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The Z-Wave alliance guarantees interoperability though their certification process on their main site:

Z-Wave encompasses a broad ecosystem of smart products and services that work seamlessly between brands and versions. This interoperability, which has been the hallmark of Z-Wave technology since 2005, is achieved and maintained through Z-Wave certification, a testing program administered by the Z-Wave Alliance consortium.

Z-Wave certification ensures that all Z-Wave products work together with each other regardless of brand, including backward-compatibility between versions. The certification process includes technical testing, programs for uniformity of marks, and enforcement of the certification standards.

While other technologies claim interoperability, only Z-Wave offers interoperability at the product level. This ensures manufacturers, integrators and end users that their products and services will work together with all certified Z-Wave products.

They mention testing, but really don't go into to much detail on what it entails to guarantee interoperability. What I'm wondering is how the tests the Z-Wave Alliance uses are designed to guaranteed interoperability and if the claim to interoperability is actually true.

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    You only get visibility of the criteria when you buy a Developer kit, unfortunately. – Rory Alsop Dec 12 '16 at 11:54
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All certified Z-Wave products conform to their communication protocol. And that's what ensures interoperability.

In particular, a certified product must register with a Z-Wave network controller. The latter gives out a 4 byte network / home ID to the former and also assigns to it a 1 byte node ID.

The node ID ensures that each product registered to a controller's network would have its own communication channel - much like how an IP address allows a node in a LAN to communicate with others without confusion. This is why a controller can potentially handle 232 nodes (256 - some IDs that are most likely for internal use).

On the other hand, the network ID ensures that each controller would have its own network and could coexist with other Z-Wave networks and controllers in close proximity.

Although, since the network ID has 4 bytes, it would mean that if you have more than 256 ^ 4 controllers working in close proximity, then that would break this supposed interoperability. But, that's a lot of controllers.

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