ZigBee is Poised to Become the Communications Protocol of Choice

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The ZigBee protocol, created and ratified by the ZigBee Alliance, is an open standard used to create low-power, low-cost M2M networks.

It’s based on the IEEE 802.15.4 specification, a packet-based radio protocol that enables device communication in a range of network configurations and is intended for low-cost, battery-operated devices.

Attributes of ZigBee mesh

Source: Technavio, 2015

ZigBee Alliance members have developed and approved the ZigBee protocol to provide a convenient, secure, and reliable wireless data solution. ZigBee Alliance membership comprises more than 300 leading semiconductor manufacturers, technology firms, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and service companies.

Advantages ZigBee

  • ZigBee is reliable and helps expand network reach, as well as remove single points of failure through mesh networking
  • Consumes less power and can prolong battery life for many years
  • Ensures security with different security mechanisms like advanced encryption standard (AES)-128 encryption, keys for device and networks, and frame counters
  • ZigBee operates at 2.4 GHz, a universal brand that does not require license for sale in different countries
  • Has defined standards for network and application layers that make it effortlessly interoperable

The ZigBee protocol is finding acceptance in healthcare, retail, smart energy, as well as smart homes and offices.

According to Technavio, in 2015, 74.83 million ZigBee-enabled devices were shipped globally. This number is expected to balloon to 275 million devices in 2020, growing at a CAGR of 29.73%.

Four reasons why ZigBee is becoming the standard of choice

Advanced metering infrastructure

In 2015, power and utility companies invested more than $190 billion in smart energy systems. Governments and private companies alike are shifting toward advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), which connects home and neighborhood area networks.

AMI builds on current smart meter technology by enabling utilities to transmit information and commands to or from homes, to provide information about time-of-use pricing or disassociations regarding remote service.

ZigBee is the key enabling technology for energy management products in homes.

Internet-connected light bulbs

The evolution of the IoT and solid-state lighting (SSL) technologies has transformed the lighting market. Since Internet-connected light bulbs require wireless technologies like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and ZigBee to operate, vendors in the lighting industry are working in collaboration with industry partners to develop convenient and low-power consuming products.

In March 2014, LG electronics and Daintree Networks partnered to develop LED lighting and controls based on the ZigBee standard. In January 2015, Cree introduced Cree Connected LED bulb that is compatible with Wink and ZigBee-certified hubs. In the same month, Osram Sylvania launched the Lightify connected lighting system that can connect to a wireless gateway via standard ZigBee Home Automation protocols.

Growing diversity of IoT standards

The IoT has necessitated interoperability among IoT devices, and different vendors must work collectively in an open-source environment to set standards to enable communication between these devices.

But smart device compatibility with all wireless standards can be a challenge. Growing IoT standard diversity has compelled industry participants to develop a standards-based wireless solution that can conveniently control a wide range of connected devices, which is an area where ZigBee is expected to shine through the forecast period.

Shift toward smart homes

Smart homes are a major driver of ZigBee technology. Thanks to advantages like low power consumption, security, and interoperability, ZigBee is being recognized as one of the most reliable and cost-effective technologies for connecting the world of smart home sentrollers (an IoT term for sensors, controllers, actuators or a combo of all three).

And this isn’t just conjecture. ZigBee has already been tapped as a preferred technology by major cable and telecom companies like Charter, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, DirecTV, EchoStar, Rogers, Time Warner Cable, and Videocon. These companies already use ZigBee in set-top boxes, satellite transceivers, and home gateways to provide home monitoring and power management solutions. 

Number of connected households 2015-2020 (millions of units)

Source: Technavio, 2015