13 Reasons Wi-Fi is a Poor Choice for the Smart Home

By Scott Cahill, CEO, LEXI

There are more than 250 million Smart Homes across the world and the market for Smart Home technology is forecasted to grow to $138.9 billion by 2023[1]. When thinking about how to connect all these smart devices, Wi-Fi is still more often than not the assumed protocol. However, except for IP Cameras, which require a Wi-Fi connection to send video data, using Wi-Fi for connectivity in the Smart Home is the least flexible, least effective, least reliable, and least secure option.

Why? Below are 13 reasons Wi-Fi is a poor Smart Home protocol:

1. Power Hog.  Wi-Fi was never designed to be a low power protocol.  As such, it uses a lot of power, rendering it completely unusable for battery powered devices like sensors.  An analysis we did for a customer showed that a battery powered Zigbee Water Leak Sensor would have 5 years of battery life while a Wi-Fi version of the same device would only last 6 months.

2. Bandwidth Hog.  Wi-Fi was designed for bandwidth intensive activities-web browsing, gaming, music & video streaming, etc. Your average Wi-Fi router can only handle 33 connections before it maxes out.  And it will begin dropping connections before it gets to 33. The average US home has 81 lights for example, far beyond the capacity of the average router.

3. DHCP addressing. Related to Bandwidth Hog.  Home routers are limited in the number DHCP addresses they support.   This example is fairly robust with 64, which is on the high side.

4. Smart Home Devices Lowest Priority.  Wi-Fi routers are often configured to prioritize computers, phones and streaming.  As such, the first devices they will drop are smart home devices.  

5. Dual Band Routers & Frequency Hopping.  Since they are primarily designed for computers and phones, new Wi-Fi routers no longer separate out SSIDs for 2.4G & 5G.  In fact, these new routers are designed to frequency hop between these bands to optimize the right frequency based upon device range.  Most Wi-Fi smart home devices are 2.4G only, which makes them difficult to connect to new routers and even when they can be connected, they drop connections more frequently.  

6. Star Topology (vs Mesh).  Wi-Fi is a Star Topology.  This means that every device connects directly to the router.  Unlike a Mesh topology in which each device can connect to one another.  In a Mesh network, as more devices are added, the network gets stronger, as opposed to a Star topology in which adding more devices makes the network weaker.  All the common smart home wireless protocols are mesh protocols (Bluetooth Mesh, Zigbee and Z-Wave).  

7. Each Device Connects to the User’s Router.  This means that the user must go through the sometimes difficult process of connecting the device directly to their home router.  Osram Lightify found that 80% of their customer service calls were about how to connect to the user’s router.

8. Wi-Fi Frequently Drops Connections.  How often does your phone or computer drop its Wi-Fi connection and then attempt to reconnect?  A lot.  That problem grows exponentially as the number of Wi-Fi smart devices increases.  Other Smart Home wireless protocols are designed to “bind” the device to the gateway or phone, thereby eliminating dropped connections.

9. No Gateway Support.  Wi-Fi devices connect directly to the user’s router.  In this case, the Smart Home Mobile App serves as a virtual gateway.  However, when the phone is not connected to the Internet or is turned off, key functionality such as schedules, alarms and notifications don’t work.  A gateway enables significantly more robust functionality.  

10. Each Wi-Fi Device Represents a Security Risk.  Every Wi-Fi device has an IP address and is often visible to an experienced hacker.  Other Smart Home protocols, notably Zigbee and Z-Wave have security built right into the protocol to prevent hacking.  In addition, they are not visible to the Internet as they are sitting behind a gateway.  

11. WiFi Requires a Constant Internet Connection.  Lose your internet connection and you lose control of your smart home.  

12. Limited Range.  Wi-Fi devices are limited to the range of the Wi-Fi router as opposed to mesh networks which continue to extend the range as more devices join the network.

13. Matter over Wi-Fi Requires Either a Gateway or an IPV6 Enabled Router Running the Matter Application Layer.  And only 28% of Wi-Fi Routers currently support IPV6.  

To overcome all these limitations and give companies that provide Smart Home solutions an option that will truly work, LEXI has built a Universal IoT Gateway that supports ALL major wireless protocols, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Mesh, Zigbee, Z-Wave, 900 MHz, LoraWAN, 3G/5G/LTE cellular, and is upgradeable to Thread and Matter.

The future is multi-protocol and as the first of its kind, LEXI’s Universal IoT Gateway enables customers to be wireless protocol agnostic when they select their devices, so they can truly focus on the Right Protocol for the Right Purpose.

Learn more about LEXI’s Universal IoT Gateway at lexi.tech.

[1] According to Statista.com, Smart Home – Facts & Statistics, March 16, 2022