ZigBee devices is extremely competitive, with full nodes available for a fraction of the cost of a Bluetooth node.
ZigBee devices are actively limited to a through-rate of 250Kbps, compared to Bluetooth's much larger pipeline of 1Mbps, operating on the 2.4 GHz ISM band, which is available throughout most of the world.
ZigBee has been developed to meet the growing demand for capable wireless networking between numerous low-power devices. In industry ZigBee is being used for next generation automated manufacturing, with small transmitters in every device on the floor, allowing for communication between devices to a central computer. This new level of communication permits finely-tuned remote monitoring and manipulation. In the consumer market ZigBee is being explored for everything from linking low-power household devices such as smoke alarms to a central housing control unit, to centralized light controls.
The specified maximum range of operation for ZigBee devices is 250 feet (76m), substantially further than that used by Bluetooth capable devices, although security concerns raised over "sniping" Bluetooth devices remotely, may prove to hold true for ZigBee devices as well.
Due to its low power output, ZigBee devices can sustain themselves on a small battery for many months, or even years, making them ideal for install-and-forget purposes, such as most small household systems. Predictions of ZigBee installation for the future, most based on the explosive use of ZigBee in automated household tasks in China, look to a near future when upwards of sixty ZigBee devices may be found in an average American home, all communicating with one another freely and regulating common tasks seamlessly.
ZigBee is a low-cost, low-power, wireless mesh networking standard. The low cost allows the technology to be widely deployed in wireless control and monitoring applications, the low power-usage allows longer life with smaller batteries, and the mesh networking provides high reliability and larger range.
The ZigBee Alliance, the standards body which defines ZigBee, also publishes application profiles that allow multiple OEM vendors to create interoperable products. The current list of application profiles either published or in the works are:
- Home Automation
- ZigBee Smart Energy
- Telecommunication Applications
- Personal Home
- Hospital Care
The relationship between IEEE 802.15.4 and ZigBee is similar to that between IEEE 802.11 and the Wi-Fi Alliance. The ZigBee 1.0 specification was ratified on 14 December 2004 and is available to members of the ZigBee Alliance. Most recently, the ZigBee 2007 specification was posted on 30 October 2007. The first ZigBee Application Profile, Home Automation, was announced 2 November 2007.
For non-commercial purposes, the ZigBee specification is available free to the general public. An entry level membership in the ZigBee Alliance, called Adopter, costs US$ 3500 annually and provides access to the as-yet unpublished specifications and permission to create products for market using the specifications.
ZigBee operates in the industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio bands; 868 MHz in Europe, 915 MHz in countries such as USA and Australia, and 2.4 GHz in most jurisdictions worldwide. The technology is intended to be simpler and less expensive than other WPANs such as Bluetooth. ZigBee chip vendors typically sell integrated radios and microcontrollers with between 60K and 128K flash memory, such as the Freescale MC13213, the Ember EM250 and the Texas Instruments CC2430. Radios are also available stand-alone to be used with any processor or microcontroller. Generally, the chip vendors also offer the ZigBee software stack, although independent ones are also available.
"As of 2006, the retail price of a Zigbee-compliant transceiver is approaching $1, and the price for one radio, processor, and memory package is about $3." Comparatively, the price of consumer-grade Bluetooth chips is now under $3.
The first stack release is now called Zigbee 2004. The second stack release is called Zigbee 2006, and mainly replaces the MSG/KVP structure used in 2004 with a "cluster library". The 2004 stack is now more or less obsolete.
Zigbee 2007, now the current stack release, contains 2 stack profiles, stack profile 1 (simply called ZigBee), for home and light commercial use, and stack profile 2 (called ZigBee Pro). ZigBee Pro offers more features, such as multi-casting, many-to-one routing and high security with Symmetric-Key Key Exchange (SKKE), while ZigBee (stack profile 1) offers a smaller footprint in RAM and flash. Both offer full mesh networking and work with all ZigBee application profiles.
ZigBee 2007 is fully backward compatible with ZigBee 2006 devices: a ZigBee 2007 device may join and operate on a ZigBee 2006 network and vice versa. Due to differences in routing options, ZigBee Pro devices must become non-routing ZigBee End-Devices (ZEDs) on a ZigBee 2006 or ZigBee 2007 network, the same as ZigBee 2006 or ZigBee 2007 devices must become ZEDs on a ZigBee Pro network. The applications running on those devices work the same regardless of the stack profile beneath them.
ZigBee protocols are intended for use in embedded applications requiring low data rates and low power consumption. ZigBee's current focus is to define a general-purpose, inexpensive, self-organizing mesh network that can be used for industrial control, embedded sensing, medical data collection, smoke and intruder warning, building automation, home automation, etc. The resulting network will use very small amounts of power -- individual devices must have a battery life of at least two years to pass ZigBee certification.
Typical application areas include
- Home Entertainment and Control — Smart lighting, advanced temperature control, safety and security, movies and music
- Home Awareness — Water sensors, power sensors, smoke and fire detectors, smart appliances and access sensors
- Mobile Services — m-payment, m-monitoring and control, m-security and access control, m-healthcare and tele-assist
- Commercial Building — Energy monitoring, HVAC, lighting, access control
- Industrial Plant — Process control, asset management, environmental management, energy management, industrial device control
There are three different types of ZigBee devices:
- ZigBee coordinator(ZC): The most capable device, the coordinator forms the root of the network tree and might bridge to other networks. There is exactly one ZigBee coordinator in each network since it is the device that started the network originally. It is able to store information about the network, including acting as the Trust Centre & repository for security keys.
- ZigBee Router (ZR): As well as running an application function a router can act as an intermediate router, passing data from other devices.
- ZigBee End Device (ZED): Contains just enough functionality to talk to the parent node (either the coordinator or a router); it cannot relay data from other devices. This relationship allows the node to be asleep a significant amount of the time thereby giving long battery life. A ZED requires the least amount of memory, and therefore can be less expensive to manufacture than a ZR or ZC.
The protocols build on recent algorithmic research (Ad-hoc On-demand Distance Vector, neuRFon) to automatically construct a low-speed ad-hoc network of nodes. In most large network instances, the network will be a cluster of clusters. It can also form a mesh or a single cluster. The current profiles derived from the ZigBee protocols support beacon and non-beacon enabled networks.
In non-beacon-enabled networks (those whose beacon order is 15), an unslotted CSMA/CA channel access mechanism is used. In this type of network, ZigBee Routers typically have their receivers continuously active, requiring a more robust power supply. However, this allows for heterogeneous networks in which some devices receive continuously, while others only transmit when an external stimulus is detected. The typical example of a heterogeneous network is a wireless light switch: the ZigBee node at the lamp may receive constantly, since it is connected to the mains supply, while a battery-powered light switch would remain asleep until the switch is thrown. The switch then wakes up, sends a command to the lamp, receives an acknowledgment, and returns to sleep. In such a network the lamp node will be at least a ZigBee Router, if not the ZigBee Coordinator; the switch node is typically a ZigBee End Device.
In beacon-enabled networks, the special network nodes called ZigBee Routers transmit periodic beacons to confirm their presence to other network nodes. Nodes may sleep between beacons, thus lowering their duty cycle and extending their battery life. Beacon intervals may range from 15.36 milliseconds to 15.36 ms * 214 = 251.65824 seconds at 250 kbit/s, from 24 milliseconds to 24 ms * 214 = 393.216 seconds at 40 kbit/s and from 48 milliseconds to 48 ms * 214 = 786.432 seconds at 20 kbit/s. However, low duty cycle operation with long beacon intervals requires precise timing, which can conflict with the need for low product cost.
In general, the ZigBee protocols minimize the time the radio is on so as to reduce power use. In beaconing networks, nodes only need to be active while a beacon is being transmitted. In non-beacon-enabled networks, power consumption is decidedly asymmetrical: some devices are always active, while others spend most of their time sleeping.
ZigBee devices are required to conform to the IEEE 802.15.4-2003 Low-Rate Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) standard. The standard specifies the lower protocol layers—the physical layer (PHY), and the medium access control (MAC) portion of the data link layer (DLL). This standard specifies operation in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz, 915 MHz and 868 MHz ISM bands. In the 2.4 GHz band there are 16 ZigBee channels, with each channel requiring 5 MHz of bandwidth. The center frequency for each channel can be calculated as, FC = (2405 + 5 * (ch - 11)) MHz, where
ch = 11, 12, ..., 26.
The radios use direct-sequence spread spectrum coding, which is managed by the digital stream into the modulator. BPSK is used in the 868 and 915 MHz bands, and orthogonal QPSK that transmits two bits per symbol is used in the 2.4 GHz band. The raw, over-the-air data rate is 250 kbit/s per channel in the 2.4 GHz band, 40 kbit/s per channel in the 915 MHz band, and 20 kbit/s in the 868 MHz band. Transmission range is between 10 and 75(upto 1500meteres for zigbee pro.)meters (33 and 246 feet), although it is heavily dependent on the particular environment. The maximum output power of the radios is generally 0 dBm (1 mW).
The basic channel access mode is "carrier sense, multiple access/collision avoidance" (CSMA/CA). That is, the nodes talk in the same way that people converse; they briefly check to see that no one is talking before they start. There are three notable exceptions to the use of CSMA. Beacons are sent on a fixed timing schedule, and do not use CSMA. Message acknowledgments also do not use CSMA. Finally, devices in Beacon Oriented networks that have low latency real-time requirements may also use Guaranteed Time Slots (GTS), which by definition do not use CSMA.
The software is designed to be easy to develop on small, inexpensive microprocessors. The radio design used by ZigBee has been carefully optimized for low cost in large scale production. It has few analog stages and uses digital circuits wherever possible.
Even though the radios themselves are inexpensive, the ZigBee Qualification Process involves a full validation of the requirements of the physical layer. This amount of concern about the Physical Layer has multiple benefits, since all radios derived from that semiconductor mask set would enjoy the same RF characteristics. On the other hand, an uncertified physical layer that malfunctions could cripple the battery lifespan of other devices on a ZigBee network. Where other protocols can mask poor sensitivity or other esoteric problems in a fade compensation response, ZigBee radios have very tight engineering constraints: they are both power and bandwidth constrained. Thus, radios are tested to the ISO 17025 standard with guidance given by Clause 6 of the 802.15.4-2006 Standard. Most vendors plan to integrate the radio and microcontroller onto a single chip.
A white paper published by a European manufacturing group (associated with the development of a competing standard, Z-Wave) claims that wireless technologies such as ZigBee, which operate in the 2.4 GHz RF band, are subject to significant interference - enough to make them unusable. It claims that this is due to the presence of other wireless technologies like Wireless LAN in the same RF band. The ZigBee Alliance released a white paper refuting these claims. After a technical analysis, this paper concludes that ZigBee devices continue to communicate effectively and robustly even in the presence of large amounts of interference.