ZigBee – The everywhere PAN

In the current flurry of new wireless networking, we have a new player on the block – ZigBee, the new PAN (Personal Area Network) protocol.

It’s been designed to be very low in power consumption and for most of the applications being targeted, its 2 AA batteries should have a life of 6 months to 2 years, but that does vary by application. One of its secrets is that the devices will only communicate when their application deems necessary.

With it’s maximum data rate is 250kbps, compared to 1 Mbps for Bluetooth but as we know, modems speeds are around a fifth of this, so it’s not painfully slow and many applications for devices don’t need loads of bandwidth.

Range is expected to be ~30 meters in a typical home, compared to ~10 meters for unamplified Bluetooth products.

ZigBee networking capabilities include 254 devices per network, compared to 8 for Bluetooth networks. There can also be up to 100 co-located networks.

With its small stack size (28Kbytes), which is about 10th of the Bluetooth – so the computing spec required to run it will be lower.

The entire bill of materials for a radio module is expected to initially be $6.00, coming quickly down to $2.00 to $3.00. Significantly lower than any other wireless network technology.

Products are expected to be available in middle of 2003 and it’s projected that over 400 million units will be produced per year by 2006.

Low cost wireless control within the home has a chance of becomes a reality.