You may well have heard a lot of expressions banded around such as Zwave, ZigBee and so on during your search for a new alarm system so this article aims at clarifying how Boundary deploys sensors using Zwave, what is the difference between Zwave and WiFi and most importantly, is it secure?
So what's the difference between Zwave, Zigbee and WiFi?
In a nutshell, this comes down to how the devices communicate with a hub central point. They all differ slightly in the way they communicate and the frequency they use but a very broad summary would be:
Simplest to use as it just piggybacks directly off your home WiFi network. More and more home automation products rely on WiFi these days as it's simple to setup and the hardware is relatively cheap. The problem is that WiFi is not a particularly secure method for devices to communicate on. It can be easily picked up outside a home network and doesn't require a huge amount of effort with the right equipment to listen in. It's fine for basic devices such as switches or light bulbs but not great for home security
Another common protocol for smart home devices and is slightly more secure as it is harder to listen in on the traffic sent back and forth. It operates in a similar frequency range to your WiFi and is generally found in slightly more complex home automation products such as Hive and Phillips Hue. Unlike WiFi it doesn't require an external network to support the traffic so is not dependent on anything outside your home but the range is limited and does rely on bridges or repeaters to bounce the signal around your house. It can also get quite congested if you have a lot of devices
This is the Boundary "weapon of choice". It combines the range of WiFi with a high degree of security to provide a solid platform for the sensors to communicate back to the central hub. As with ZigBee, it operates on its own internal network although on a different frequency and is extremely difficult to intercept without specialist equipment. This equipment is not commercially available so the eBay jammers that you see advertised simply won't work. Plus if the local WiFio is taken out, the system will still function.
So can Zwave be hacked or Jammed?
It would be foolish for anyone to claim that any device is 100% secure but Boundary has gone to great lengths to ensure that the system is secure and protected from jamming or hacking. The first level of protection is encryption in that any messages sent between the sensors and the hub are exclusively tied to your system. This means another Zwave, ZigBee or WiFi device in your home cannot communicate with the hub as it's not paired and accepted into the network.
It is also independent so doesn't rely on any outside connection such as your WiFi to operate. This means if you lose your WiFi then the alarm will still activate if triggered so it is an isolated network so to speak.
Finally, any attempt to disrupt the communication between the sensors and the hub or listen in/spoof the messages are treated as an attack and will trigger the alarm. So even if the attacker had the required specialist equipment need to even see the sensors (which is unlikely), as soon as they try to disturb the network it would activate your system.
Boundary has gone to considerable effort to make sure the system is stable and protected from outside interference and is one of the few smart home companies to be certified under the IASME consortium and is also pending certification as a grade 2 alarm system for Police response. Ensuring the system is secure from unauthorised access is paramount to us and will continue to be so into the future.