgment that it has been heard. If there is interference, the protocol will attempt to transmit to another Z-Wave device until the signal is received and acknowledged.
- Range – The 900 MHz band is used much less than other bands. This translates into a stronger signal strength with less chance of communications failure.
Each Z-Wave device acts as a repeater too. The range is about 150 feet indoors, but with other smart home devices, using Z-Wave the range is greatly extended.
- Market Presence – Z-Wave is used by a variety of electronics manufacturers, enabling the consumer to have more choices than with other types of transmitters.
Disadvantages of Z-Wave
- Cost – Products outfitted with Z-Wave can cost up to three times more than those same types of products that use other protocols.
- Syncing Procedures – To connect your Z-Wave device to your home security or other system, you need to go through several installation steps. Disconnecting the device takes some time also.
This is one of the reasons that ADT does not offer D0-it-Yourself installations with their systems. The ADT technicians and monitoring station perform all the necessary steps for the home or small business owner.
- Licensing – Manufacturers must obtain a license to use Z-Wave. It is not open-source software like some other products. Developers will pay up to $10,000 for a license to develop a Z-Wave compatible device.
Competitors to the Z-Wave Protocol
VHS and Beta competed against each other only. Z-Wave, however, has several market rivals.
- X10 – This was actually the original protocol developed several decades ago but not widely employed. It is not very reliable and not very fast.
- ZigBee – This is probably the biggest rival to Z-Wave. Companies like COMCAST, AT&T, Borsch, and Phillips make or service products that only use ZigBee. The functionality and reliability are considered equal to that of Z-Wave.
- Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi has been built into smart home appliances by some companies too. It needs more power, though, which is why many companies do not use Wi-Fi. The advantage to Wi-Fi, greater range, is negated by the ability of Z-Wave and ZigBee to use wireless mesh network.
- Bluetooth – Bluetooth, like Wi-Fi, needs more power than Z-Wave. There are newer Bluetooth technologies that overcome this deficiency.
What Manufacturers Use Z-Wave
Manufacturers have formed what is termed the Z-Wave Alliance. Many of the major electronics companies, like Honeywell and GE, belong to this alliance. Since they are the major producers of sensors and other home security electronics, ADT decided to join the alliance and use the Z-Wave protocol instead of ZigBee.
The principal members or affiliates also include:
- Bosch (who also belong to the ZigBee Alliance)
There is a total of over 300 major manufacturers promoting Z-Wave. About half as many manufacturers have adopted ZigBee.
Types of Smart Home Devices Offered by ADT
ADT has a number of “approved” Z-Wave devices that its dealers promote. Other Z-Wave devices are supposed to work, but the user may be held hostage to the technical ability of the person installing it since connecting to the network can be tricky.
Approved ADT Smart Home Devices
- RCS TBZ48A and RCS TZ45
- Plug-in Lamp Dimmers
- Jasco 45602WB and 45603WB
- In-Wall Light Controllers
- Jasco45609WB, 45607WB, 45610WB, 4570o series
- Kwikset 99100 series Deadbolt Locks
- Schlage BE468 and BE469
- Garage Door Opener
- Linear GD00Z-2
Unapproved but Verified as Compatible
- Digital Thermostat
- Honeywell ZWStat
- Kwikset 99120, 99140, 99160
- Yale YSYale
Other Z-Wave and ADT Compatible Smart Devices
The most popular Z-Wave products are light control devices. There are many different brands that build dimmer switches, lamp plugins and wall mounted switches to control multiple lights. Yale, Kwikset, and Schlage seem to be the main lockset manufacturers using smart home technology. Thermostats are widely available with Z-Wave transmitters.
There are other products that are powered by Z-Wave that should be compatible with ADT’s system.
- Drapery controls
- Touch Panels to Replace Light Switches
- Small Appliance Plug-Ins
- Remote Controls
- Alarm and Strobe Lens (Activated by any Alarm Signal)
- Pool and Spa Control
- Dimmable Z-Wave Light Bulbs
- Garage Door Openers
- Smoke Detectors
- Panic Alarms
ADT’s choice of Z-Wave compatibility seems the most logical given that most of the home security product manufacturers are also part of the Z-Wave Alliance. Smart home technology appears to have a very lucrative future. Many companies have invested time and resources in making producing a variety of smart home devices. It appears that these products are here to stay. For more information on how these integrate with the ADT system see our full ADT security review.