Z-Wave Alliance Opens a New Chapter at CES

Feb. 13, 2024
Alliance Chairperson Avi Rosenthal outlines the organization’s transformation into an SDO in this exclusive 1-on-1 interview

This article originally appeared as part of the industry’s ONLY full CES show coverage in the February 2024 issue of Security Business magazine. Don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter if you share it.

LAS VEGAS – CES attendees have grown accustomed to a big presence from the Z-Wave Alliance. With 30 member companies, there was usually a large crowd among the many partner kiosks in its annual pavilion-style CES booth.

In 2024, however, things were a little different. Longtime Executive Director Mitchell Klein has moved on, the Alliance has shifted its focus to become a Standards Development Organization (SDO), Avi Rosenthal has taken the helm as Chairperson of the Board, and instead of a bustling partner pavilion, it was an often bustling, but exclusive suite.

With so many changes, there was plenty to chat about when I sat down with Rosenthal at CES. Here are some of the highlights:

Security Business: Tell me more about the Chair position and the transition.

Rosenthal: The Chairperson of the Z-Wave Alliance is not to be confused with the Executive Director. I am not an employee of any of the organizations, Si Labs, or the Alliance – I am strictly a volunteer. My role with Bluesalve Partners is still my role. We were honored to have Mitch as long as we did as our Executive Director. It was unfortunate that Si Labs had to make some changes. It just happened to coincide with the Alliance’s normal annual elections.

As an alliance, we decided that we would like to rise all boats and give everybody a voice within the Alliance. Now that we’re a Standards Development Organization (SDO), it is more about the members than it is about a singular voice.

That’s interesting that the decision also coincides with not having a partner pavilion. Does that have to do with the change to an SDO?

It is interesting you say that too. We were an alliance owned by a manufacturer, so our focus was the same as their focus – to sell chips. Now that we are an SDO, it is all about ecosystem. It is all about raising all boats. We are sitting here in a suite specifically because now it is about growing the ecosystem – not driving demand through consumers, but driving initiative and innovation through manufacturers.

Because we are an open standard, anybody can come in and can take advantage of it. We are not locked into a single piece of silicon anymore; in fact, now we have two silicon providers and probably more in the future.

Right now, Trident IoT and Si Labs are both providing silicon to the Z-Wave Alliance, ecosystem, and to members.

It is not about the latest gadget or gizmo, it is about the latest standard, the latest improvement in the standard. That’s why we’re talking about things like Z-Wave long range and other initiatives that we’re working on that will improve the ecosystem and give more opportunity for innovation within the manufacturers, the designers, the engineers, those kinds of folks.

What’s the takeaway for residential integrators and the people who put this stuff in?

Residential integrators will have greater opportunity to install more Z-Wave equipment. 
The better we make the ecosystem, the easier we make it for engineers and designers to concentrate on their special product and make it easy for them to implement and make sure things are interoperable.

It will make equipment easy to install, compatible and flexible, upgradable in the future, and most importantly, easy to maintain.

The hardest thing for the integrator these days is keeping up with everything and making sure that their installations are still running perfect. Z-Wave takes that seriously. We give ample opportunity to things like over-the-air upgrades and ease of installation, and we are developing and designing better improvements to our ecosystem, like security and encryption, modulation, and Z-Wave long range.

We are no longer limited by the 256-node number that has been holding us back. We can now get up to 4,000 nodes on a single network. We can now connect two mesh networks together with a single connection wirelessly over a mile and a half.

How has the long-range standard evolved?

By leaps and bounds. So we have more than 50 products that have already been certified for Z-Wave Long Range. We have controllers coming out and lots of implementations. We also have opportunities in other industries – it is not just about residential anymore. Now we are looking at MDUs, hospitality, and even campus-wide installations that we were never able to accomplish before.

Mitch used to always say, “We are not a competitor to Matter or Zigbee,” but does that change as an SDO? 

No. We love Matter because it brings a spotlight to our industry. It makes more people talk about IoT and smart devices than ever. Interoperability has been a watch word at the Z-Wave Alliance for 20-plus years. The Matter folks are working on interoperability as well. Matter is enabling lots of diverse systems to be able to communicate among themselves. We want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Zigbees and the Threads and the Wi-Fis and the Bluetooths, and join Matter in their initiatives for interoperability.  

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine. Email him your comments and questions at [email protected]. Access the current issue, full archives, and apply for a free subscription at www.securitybusinessmag.com