INSTEON’s Joe Dada: Z-Wave, Zigbee not getting replaced by low power Wi-Fi

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I had a chance to talk to Joe Dada, the founder of one of the world’s biggest home automation companies in INSTEON (the tech arm of SmartLabs).

I asked Joe what he thought about the religious wars that continue around wireless protocols in the home. In particular, I asked what he thought about the idea that low-power Wi-Fi will eventually replace other technologies like Z-Wave, Zigbee and yes, even INSTEON.

He had this to say:

WiFi is a great brand, it’s a great technology, and we didn’t invent Insteon because we didn’t think WiFi was good, it’s just, even today, as you mentioned, they’ve got energy consumption, networking protocol issues. On a WiFi network, these devices have to wake up, if they want to do something, they’ve got to wake up, reestablish a network connection, then try to get their business done and then come off the network. That’s a lot of overhead and it leads to expenses and delays.

While Joe obviously has a vested interest in defending INSTEON vs. other technologies, I think the point he makes about Wi-Fi is a valid one. Wi-Fi, in general, has much higher overhead as an IP technology (as compared to a technology like Z-Wave) in that it takes longer to send what is a much bigger data packet. The end result is the longer it transmits, the higher the power consumption.

No doubt that over time we’ll see low-power Wi-Fi improve and, as a result, there will be greater penetration of Wi-Fi into low-power appliances and “things” like locks.  That said, I still think other radios will continue to have a place.

As Dada said during our conversation, we can look to our phones to see how radios don’t go away, but only seem to get more plentiful:

“Look at the phone that we hold in our hand, how many radios are in that darn thing? GPS, Bluetooth, cell, WiFi, different technologies are appropriate for different applications and so I think in our space, there won’t be that many in the end after the industry consolidates, but I’d be surprised if it’s only one.”