Home automation: WiFi versus Zigbee for Amazon Alexa and smart homes.
With the advent of home automation from Google Home, Philips HUE, and especially Amazon Alexa, many manufacturers of electrical and lighting devices are offering WiFi connectivity interfaces with independent software that can be controlled by Amazon Alexa through connections called "skills"; other companies propose Zigbee protocols.
There are several ways to use Amazon Alexa's home automation for electrical appliances in a smart home. The most common and widely used ones use WiFi or Zigbee protocols, both of which are wireless protocols.
The first requires independent software that connects to your home router and then communicates via the internet to the skill that must be installed on Amazon Alexa; the second will require a Zigbee Hub.
What are the problems and risks of LED lamps with WiFi devices in our homes?
One of the major drawbacks of WiFi products is the potential loss of security for your home network. If you buy a WiFi product, you are required to configure your device with your home WiFi network, entering the network password. In this way, the manufacturer's software could access your personal network, bypassing protections and firewalls. This way, the WiFi network will be vulnerable from the outside through the proprietary software of the LED bulb or lamp, with the great risk of losing your sensitive data, such as passwords, credit cards, financial transactions, etc.
Another problem is the high energy consumption of LED lamps with WiFi devices, both when in use and when not.
What if the manufacturer fails?
If the server of a WiFi device manufacturer stops working for any reason, you will no longer be able to use the LED lamps connected to the device. Also, like all WiFi devices, these LED lamps transmit a lot of useless data, increasing electromagnetic fields inside the home.
Another inconvenience not to be underestimated is the limited bandwidth capacity of home routers: even if potentially 250 devices can be connected, in reality, after connecting about 10 devices, the bandwidth will be divided among all the accesses of the router (PCs, LED bulbs, hanging lamps, smart TVs, cell phones, tablets, e-readers, printers, refrigerators, etc.). The risk is that the data bandwidth could become saturated, and consequently, all connections could slow down exponentially or even disconnect due to insufficient bandwidth. All WiFi LED bulbs occupy a channel of the bandwidth, absorbing and transmitting data to function.
The second system, the Zigbee protocol, is also a WiFi system but carries very little data and does not require the installation of software or skills on Amazon Alexa. However, Zigbee devices must be able to interface with a Zigbee Hub or bridge already installed in the home, such as Philips HUE, Amazon Alexa Echo Plus, or Echo Studio. If you have already purchased Amazon Echo Dot, without knowing that it does not have a Zigbee hub and that many devices will not work, do not despair: you can solve this problem by purchasing a Zigbee hub that has a compatible skill with Amazon Alexa (the cost of these hubs is not very high, around €50). A Zigbee hub that works well with Amazon Alexa devices through a skill is Philips HUE, which has a limit of 50 devices to connect: in a house, 50 devices are many, try counting how many bulbs or lamps you have!
Unlike WiFi, Zigbee does not occupy the router's bandwidth and does not slow down your network. The router will communicate exclusively with the Zigbee Hub. All LED bulbs and devices cannot be seen from outside or by manufacturers' servers except, of course, the Zigbee Hub manufacturer, such as Philips HUE. Zigbee LED bulbs or LED hanging lamps communicate directly and exclusively with the Zigbee Hub, and since they do not have proprietary software, they cannot be attacked from outside.
Another positive feature of a Zigbee LED lamp is the significantly lower costs and energy consumption compared to WiFi products.
In conclusion, given the pros and cons, we can say that Zigbee is a more efficient option than WiFi products.
What to buy for a smart home that can function with low costs?
A Zigbee Hub represents the best choice in terms of home security and consumption. For example, Amazon's Alexa Echo Plus or Echo Studio, which already integrate a Zigbee Hub (unlike other Amazon Alexa products), are definitely in a higher price range than the Amazon range. The disadvantage is the higher cost compared to all other devices in the Amazon Alexa family.
At present, the Amazon Alexa devices compatible with the Zigbee protocol are:
All other Amazon Alexa devices require a Zigbee Hub.
It is important to pay close attention when choosing the model, as it is not always explicitly indicated whether the Zigbee Hub is present.
The home automation system requires only one device with a Zigbee Hub, and the other devices will connect to the device that acts as the hub.
LightHole®, having chosen as a corporate policy to produce LED lamps that consume less and are safer, is implementing all products with the Zigbee protocol.