ZWave, ZigBee, WiFi, which wins?

Over the last couple of years there has been discussion around pro/cons of the different protocols. Zwave/Zigbee seemed pretty much a tossup, with a lot of the WiFi issues being power usage, and signal strength due to lack of mesh networking.

I am truly not network savvy to the protocols but it seems that WiFi May have taken the lead…maybe because of mesh routers…opinions?

Are you talking about in terms of the home automation industry in general? Or when used with SmartThings? Both topics have been discussed many times in the forums.

Because Wi-Fi is more familiar to people, it does have a slight market advantage right now for devices sold one at a time to individual customers. But you will very quickly run up against device count limitations, particularly if you are using smart bulbs or smart switches. Most Wi-Fi routers will only handle about 30 devices at once, some will go up to about 100. In contrast, Zwave can handle 231 devices per network. While zigbee can handle literally thousands (The main reason it was chosen by smart bulb manufacturers, including hue.)

Also, as you noted, WiFi uses literally about 10 times as much energy for The same device class. This means that it is both more expensive to run and that it will eat through batteries much faster. For that reason, it is very rare to find a battery operated Wi-Fi sensor, for example. Those will almost all be either zigbee, Z wave, or maybe Bluetooth. The same with smart locks.

( i’m not aware of anyone ever describing Wi-Fi signal strength as an issue: that’s an area where it is much stronger than the other home automation protocols. Wi-Fi mesh networking definitely helps with whole house coverage, but it never was that big a problem. You just added more access points. )

So while you are seeing more Wi-Fi devices right now being sold to individual customers for DIY use, typically each with its own app, for serious home automation with deployment of two or three dozen devices or even more, and particularly for deployment of battery operated devices, you are likely to continue to see other protocols being used.

Even Amazon chose to use zigbee for its own home automation network with the echo plus and echo show 2nd generation. :sunglasses:

1 Like

Add a 4th, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Apple Homekit uses this and there are more modules available now that support it. IMO BLE and Zigbee with grow the most in the coming months.


In what way?

1 Like

By the way, I would also have to respectfully disagree that zwave versus zigbee is a tossup. Rather, it’s that each has strengths and weaknesses, so it depends on the specific use case. Indeed, one of the advantages of smartthings is that you can choose either protocol for any specific device, depending on what works best for your particular requirements. :sunglasses:


First off, I should have properly phrased that as “it seems ‘to me’”, as I certainly see this as more of a hobby “ to me” than anything else…so having said that these are a couple of things that I see

  • the most recent boom to home automation for the
    general public is Amazon Echo, and Google Home.
    Both of those I would consider to be WiFi devices,
    I understand they speak BT, and now ZigBee but I
    think they qualify as a WiFi device.
  • For a number of my friends, none of which are
    “power users”, the big holiday items were WiFi
    plugs to connect to above.
  • “It seems to me”, that there are more and more
    ST users looking for WiFi device drivers and
    interfaces than ever before, I think because there
    are more and cheaper devices available.
  • For me, having just purchased a Ring Door bell,
    (also a WiFi device), that had a very weak signal
    was easily resolved by moving one of my mesh
    WiFi nodes a little closer.

I don’t know anything about large commercial and/or residential application needs, but based on the comments in this forum, I do not believe it involves Smartthings, Hubitat, etc.

Final opinion “for me”, is for the basic majority, (seeing that the average ST user is 12 - 15 devices), simplicity and cost wins out. Again, DEPENDING ON YOUR NEEDS, again “to me” as a basic user WiFi currently is the leader there, it just needs a few more devices.

My $.02,
And I certainly welcome hearing others.


I just replied on another thread the same thing. WiFi will win with the majority of users/devices. People want Ipads, not Raspberry Pi’s.

1 Like

There was a “movement”, at some point in the past few years, for all IoT devices to be “IPv6 compatible” (even if they used various bridge protocols to get there).

For this to work “hubless”, typical home WiFi routers would have to have Z-Wave, ZigBee, IpV6WLoPan (sp?), and even Bluetooth LE.

The router would automagically bridge Internet to Ethernet to WiFi to ZigBee/Z-Wave/etc., and any diagnostic tools would show all the IoT devices as if they were on the same network (or various sub-networks).

SmartThings is the closest approximation in the home market for this paradigm, I think (though it is not what the “movement” envisioned). Especially the Samsung WiFi Router with Plume.

Right now, the Plume App shows what IP devices are connected to each “puck”. While it is non-trivial, I could see Plume extending their software to show the ZigBee and Z-Wave (etc.) devices too.

And… Plume licenses their technology to other vendors (well… at least to SmartThings…).

1 Like

My .02 cents… who cares who wins? I think the better question is what are the right tools to automate/control my home? Depend on what you want to accomplish any or all of them can be the right answer. Right now you are correct most people don’t actually want home automation, they want voice control of 5-10 devices, maybe some simple IFTTT style device control. Anything more is to complicated for most, but as the HA industry makes more complex rules and device integration easier for the average user I expect this to rapidly change. So today’s “winner” may become tomorrow’s “I can’t believe we used to have to do that”.

While I’m not an average user I have a 1000sqft home with over 100 devices in it for 2 people. I use zwave, Zigbee, Bluetooth, WiFi, IR, and some 400mhz stuff because it’s the only way to meet all of my design, atheistic, ease of use and automation requirements. In my home, they are all winners.


Maybe the term should be, survives, controls the market, leads the way, takes it mainstream, or whatever, but your last paragraph says a lot to me, in that most people will not, or can not put that amount of time and effort into home automation…I kind of like the “IPad” analogy.

While Amazon and Google have made significant inroads into the HA market with their Echo and Home lines, these devices represent a tiny fraction of all HA devices currently installed and/or for sale. And the fact that WiFi is their primary communication protocol is due to their primary role (as HA devices) as optional user interfaces to the actual automation systems/services.

Drawing conclusions about markets made up of millions of consumers based on the choices made by a subset one’s own circle of friends is a dicey proposition at best. I personally don’t know anyone who watches Rosanne/The Conners, This Is Us, The Good Doctor or The Voice…and yet those were four of the highest rated U.S. broadcast TV shows (all in the top 10) of 2018 according to the Nielsen Ratings.

That might or might not be true (I don’t know what you’re basing your analysis on), but even if true it does not mean that WiFi has “taken the lead” (whatever that means). A great many of the most common HA devices are battery operated (mostly sensors, but also things like door locks) for which WiFi is not a viable option. Also, although there are quite a few WiFi offerings for another of the more common device types…smart light bulbs…Zigbee is still the dominant protocol.

OK, so if your original question was actually about whether or not WiFi has “taken the lead” “for you” then there’s really no discussion to be had. Only you can answer that.

Thank you, I did read your responses and appreciate the input. What I didn’t see was an opinion to the primary question, if you have one.

btw, we may have some common friends, as I have none to my knowledge that watch those shows.

Your Question: “ZWave, ZigBee, WiFi, which wins?”

My Opinion: None of them “win”. There is a place in the market/industry for ALL of them.


Probably most of them will survive, elvolve and control the market, leap frogging each other with cool new features and capabilities… Think of it this way… your cell phone has at least 3 separate types of radios in it… Cellular, WiFi, and Bluetooth because depending on the situation one is better than the others or because you push your hardware 2 or 3 are needed at the same time to get the job done. Home automation is very similar in this respect.

I find that most people only put their time and effort into things that interest them and to most people home automation really is not that interesting. Like the iPad most people want technology that just works. Until Home Automation can cheaply anticipate the needs of a household and take appropriate actions w/o feeling creepy the super cool stuff will be left to the geeks.


It was the last part of my response:

If, on the other hand, your question was actually what it sounded like in your original post…as opposed to the…

…revision then I’ll just agree with @JDRoberts’ and @tgauchat’s sentiments.


The zigbee alliance provides some numbers to argue that they are still the dominant IOT technology:


Are you saying that home automation is inherently god-less?
It turns out that the mark of the beast is not a number imprinted on your forehead, but a zigbee sensor in every window

(runs for cover, laughing)

1 Like

:smiling_imp: with all that tech, in my house I am god of the 1000 sqft that comes to life with/in my presence. LOL, that’s enough of my ego for the day.

1 Like