Why it’s Time to Embrace ZigBee in the Smart Home


Recently, there has been a tremendous rise in the market of smart home devices and home automation. Smart Home and the Internet of Thing (IoT) are composed of several sentrollers which includes 12v actuators, controllers and sensors. A study done in 2013 by Nextmarket Insight revealed that the current home automation systems and services market was approximately 3.6 billion and was anticipated to increase to about 15 billion by 2017. According to another analyst, the device connection is expected to grow to about 80 billion by 2020. The use of ZigBee will enable allow a wide range of Smart Home sentroller devices to do a variety of operation such as talk to each other, as well as talk to the end users through the web interface, remote control and/or smartphone.

Categories of Sentrollers

The first category is the simple sensors which include motion or temperature sensors as well as a security camera.

Figure 1. Temperature sensor (source: http://www.eljunga.lt/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/TDE.png)

The second category is actuators which make things happen. These include the light or a heater which tries to change the environment. The third category is the controllers which normally incorporate both the sensors and the actuator and introduces some “intelligence”. An example of a controller is a thermostat used to measure the temperature and decide the appropriate temperature and eventually take the necessary action.

Figure 2. Thermostat (source:http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71Xr1TfDI8L._SL1500_.jpg)

Normally, the sentrollers are linked through a gateway to the internet wirelessly, also referred as the Internet of Things.

Progress of ZigBee

The international most prominent broadband service provider, cable MSOs and Telcos has realised the prospective market of the home services and have begun to offer a wide range of innovative linked services and home automations.

Figure 3. Open web board (source: http://www.cnx-software.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Open_Web_Board_To...)

The home services comprise of home security, smart appliances, home health monitoring, remote locking and unlocking of doors and windows, temperature monitoring and control, smoke and fire detection, water gas leak monitoring among others. Although these technologies have been there for a long time, only recently has it been possible to assimilate all the different components from various applications in the same intelligence and communication and framework. Through the invention and worldwide acceptance of the ZigBee communication standard, we are now able to have a standardized wireless communication technology which allows for a simple installation and communication between a variety of devised and application.

Similarities between ZigBee and WiFi

ZigBee is taking the same path that WiFi took to become accepted. Initially there were a range of incompatible technologies that were struggling to be the recognised technology for wireless networking until a sole global accepted standard was established, 802.11, which allowed various industries to begin manufacturing and developing devices that could talk to each other and operate globally. The same case is presently with ZigBee for Smart Home which is taken as the low power version of WiFi. Like WiFi, ZigBee uses the same radio technology, transmits though walls, floors, and furniture, operates in the same 2.4 GHz range and can cover a normally sized home.

Differences between ZigBee and WiFi

The main variation between the two is the power requirements and data rate. WiFi is enhanced for high data rates and is very appropriate for transmitting music, Video, and voice data. In contrary, ZigBee is only able to carry small bits of information such as on and off messages from sensors. ZigBee needs less power to operate as compared to WiFi.

ZigBee Installation

ZigBee installation is simple where by all that is needed is connection to a battery and when turned on, the network searches for new devices for pairing. The appropriate operation of the device is set by doing configuration of the various devices. Through the help of Comcast and other cable operators, numerous operators have accepted Zigbee and have begun supplying set top boxes with inbuilt ZigBee radio chips. The Zigbee connections also functions as the platform of linking numerous other smart home and connected devices. 

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