How Does ZigBee Work?

By Vee Enne

The ZigBee Alliance is a group of companies that produce wireless communication devices that are reliable, inexpensive, and have very low power requirements. ZigBee standards were created in the late 1990s, when it became evident that Bluetooth was not going to be appropriate for certain applications. It was intended as a lower-cost, lower power, version of a personal wireless network. Currently, ZigBee devices serve very different needs than Bluetooth devices, and thus do not interfere with the Bluetooth market share. These devices have extremely low power consumption, which extends their battery life considerably.

ZigBee devices have many applications. They are ideal for home automation, and are used for smart-home security systems, automated appliances, wireless smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and environmental controls. They can also be used to control the opening and closing of drapes, as well as providing lighting control. Medical monitoring of residents is also possible, using devices with ZigBee wireless enabled. ZigBee devices offer transmission distances of up to 100 meters, depending on how much power is available and whether there is anything physically blocking the signal.

ZigBee devices do not interfere with WiFi devices, but operate under the 802.15.4 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Standard. 802.15.4 is titled by the IEEE as the "Standard for Information technology-Telecommunications and information exchange between systems- Local and metropolitan area networks- Specific requirements-Wireless Medium Access Control (MAC) and Physical Layer (PHY) Specifications for Low Rate Wireless Personal Area Network (LR-WPANS)" ZigBee, as a low-rate wireless personal area network protocol, is governed by this standard. It operates on several different bands, including 2.4GHz, 915Mhz, and 868Mhz, sending wireless signals to communicate between nodes.

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