Question: Do I need a Z-Wave Hub?Similar questions:
• Do I need a Z-Wave hub or controller to use Z-Wave devices with Alexa?
• Will my Amazon Echo work as a Z-Wave hub for my light switches?
• Why do I need another hub if I already have an Amazon Dot?
Answer:Amazon Echo (and its variants) is a great device for voice control with its personal assistance software, Alexa, but it does not have a Z-Wave chip inside (at least not at the time this blog was written). In order to sync your Alexa with any Z-Wave devices, you will need a Z-Wave hub to act as a bridge between the two. Not any Z-Wave hub will work with Alexa, so look into your Z-Wave hub’s features before you buy. Our pick for a good mesh between Alexa and your home automation is the WINK 2. I dug deeper into the WINK 2 features and its relationship with Amazon Echo in this blog: (please click here).
Another choice is the popular Smart Things by Samsung, and a pending new release of software will allow Vera gateways to have Amazon Echo integration; a long awaited feature for the popular gateway brand. Beta test is here
For each of these hubs, there is a skill in Alexa that must be turned on, and Z-Wave devices must be discovered.
Pro Tip: Simple names go a long way with voice recognition. How many times do you want to have to say supercalifragilisticexpialidociouskitchenlights?
Question: Why Z-Wave devices instead of WiFi?
Answer:• Z-Wave has better network and communication reliability
• Z-Wave has better security
• Z-Wave has better battery life
Even though adding a Z-Wave hub adds expense and another link to your home automation device list, we feel it’s well worth it. WiFi is a very crowded place, and interference with other WiFi devices causes unreliability. Z-Wave has its own space on the radio map, so you’re not cutting into your WiFi streaming bandwidth by expanding your home automation network. WiFi is a point to point connection, so over longer distances you may get intermittent communication drop outs. A WiFi extender usually fixes the issue. Z-Wave devices work together in a mesh network. Each non-battery powered device talks to another, helping to spread the communication from gateway to end device over several possible routes for better reliability. There are specific security protocols set up for Z-Wave devices that prevent tampering, and each Z-Wave hub has a unique Home ID that does not allow other devices or controllers to penetrate the system. Security is only getting better with future revisions of Z-Wave. While not a top concern of Alexa users, battery life is better with Z-Wave devices due to their ability to sleep and only wake when needed. We still need WiFi to communicate with our IP Cameras. Z-Wave can only handle tiny bits of information, and video does not work with Z-Wave.
Question: What Can I Do with Alexa and Z-Wave Devices?
Answer:• Turn on/off devices or groups
“Alexa, turn off Living Room”
• Set Z-Wave dimmers and dimmable Z-Wave LED lighting to your choice of output
“Alexa, turn on Lamp to 50%”
• Turn on your HVAC, or set it to a specific temperature
“Alexa, set Living Room Stat to 68*
• Arm your security system
“Alexa, tell Vivint to arm my security system”
Skills keep getting added to improve how we can interact with our smart home via voice control. Your wants and needs play a big picture about how the Echo and your smart home work. How about setting a group of devices that includes all of your exterior lights, and when something goes bump in the night you can say, “Alexa, turn on panic."
What have you been doing with your Alexa and Z-Wave devices? What questions do you have?
Please let us know by leaving a message in the box in the lower right corner of this website, or by filling out the Ask An Expert form.