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What Is Zigbee?
Zigbee is a network protocol based on the IEEE.802.15.4 specification, a standard for low-rate wireless personal area networks (WPANs). Zigbee expands on the IEEE specification by “adding mesh network and security layers along with an application framework to become a full-stack, certifiable, interoperable solution.”
A Zigbee device typically has four layers—the IEEE.802.15.4 Radio, Zigbee Pro, Zigbee Cluster Library and Zigbee Certification (see below). Zigbee Pro is the network infrastructure, implementing features ranging from communication band specification and pair mechanisms to security key generation and power saving. The Zigbee Cluster Library is the application layer, which is used to define clusters that are standard sets of messages/device behaviors to allow Zigbee devices to behave in a standard manner across devices. This helps with interoperability, so Zigbee devices from different manufacturers can work with each other.
Since 2014, smart home devices have become a trendy gift item since introduction of Google Assistant, Facebook Portal and Amazon’ Echo. According to Jonathan Collins of ABI Research, reduced pricing and starter smart home bundles will entice millions of dollars in consumer spending this holiday season, but these devices will also help determine the type of smart homes that will be built around them.
Indeed, ABI Research has predicted that about 128 million homes will be converted into smart homes by the end of 2020 as smart devices, given as gifts, are ensconced of countless recipients.
Collins observed that the connectivity embedded in voice control front end devices will determine the connectivity they will look for in devices such as door locks, lights, sensors, key fobs, and wireless security cameras as integrated smart home systems evolve.
“For smart home devices and service providers investing in embedding wireless connectivity in their offerings, the continuing competing and disparate landscape for smart home protocols remains an expensive and constricting block on smart home investment and ROI,” he said.
He added that the lack of a clear standard and no operability between major smart home protocols means that each new smart home is a battleground for each connectivity protocol to gain a foothold. Each additional device also cements a foundation that will underpin the adoption of increasingly more devices looking to leverage the same connectivity protocol.
As consumer tech companies have pushed into the smart home market with smart home management platforms and voice control capabilities in smart speakers, Bluetooth connectivity has increasingly pushed into the heart of many smart homes. However, along with Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Thread, and Propriety are all in competition to deliver connectivity to smart home technology—sometimes in the same device.
“Voice control front-ends increasingly offer a new format for smart home gateway functionality. Amazon has embraced Zigbee for this purpose in its Echo Plus devices, and Google Nest is leveraging its own Thread protocol to communicate to sensors; both continue to rely on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as well,” Collins said.
There are signs that outside the United States, and particularly in Asia, Bluetooth will provide connectivity from voice control front-end devices to an array of smart home sensors around the home.
“The scale of the Asian market, and in particular China and its tech providers, will deliver a significant boost to the adoption and support of Bluetooth in competition with Z-Wave, Zigbee, and other low-power connectivity protocols,” Collins said.