Please upgrade to the new Edge browser, or use Chrome, Firefox or Safari, before continuing. Internet Explorer will not support the best shopping experience on the ADI Digital Branch site after March 12. close button

    What is home automation and how does it work?

    Designing smart homes in today's IoT world is ever-changing. More and more families are using wireless internet technology to make everyday life more secure and convenient for them. Home automation protocols are how smart devices communicate with each other via Ethernet or Wi-Fi source. An automation system lets your customers control every controller, doorbell, light, camera all from one location remotely. In this article, you can find out how you can integrate different standards of home automation protocols, what devices your customers will need and the many places you can install across their home for a better interconnected experience.

    Different home automation protocols

    There are many applications that can be controlled remotely, whether that be an appliance, washing machine, thermostat, smart garage, smart lighting setup or sprinkler system. Either way, they need to come from a separate controller. Home automation protocols can come with several types of approaches for installation. The protocols are the language in which the devices need a network to communicate with. There is an extensive variety of protocols today including Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Wi-Fi, Thread, HomeKit, Insteon, etc. If your customers are ready to make the change to a smart home, here are just a few different standards of protocols you need to know about and how you can install a home automation system for them.


    Zigbee is a mesh network that is most commonly used in households today. A mesh network can connect securely to every device within its network. Zigbee is a low-cost, low-power wireless network with a range of up to 100m indoors and can operate at a 2.4GHz radio frequency. This protocol can offer considerable peace of mind due to its built-in high-level security features. Additionally, Zigbee is more reliable in transferring data to and from each device than its leading competitors. Zigbee is designed with 128-bit AES encryption to give your customers an added security net and making it less likely for the entire network to get hacked.

    Zigbee lets you achieve interconnectivity with up to 65,000 Zigbee devices. On the other hand, not every Zigbee device is going to work with every Zigbee hub. The reasoning: Not every Zigbee device follows the same standards set by Zigbee's certification which is why it is best to check the product's compatibility list before purchasing a Zigbee network.

    Pros: Zigbee is fast, cost-effective, reliable, secure and energy efficient.
    Cons: The chance for interference with other devices is higher because of its ability to run at 2.4GHz and uses up more power compared to other protocols.
    Best devices to use: Lightbulbs, smart home hubs, security sensors and door locks.

    Another household favorite, Z-Wave operates as a mesh network as a way to communicate to each device. This protocol operates on a much lower frequency than Zigbee, thus creating less interference. Z-Wave uses 908/916MHz radio frequency which can carry signals clearly through walls. When it comes to interoperability, Z-Wave takes the cake. Z-Wave has a strict certification called "Z-Wave certified" for products that it can connect with. This means that the certification or seal of approval sets forth a strict set of standards for Z-Wave devices which ensures that every Z-Wave device will in fact be compatible with other Z-Wave hubs. Z-Wave and Zigbee have similar features including, having a 128-bit AES encryption. One downside of a Z-Wave network is it can only connect up to 232 devices which is less than the number of devices compared to Zigbee that can connect up to 65,000 devices and has a range of only up to 80m indoors.

    Pros: Z-Wave uses less power than Zigbee, is easy to install, compatible with future Z-Wave products and is UL 1023 compliant.
    Cons: Z-Wave products tend to cost more than Zigbee products and has a slower transmission speed than Zigbee.
    Best devices to use: Smart switches, thermostats, and door locks.

    Wi-Fi System
    Wi-Fi has become an important part of people's lives, especially in their homes. Wi-Fi networks are able to communicate with other Wi-Fi devices, such as smartphones, routers, computers and smart home gadgets without stringing cables. This type of protocol is easy to install and accessible for customers who want to control their smart home devices on their phone or tablet. Google Nest and Google Wi-Fi are examples of this technology. Wi-Fi networks can operate at 2.4GHz and 5GHz and can connect up to 200 devices within the network.

    Pros: Buying a hub and additional devices is not necessary for a Wi-Fi protocol, easy installation, less expensive than other leading protocols.
    Cons: Other Wi-Fi users within proximity can interrupt or interfere with the network (i.e., neighbors who live relatively close to each other).
    Best devices to use: Smart TVs, smartphones, computers and appliances.

    Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
    Not to be confused with the Bluetooth that you use for earphones, this wireless mesh network uses less power than the original Bluetooth. BLE can connect to up to 32,767 devices and uses 2.4GHz radio frequency. Bluetooth-enabled devices are compatible with other Bluetooth devices such as smartphones or tablets. BLE uses less range and limited power which can help your customer save energy in their smart home. Just like other protocols, BLE uses 128-bit AES encryption for a secured network, unlike the traditional Bluetooth.

    Pros: BLE is best known for being highly secured and energy-efficient.
    Cons: Less range for sharing data among devices (less than 100m) and less power consumption.
    Best devices to use: Computers, smartphones and tablets.

    Other tips

    In this world of IoT devices, smart homes need a single controller to operate more than one device and initially communicate with each other. That is where the hub comes in. A hub will connect any and every device that you connect it with. A smart home hub helps multiple devices speak the same language and work together. For some of these protocols, such as Wi-fi or BLE, your customers can control devices with a smartphone or tablet. But for other protocols, you will want to have a smart home hub to translate and interact with each device. Whether your customer needs a hub or not will depend on what type of device and how many they need for a smart home installation.


    Installing home automation protocols can make your customer's smart home feel more convenient and luxurious. Understanding the most common smart home protocols can help you choose a home automation system that your customers can use throughout their home, from their front door to their backyard.

    close button