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Why are there no z-wave cameras?

Lately I was wondering whether there would be some nice z-wave camera to support my home automation system. So I sat down and did some research whether there would a z-wave compatible camera. My focus was on z-wave cameras because my system mainly consists of z-wave home automation products.

Unfortunately there are no z-wave cameras. This is due to the nature of the z-wave protocol. The protocol is less suitable for high definition camera streams. This is because it is a low bandwidth protocol.

What is the z-wave protocol?

To get a good understanding of whether we can integrate a camera within our z-wave network. We first need to make sure we understand what the z-wave protocol is all about. Z-wave is a mesh network that is mainly used for home automation. It makes good use a radio based technology. Z-wave works on the 800-900Mhz band depending on your location.

Z-wave is only capable of supporting very low bandwidth applications. I found out that z-wave can only support 9.6kbps 40kbps or 100kbps data rates. If you compare this to a 1080p high definition network camera stream, which requires about 5mbps. Megabits, which is like 50 times the currently capacity of z-wave network. Then you can expect problems trying to view you camera on the z-wave network.

While Z-wave is not very suitable for cameras. Z-wave is a very good protocol to use for all kinds of sensors and actuators. For example:

  • Door/ window sensors
  • light switches
  • motion sensors
  • alarm systems
  • thermostats

What is needed for a good camera stream?

So right of the bat, we have identified the problem of running camera streams on our z-wave network. So what do we actually require for a good camera picture?

According to ChannelVision a typical 1080p/2MP 30fps camera stream requires around 4-5 Mbps. I was quite surprised that a good camera stream required this amount of bandwidth. So we figured out that the actual network that we use for transport of our camera stream is quite demanding. So we recommend that you take a good look at your Local Area Network (LAN) and get the best network products to support your modern home automation system.

If you go for a wireless security camera, you need to make sure your wifi network is in top shape. We have very good experiences with Uni-Fi access points to bring you the best network performance on wireless.

How can we integrate cameras within our z-wave system?

Connecting your network security camera within a z-wave system directly is not possible. But we have a great amount of options when it comes to integration. For integration we need a channel that sits between our z-wave network on one side, and our camera network on the other side. So lets consider our options when it comes to integration of the two.

Integration option 1: using a smart hub to integrate network cameras and z-wave

One of the options a came across was integrating our network camera and z-wave sensors within one hub. Nowadays there is a plethora of options when it comes to smart home hubs. One common example is the Samsung SmarThings hub.

According to the official Samsung SmartThings website, SmartThings supports z-wave out of the box. The SmartThings hub contains an internal Z-wave and Zigbee radio antenna to communicate wirelessly back and forth between Z-wave and Zigbee devices. So there we have support for our first required technology, which is Z-wave. But lets look at the integration options regarding cameras within the SmartThings platform, shall we?

The keyword when you are looking for an integration between a home automation and a camera system is the word: RTSP. RTSP stands for RealTime Streaming Protocol. Which is a generic protocol used in the camera industry.

By the looks of it, SmartThings does not support RTSP directly. But SmartThings does offer an option to capture images from your camera. Most modern cameras provide you with an image URL. On this image URL a static image is displayed of the actual camera image. This offers you near-realtime camera images. For more information about the support of this feature within SmartThings. Please take a look at their official documentation.

Integration option 2: using free home automation software to integrate z-wave and network cameras

At ZwaveGuide we are always a fan of providing you with free options when possible. So we will provide you with a second option to integrate your network security camera with a z-wave network. Our software of choice here is Home Assistant. Home Assistant is one of the most used free Home Automation platforms. So lets have a look at the possibilities that Home Assistant provides when it comes to integrating a camera with z-wave.

Once again we will start by looking at the possibilities of integrating z-wave in the first place. Well Home Assistant provides z-wave support out of the box. So we can put a big checkbox to that type of support. It supports all kind of sensors, and actuators.

So lets see if Home Assistant provides us better options for RTSP integration of our camera. Home Assistant does provide us a great integration of RTSP using the Generic IP camera extension. This provides real-time camera images within your Home Assistant interface.

So there you have it, two great integration options. Just because certain platforms are not always directly compatible, it doesn’t mean that we cannot integrate two platforms using a man in the middle.

Key characteristics of a good security/ z-wave camera

So last but not least we provide you with some tips, what should you look for if you are going to buy a good security camera? We have a list of things to watch:

  • Night vision: although is is optional if you are looking for an indoor camera. But it is almost a requirement if you want to “see in the dark” . We highly recommend this for an outdoor security camera.
  • Weather proof. If you want to buy an outdoor camera, off course you also want a weatherproof camera.
  • Motion detection. Another key feature for any camera would be motion detection support. Motion detection will trigger when a person walks in a predefined area. This way you can easily spot any unwanted visitors on your property.
  • Reliability. This may sound like a open door, but your camera needs to be reliable. Especially if you depend on it for security purposes.
  • Affordable. Ideally a camera is also very affordable. As network security cameras have become more and more of a common good. Prices have significantly dropped of the last few years.

For more extensive information about cameras, we highly recommend you take a look at our z-wave camera buying guide. Which provides a lot more information about key characteristics you need to look for a in a camera.

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