In my previous blog I wrote about the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and how it was going to revolutionize lighting in the smart home of the future. And of course it is ZigBee wireless technology that is pretty central to making it happen. The low-cost and low-power-demanding IEEE802.15.4-compliant wireless technology makes for easy retrofitting into existing homes.
Well, last month (October 2012) was a significant milestone for ZigBee and specifically the Zigbee Alliance, which celebrated 10 years of existence. Established in 2002 with 25 members, including Philips Semiconductors, the forerunner company of NXP, the ZigBee Alliance now includes a global ecosystem of more than 400 companies contributing to the development of wireless technologies for networked, sensing and control applications, based upon the various ZigBee standards. Of which, there now exist nine flavors, including profiles for ‘Home Automation’, ‘Smart Energy’, ‘Health Care’, ‘Remote Control’ and ‘Light Link’.
Clearly there have been some key technology milestones along the way. In 2007 was the introduction of the ZigBee PRO specification, offering robust underlying networking technology, along with the introduction of ZigBee Home Automation. The following year, it was the turn of the ZigBee SE1.0 specification, a.k.a. ZigBee Smart Energy, which gained considerable market traction with close to 37 million installed units.
In 2009, there was the adoption and ratification of the ZigBee Remote Control RF4CE specification (while the Zigbee Home Automation remote control is built around direct control of connected Zigbee Home Automation devices, the ZigBee RF4CE specification is designed to replace traditional infrared controlled devices).
And, just this year, we’ve seen the introduction of ZigBee Light Link. For sure, expectations are high, but ‘Light Link’ could be the significant breakthrough required to achieve consumer acceptance of wireless-based home automation.
According to a recent report from ABI Research, ZigBee device shipments will reach more than 350 million by 2016. The same report also predicts high shipments for the competing Bluetooth Smart technology, building upon the substantial existing ecosystem of Bluetooth-ready devices such as smartphones and other consumer and computing devices. But, the report points out that ZigBee/RF4CE has significant advantages in complex systems with high node counts. So, ZigBee is supremely positioned to take advantage of wireless control and sensor networks in M2M and IoT applications in a considerable number of important markets such as industrial and healthcare.
In all this celebration of the success of ZigBee, a special mention should also be made concerning Bob Heile, chairman and founding member of the ZigBee Alliance and a major driving force behind the success of the group and the technology. Bob Heile is also the chair and founding member of the IEEE 802.15 Working Group on WPANs, Co-Chair of IEEE P2030 Smart Grid Communications Task Force, and a founding member of IEEE 802.11.
Incidentally, and finally, I looked up Wikipedia to see what that august online publication had to say about ZigBee. And there it told me something I hadn’t been previously aware of, but I suspect everyone else knows: that the term ‘zigbee’ refers to the ‘waggle dance’ of honey bees, in which they communicate to their colleagues where the really happening flowers are at…. or something like that. Anyway, for some reason, this pleases me very much…