ZigBee Home h as been making home automation a possibility for homeowners for a little more than a decade. The ZigBee Alliance was created in 2002 to ensure that products making use of the ZigBee specification from various manufacturers all deliver the same level of quality and that they all work together. As of today, there are more than 400 companies around the world making more than 600 products to control appliances and other electrical devices across a spectrum of industries.
The ZigBee Alliance started with only 25 members. In 2004, they published the first ZigBee specification and two years later, the first products designed to the published specification were released. The next year, in 2007, the Alliance modified the specification to make it more robust and open it up to more industries. Since then, the specification has been further modified, making it available for a wider range of products to be controlled by ZigBee compliant devices.
Products Allow for Many Configurations
The ZigBee specifications define a robust wireless network that is cost-effective, innovative, energy efficient, and smart. Consumers don’t have to be overly tech-savvy to create a ZigBee network in their home because the specifications define auto-configuration as a requirement of the standard. This means that most products are completely plug-and-play – plug it in and it works.
The newest ZigBee feature set is known as ZigBee PRO. This system is designed for low power consumption and is able to support very large networks with thousands of devices. The Alliance has also added a feature they call “Green Power” which offers users a unique way to save money over other standards and product lines. Green Power is a standard that supports what is known as “energy harvesting.” This is a means by which the devices that make use of this technology power themselves, thus they require no batteries or connections to the building’s power system.
Quite often in the tech industry, when you try to bring products from two different manufacturers together and make them work together, you achieve either spotty performance or no performance at all. Every product that is certified by the Alliance will work together, thereby causing this lack of interoperability to drop by the wayside.
Some ZigBee Home Automation Products
There are 600 different types of ZigBee compliant devices with more being added on a regular basis. Below is a list of some of the devices that are available and their functions.
SafePlug 1203: This device plugs into a standard wall outlet and allows you to remotely turn the two outlets on and off individually and remotely. Other features include fire and shock protection, cold start load smoothing of devices with motors, and line voltage monitoring.
OWL Z-Smart In Home Display: This device allows you to view your energy usage at a glance and make changes to it based upon your behavioral and usage patterns, allowing you to optimize energy savings and the money savings that result.
AlertMe: AlertMe is a unique home security product that utilizes a series of unique sensors that connect and report to a keychain-sized remote control unit.
AlertMe Occupancy Sensor: This is a sensor that meshes with the AlertMe security system and senses motion in rooms and hallways.
Kwikset SmartCode Deadbolt with Home Connect Technology: As the name implies, this is a deadbolt style door lock for your home. The wireless capability of the lock, among other things, allows you to monitor its status from a web browser. It can also be locked and unlocked remotely through the ZigBee network mesh.
Carrier ComfortChoice Touch Thermostat: This is a thermostat designed to mesh with the ZigBee Smart Energy network. The thermostat offers full seven-day programmability and a USB port for data uploads and upgrades.
CEIVA Logic Connected Digital Photo Frames: We’ve all seen digital photo frames. But we’ve never seen ones that are connected to the Internet and are able to download pictures from a connected service, or have images from friends and family pushed to them without you having to do anything.
Smart Plug: Allows appliances to be manually or remotely turned off or on. Users can also use Smart Plug to monitor energy usage.
I’ve written pretty extensively about home automation describing a variety of different technologies and specifications. However, with the range of products and the range of possibilities those products bring to the table I must say that I’m very impressed with the ZigBee Home standard and specification. I expect big things from ZigBee in the next few years.