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The Z-Wave Alliance today detailed a new specification intended to accommodate setups with thousands of devices in environments stretching hundreds of feet. The Alliance says that Z-Wave Long Range (Z-Wave LR), which supports things like door locks, garage door sensors, thermostats, and smart lightbulbs, is backward-compatible with both existing Z-Wave networks and previously installed Z-Wave devices.

Z-Wave, which was born out of Danish company Zensys and came to the U.S. in 2000, is a wireless mesh protocol for smart home, multi-unit, and hospitality use cases. It’s popular — there are an estimated 100 million Z-Wave devices installed worldwide — but ensuring complete home, building, or yard coverage historically required a repeater (or several).

Z-Wave LR eliminates this need with up to four times greater range than regular Z-Wave signals. Z-Wave LR boasts a range of 400 meters and bumps the number of supported devices to 2,000 on a single network, up from the previous limit of 232, while still operating on such low power that some sensors will last 10 years on a coin cell battery.

Gearbrain reports that three major Z-Wave Alliance companies are in alpha testing with the new specification. A Z-Wave LR beta will launch sometime in Q4 2020 so that other partners can begin developing products ahead of a general release in 2021.

In spite of the improvements, Z-Wave LR, which operates on the 800-900MHz radio frequency range, still falls short of competing protocols including Zigbee and the forthcoming Amazon Sidewalk. The 2.4GHz Zigbee supports up to 65,000 nodes at a range of up to 100 meters, while the 900MHz Sidewalk is reportedly capable of sending data up to a mile away.

But Z-Wave has the advantage of broad vendor support. The Z-Wave Alliance counts Ring, Assa Abloy, Silicon Labs, and Qolsys among its over 700 members, and an estimated 3,300 Z-Wave-enabled devices are available on the market.

The Z-Wave Alliance says the Z-Wave LR specification will be managed and certified under the Z-Wave Plus program and that technical details will be highlighted in a session at Silicon Labs’ virtual conference this week. Z-Wave Plus, which launched in 2004, included features like increased range, extended battery life, over-the-air updates, and additional radio frequency channels.

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