ZigBee’s unique emphasis on low power, reliability, scalability and easy deployment and low cost make it ideally suited for the residential control market.

HomeToys Interview

Bob Heile, chairman | ZigBee Alliance

HomeToys Interview
Bob Heile, chairman of the ZigBee Alliance

ZigBee's unique emphasis on low power, reliability, scalability and easy deployment and low cost make it ideally suited for the residential control market.

ZigBee Alliance

Q1. What is ZigBee and why is it ideal for home applications?

The ZigBee Alliance is an association of companies working together to enable wirelessly networked monitoring and control products based on an open global standard. The Alliance includes a rapidly growing list of over 100 industry leaders from around the world including semiconductor manufacturers, wireless IP providers, OEMs, and end users.

ZigBee's unique emphasis on low power, reliability, scalability and easy deployment and low cost make it ideally suited for the residential control market. ZigBee is paving the way for intelligent sensors to provide greater control of lighting, heating, cooling, watering, appliance-use and security systems from anywhere in the home. This includes a variety of remote control applications such as keyless entry, garage door openers and remote control applications currently using Investor Relations. With greater automation of home control systems, homeowners can adjust their environment to run more efficiently, thereby reducing energy costs.

Q2. What makes ZigBee different from other wireless technologies available for the home network?

Unlike other wireless technologies, ZigBee is specifically designed for applications that require low power, such as light switches and sensors and can operate using standard off the shelf batteries for months, years, and possibly even decades. In addition, ZigBee is extremely resistant to interference, coexists effectively with other wireless applications in the home and because of its mesh networking capabilities, is very easy to install by people without the need for any special installation services.

Q3. What types of ZigBee products will we see in the home?

ZigBee technology will be embedded in a broad range of technologies including lights, switches, motion sensors, security alarms, smoke alarms, HVAC controls, watering systems, entertainment systems, remote controls, game controllers, energy consuming appliances and utility meters just to name a few.

Q4. How easily will a ZigBee device be implemented into the home? Would this be done by a consumer or contractor?

The ZigBee Alliance recognizes that consumers (and some installers) do not want to become wireless experts. They want "wireless control that simply works." ZigBee was designed to overcome barriers to wireless adoption. Consumers and/or installers simply connect a ZigBee-enabled device to the home environment and through a simple method of association, are able to add a new device to the network. Homeowners will be able to buy off the shelf products and be assured that they'll work together in their networked environment. For installers, ZigBee supports a suite of enhanced functionality and customization.

Q5. When do you expect to see ZigBee products available in the market, specifically for the average consumer to use them in their home? What products will be available first? What types of applications will the market see in the coming years?

We anticipate that there will be ZigBee-compliant products from many companies for many industries coming to market in early 2005

While we cannot anticipate specific vendor plans, the market potential for innovative applications for wireless monitoring and sensing controls is anticipated to exceed see deployment of some 80 million ZigBee devices by the end of 2006, according to a recent report by ABI Research. Beyond residential controls, markets that will benefit include industrial automation, supply chain management, inventory controls, medical devices and transportation.

Q6. How will the cost of ZigBee products compare with other home network products?

The cost of ZigBee network solutions are expected to be considerably less than Bluetooth and substantially less than 802.11. Individual manufacturers should be contacted for their prices. The target cost of ZigBee technology is such that it remains a viable networking technology for inexpensive devices like remote controls, light switches and window/door sensors.

Q7. Will ZigBee devices interoperate with other wireless home devices?

Any wireless home device which uses a ZigBee compliant platform will be able to form useful networks with other devices. Devices which also share common ZigBee applications will interoperate without the need for any special set-up. Professional installers will be able to establish more sophisticated capabilities between devices if desired.

Bob Heile, Chairman, ZigBee Alliance

Bob is a 20 plus year veteran in the field of data communications and wireless data. He is chair of the IEEE 802.15 Working Group on WPANs, chair of 802.15 Task Group 3a looking at UWB and other PHY layer alternatives for 802.15.3, Chair of the ZigBee Alliance and is a founding member of 802.11. Bob is currently CTO for Appairent Technologies and most recently was doing Wireless Communications Consulting for several high profile companies. Before that Bob was with GTE/BBN responsible for Wireless Opportunity Business Development, with the mission of commercializing wireless ad hoc networking and wireless PAN technologies. In 1990 he was a co-founder of Windata, Inc., an early developer of WLANs. From 1980-1990, Bob was with Motorola Codex, as VP/GM of the company's modem business. Bob holds a BA from Oberlin College, and an MA and Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University.

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