ZigBee is a new & rapidly emerging wireless standard which is soon to pervade all our lives by connecting billions of devices together in what many refer to as the 'Internet of Things".
Whereas Bluetooth is suited for connecting devices such a phones to headsets, and Wi-Fi connects laptops to the internet; ZigBee is all about low-power, low-cost networking of building appliances and reducing global energy consumption. ZigBee is currently being built into millions of day-to-day devices for monitoring & control of the real world environment: Lights, thermostats, alarms, fridges, doors, utility meters, telehealth products & even a new breed of RF remote controls.
The initial main markets are Home Automation & Smart Energy - indeed ZigBee is the main technology driving the many new Smart Grid initiatives which utility companies are deploying, and which are gaining momentum from new government energy stimulus packages. ZigBee enabled devices in homes & offices can gather real-time information such as energy consumption, and pass that back to the utility to facilitate immediate usage data. Actual costs per minute at the appliance level are shown on a ZigBee enabled display panel, thus allowing a two way utility-to-customer dialogue about energy requirements and usage. For the utility, this prevents blackouts and reduced Co2 emissions. For the customer, it results in reduced bills.
Whilst these smart energy initiatives are being driven by utilities, however, standalone ZigBee enabled devices are available for users who want to take the initiative themselves and begin reducing their energy bills. Typical uses are for homes & businesses to enable their electrical applicances with ZigBee smart plugs that can measure the consumption and switch them on & off at pre-defined times. This prevents standby drain, and gives clear visibility of the price of using appliances.
Another upcoming ZigBee application includes Telehealth - whereby ZigBee enabled devices enable secure and reliable monitoring and management of noncritical, low-acuity healthcare services targeted at chronic disease. It promotes aging independence, overall health, wellness and fitness by providing more information about one's state of health; and is designed for use in homes, fitness centers, retirement communities, nursing homes & medical care facilities.
ZigBee is an open standard technology backed by over 300 partner companies worldwide including Samsung, Siemens, Honeywell, Texas, Mitsubishi & Motorola. Furthermore, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung & Sony recently added weight when their new RF4CE technology was rolled into ZigBee. Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics (RF4CE) allow products like HDTV, home theater equipment, set-top boxes, audio equipment & remote controls to benefit from the advanced functionality offered by ZigBee. With a single ZigBee RF remote, consumers would be able to control every aspect of the connected home, as its engineered to allow control over appliances and equipment from anywhere in the home without regard to walls or floors.
ZigBee has been quietley progressing over the past few years, and is set to be the next mainstream wireless techology embedded into a multitude of day-to-day devices. Its interoperability ensures that multi-vendor products will work together seamlessly, and its sector-specific focus is ensuring ZigBee gains rapid traction in key industries such as Telehealth & Smart Energy.
In anticipation of this momentum, Vesternet has launched the worlds first ZigBee eCommerce store. It sells multi-vendor sensors, as well as an optional backend platform for monitoring & control of a ZigBee network. Vesternet's own platform consists of two products: a ZigBee gateway for gathering sensor data, and a web-based user interface for managing it. Together they form the backbone of any ZigBee network.
Initially this is used for managing energy, but as ZigBee suppliers release more products, they too can be managed within the platform. These could be power sockets, thermostats, security sensors, health equipment, DVD players and more.
ZigBee products are available now for purchase at www.zigbee.eu