IEEE Approves 802.15.4 (ZigBee)

The IEEE has approved the 802.15.4 wireless standard for simple devices. More widely known as ZigBee, designed for low power, low complexity units, applications for 802.15.4 include interactive toys, inventory tracking and smart badges. WPAN (Wireless Personal Area Network) devices are intended to operate in the user’s Personal Operating Space (POS), an area of effect of about ten metres.

Based on the broader Bluetooth specification, the standard covers three data rates: 20kbps, 40kbps and 250kbps, but is differentiated from HomeRF and Bluetooth by its greater emphasis on device simplicity and low power consumption.

Of course, there will be more privacy worries raised as inventory tags employing RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags become more sophisticated, smaller and indeed washable. Clothing stores will not only be able to track their products in the warehouse and on the shelves but will know when you come back wearing something you bought there. Gillette recently abandoned (for the time being) plans to use RFID technology in their Mach 3 line of razor blades in Europe.

Digital Sun already have an interesting 802.15.14 product in the market: the S.Sense. There are two main components: a receiver that fits the control box of your garden sprinkler and an number spikes that you insert into your lawn. When the spikes detect that the ground is dry, they notify the sprinkler to do its stuff. Because of the low power consumption of the standard, each spike will fun for about a year on a AA battery.

IEEE on 802.15.4 Link

ZigBee Alliance Press Release (PDF)
Gillette on RFID Link

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?