Wireless Communication For Devices

Wireless network communication

Most security cameras use Wi-Fi, but many also allow other types of communication. Some use Bluetooth for local control and easier setup through your smart phone. Others have separate home automation networking protocols used to interact with other devices.

WiFi Standards

WiFi uses short range radio signals and communication using 802.11a, 802.11b/g/n, and/or 802.11ac wireless standards. 802.11a uses a 5 GHz (actually 5.170 to 5.825GHz) frequency range and has a maximum speed of 54 Mbps. This standard uses a frequency range where there is not a lot of traffic or interference. The 802.11b operates in the unregulated 2.4 GHz (actually 2.412GHz to 2.472GHz) frequency range where the maximum speed is 11 Mbps. There are many types of wireless equipment that use this frequency and they can interfere with each other. 802.11g is also in this frequency range, but the maximum speed for this is 54 Mbps. Mobile phones use 900 MHz and the 802.11ah standard.

Now for the WiFi basics you want to know…

The most common type of communication used is IFTTT (if this, then that) which uses applets (simple conditional program code) to make wireless connections. WiFi does this by means of a modem that has either a physical or wireless connection to a cellular tower. These systems are centralized and only work within a limited range. Your connection can go down if the modem fails or your Internal Service Provider (ISP) has a power outage or cables used by your area of your country are damaged.

WiFi… your little internet neighborhood

Your WiFi consists of your neighborhood of devices with the name and passwords that you have assigned it. This is a wireless local area network (WLAN). WiFi works like 2 way radio with sophisticated protocols for internet. It uses 2 radio frequencies. 2.4 GHz frequency can travel a farther distance since it is a lower. The higher 5 GHz frequency can carry more transmissions for a shorter distance. Theoretically, the WiFi network can have 255 devices. Your WiFi is vulnerable to hacking. Keep in mind that when you enter into someone else’s Wifi network, they may be able to see the information you are sending and receiving (including your username and passwords).

WiFi Aware

WiFi Aware is an ability given to devices to automatically find each other and communicate. It is based on proximity. Devices that constantly broadcast their location are a drawback for a security system. The WiFi Aware devices also use more power because of these functions that they are performing.

IFTTT (if this, then that)

IFTTT is a free web-based service that uses conditional statements (applets) to perform functions. Applets are triggered by changes in other web-based services. This service also runs on mobile applications IOS (formerly iPhone Operating System) and Android (mobile operating system developed by Google). Most of the time OAuth or OAuth 2 are used for authentication to use this system. This is an authentication protocol that is an open standard for access allocation that is used as a way for internet users to grant websites or applications access to their information on other websites but without giving them the passwords. It instead uses access tokens. This method is used by Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth transmits at an unregulated 2.4 GHz frequency and low power, and the range is around 30 feet. Maximum number of devices that can use it in a network is 8. The maximum speed of transmission is 1 Mbps. This wireless communication was designed for mobile devices and building wireless personal area networks (WPANs). [Also see Bluetooth Low Energy… also called BLE or Blootooth LE listed below]

Alexa

Alexa is an Amazon service device that is a small computer, programmed to perform built-in tasks. This little computer is triggered by the wake word “Alexa” to record your voice. When you finish speaking, the recording is sent to Amazon through the internet. Amazon converts the recording into commands through a voice-to-text service. This service is called Alexa Voice Services (AVS). The command program then performs the requested task.

Wireless mesh network

Mesh networks function by use of a community of devices. They provide reliability through redundancy. When one device goes down, the other ones can still communicate either directly or through intermediate devices. This community makes up a theoretical mesh of possible communication.

AES-128

AES-128 USES THE SAME LEVEL OF PROTECTION AS MAJOR BANKS USE. You don’t have to worry about someone getting control of your smart home by hacking the signal encryption.

Internet of Things (IoT) protocol

The protocols currently already in wide use globally include ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth LE (this stands for Bluetooth low energy, also known as Bluetooth Smart).

Bluetooth Low Energyor Blootooth LE

Bluetooth Low Energy is also called BLE or Blootooth LE. This is a wireless personal area network technology designed and marketed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. Some of the things that BLE are healthcare, fitness and security industries and uses AES-128 signal encryption. It uses the 2.4 GHz frequency (2.400–2.4835 GHz ISM band) and gives the ability for dual-mode devices to use the same radio antenna. BLE is capable of being used for mesh networks. It is compatible with these operating systems: iOS 5 and later, Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 8 and later, Android 4.3 and later, BlackBerry 10, Linux 3.4 and later through BlueZ 5.0.
Unison OS 5.2

Thread

Thread is an open standard mesh system that is based in Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). It uses low-power and is very secure. It is a future-proof mesh networking technology for Internet of Things (IoT) products. Future-proof is a technical way of saying that a technology is unlikely to become obsolete. Thread uses IPv6 (also called 6LoWPAN), which in turn uses the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless protocol.

Z-Wave

Z-wave is a mesh system that connects through the use of low-energy radio waves. This mesh system is decentralized. Devices communicate directly to each other. When devices are out of range from each other, they can use a 3rd party phone without that device having access to what is being communicated. This network allows each device to work as a repeater and pass the information to another device. These methods can overcome communication issues over a big distances. They are capable of 4 hops between controller and destination device in a large mesh of possible devices.

The Z-Wave system works better when there are more devices in the area. Z-Wave protocol only supports data transmission rates up to 100 Kbps, so it doesn’t use a lot of power. These networks and their products have unique IDs for communicating with your hub. They use AES-128 encryption. Z-Wave does really well on inter-connectivity of devices and ease of setup.

Zigbee

Zigbee is a mesh system very similar to Z-wave, except that it uses an open standard that is more reliable to stay around. It has become a global wireless standard language of smart device communication. (Z-wave is a proprietary technology that could be taken away.) This standard is used in residential, commercial, and industrial areas. It can easily integrate products from many manufacturers. Unlike Z-wave, this network system does not have a limit on the number of hops between controller and destination device.
Zigbee uses AES-128 encryption.

Zigbee protocol has been demonstrated to be vulnerable to hackers when there is carelessness in the setup of the security. This means that the person who works with this system must have good tech knowledge in order to do it properly. It is used heavily by utility and retail industries. It requires decent technical knowledge for setting it up and maintaining it. The advantage of this is that a knowledgeable user can customize their smart devices the way they want. It has 2 levels of device certification, one for the hardware and another for software. Full compliance on both is verified if the device has Zigbee Home Automation certification.

Z-Wave vs Zigbee

SOME Z-WAVE OR ZIGBEE DEVICES CAN RUN ON A SINGLE WATCH BATTERY FOR YEARS. If they act as a repeater, the power usage becomes much higher.
Z-Wave operates at 908 MHz
Zigbee operates at 2.4 GHz
Zigbee has a higher frequency that transmits more data, but with less range for signal. The lower frequency range signal travels through obstacles better
A safe estimate for Z-Wave is 100 ft for inside with no obstacles and 50 ft with walls between. Zigbee has a safe estimate of 40 ft with no obstacles. Z-Wave is somewhat more reliable than Zigbee. It has more range reliability. Z-Wave operates at a frequency that doesn’t get as much interference from the presence of many users.

Z-Wave is best overall FOR EASE OF SETUP, RELIABILITY, and no interconnectivity problems among the devices. The more devices in the system, the better it works. It is great that you can set up with more than one protocol too.

Samsung SmartThings

Cloud based central hub for all of Samsung’s IoT devices to be accessible from a single app.

Google Assistant

A virtual assistant supplied by Google that works on mobile and smart devices. It can perform many programmed tasks through voice commands and also text ones and visual input too.

Apple Homekit

This is a home automation platform for controlling smart home products with Apple’s operating system iOS apps and Apple’s virtural assistant Siri voice commands.

Stringify

An automation service for your smart home with both iOS and Android. It connects all your IoT devices and smart devices.

WPA2 security protocol hackability

This hack is a Key Re-installation AttaCK (or KRACK), and it is done by fooling the 4 way handshake of the WPA2 security layer. It tricks the handshake into reusing a previous encryption key. To protect yourself from this vulnerability, make sure that your equipment has WPA2 + AES encryption. TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) is not good enough. The AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) protects from packet injection that can plant malware or ransomware on your system.

In addition you can do these things

Keep your system updated! Upgrade the firmware in your router (called flashing), which can be simple with the manufacturer instructions for the process. You can use Virtual Private Network (VPN) which makes your data encrypted and useless to those who intercept it. It can’t defeat SSL/TLS or VPNs. Use sites that are HTTPS… the S stands for secure with an added security protocol. Check a HTTP site before you go there and don’t share any private information while you are there.

Summary

Now that you have read through this information, you can see that the communication choices have different pros and cons. Moreover, there are many factors that play into what is a good choice for you. There are things you can do to improve the security of the wireless communication you use. In addition to the ones I just covered, there is a Best Practices section in the Home Security article that has more ways to protect your system. Most devices now have more than one type of protocol that can be used for them and that is a big plus

There are ways to increase your wireless communication network range. You can do this by installing repeaters/extenders to your network, or by adding a mesh network. The repeater/extenders duplicate the signal to extend the range that it reaches. The mesh network uses devices that are similar to the router to provide wireless service through more areas. The mesh network is easy to set up and manage all your devices. This is the more expensive method. The repeater/extenders are good for a small area and are a cheaper method, but they are more complicated.