Home Automation Mesh Networks Explained

Z-Wave & ZigBee are common mesh networks used by home automation devices.

Mesh networking is a fancy way of saying every device is able to talk to every other device. The advantage of mesh networking in home automation is multiple paths to the destination device.

Imagine you want to drive across town to work. If there’s only one possible route to get there then you’ll be late if traffic is heavy or an accident has occurred and stopped traffic. However, if you have multiple alternate routes available then you’ll always get there on time regardless of road conditions. That’s a mesh network.

Mesh Networks Increase Reliability

Most computer and communication networks are composed of some form of mesh topology. Some networks contain bottlenecks, and the fewer bottlenecks a network has, the more reliable it is. Common examples of mesh networks are computer enterprise networks, the Internet, cell phones, and home automation networks.

Wireless Networks Are Mesh Network

Wireless networks are mesh networks out of necessity. The advantage (and problem) with wireless devices is their portability. Wireless devices are often moved about freely and sometimes need to reconnect to additional wireless devices to maintain their network connection. If you’ve ever been talking on your cell phone and moved into a dead-zone you know firsthand what happens when a wireless device loses its connection.

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Wireless Home Automation

Home automation wireless devices that communicate via mesh networks are INSTEON, Z-Wave, and ZigBee. These home automation devices communicate with every other device within range. This increases network reliability because the system finds a path to the destination. Because signal degradation can be a big problem with wireless signals, home automation wireless devices boost the signal as they pass it the next device (called a hop).

A big advantage to mesh networking in home automation is that if a device is turned off in the signal path (picture the accident on your normal route to work), the network simply finds an alternative route to the destination. To increase network reliability, simply add more wireless devices and you decrease the number of potential bottlenecks in your system.