Z-Wave Home Automation Leader Nortek Gets into ZigBee Biz to Court Utilities, MSOs

One of the largest worldwide providers of Z-Wave home automation devices, Nortek Security & Control plans to launch ZigBee products for the first time to grab MSO and utility business.


Nortek Security & Control, owner of the security and home automation brand 2Gig, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of Z-Wave devices, but the company is now stepping into the ZigBee business in an effort to court cable companies (MSOs) and energy utilities.

Nortek (Nasdaq: NTK) “Joins ZigBee Alliance, Targets MSO Smart Home,” the company declares in a press release.

Virtually all of the major cable companies have embraced ZigBee over the past six years at the expense of Z-Wave, the competing smart-home standard.

Back in 2010, Icontrol, the emerging leader in smart home as a service (SHaas), couldn’t get the cable companies to adopt its platform because MSOs all wanted ZigBee. So Icontrol bought then-competitor Ucontrol, which had a ZigBee-based solution, and the cable companies jumped aboard.

Utilities are the other big market for ZigBee, which has been the de-facto standard for smart meters since the early days.

The ZigBee Alliance says the majority of its volume comes from utilities for wireless energy-management solutions, “which has been identified as one of the top projected growth areas for smart home solutions,” according to a statement.

ZigBee vs. Z-Wave in the Home

Z-Wave has long been considered the dominant player in retail-oriented home automation and to a large extent home security, both DIY and professional – the exception being MSO deployments. ZigBee, on the other hand, has long dominated the industrial and utility markets.

Over the past couple of years, however, a market for consumer-oriented ZigBee devices has emerged, spurred by DIY smart-home systems like Lowe’s Iris, Wink, Staples Connect and SmartThings.

CentraLite has been the key manufacturer of ZigBee devices for those IoT hubs, providing everything from light switches to thermostats to sensors.

Nortek (with 2Gig) has been a pioneer in Z-Wave development, with the first UL-certified standalone garage-door controller, and offers a wide variety of other Z-Wave devices including smart bulbs, security sensors, thermostats and light switches. It manufactures products for its own brands, and is a leading OEM provider as well.

“We recognize the unique aspects and potential of the ZigBee protocol in the market and will apply the same level of dedication to serve our customers’ technology needs for ZigBee solutions,” says Duane Paulson, senior VP of product and market development, in a press release.

Nortek is in the process of being acquired by the private equity firm Melrose Industries.

Icontrol is being split up and sold to two parties. Erstwhile rival Alarm.com acquires the Z-Wave-oriented business, and Comcast/Xfinity nabs takes the ZigBee (Ucontrol) part of the business.

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson