Study: ZigBee to Dominate Home Wireless Applications


The open standard ZigBee protocol enables every system in a house to talk to each other, and a research firm estimates that it will become ever-present and dominant in two-way low data-rate wireless applications for the home.

According to a report by West Technology Research Solutions (WTRS), a market research firm which focuses solely on emerging technologies, by 2006, annual shipments of ZigBee chipsets, which promotes the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for low-power wireless applications, will exceed 46 million units into the home automation segment alone, and will grow rapidly thereafter.

“The overall potential for ZigBee in low data rate markets has not diminished and demand is building,” said Kirsten West, one of the principals of WTRS.

She said in the not too distant future, it will be common to find as many as 50 ZigBee chips in a house. “These will be found in light switches, fire and smoke detectors, thermostats, appliances in the kitchen, and video and audio remote controls. The same principles apply to networks in industrial, building automation, and medical markets.”

Meanwhile, WTRS says Ultrawideband, or UWB, will eventually beat out the current 802.11b, the popular Wi-Fi networking protocol.

Already, consumer electronics manufacturers are experimenting with UWB, according to WTRS. “Streaming video to the television set wirelessly is the hot application they’re working on right now,” West said.

UWB will also become the standard for the home gateway, the control center for automating everything from the security, heating and lighting systems to remote controlled appliances and home entertainment centers.

UWB works in what is sometimes called the “garage door spectrum,” the unlicensed frequency of the spectrum commonly used for garage door openers, portable telephones and baby monitors. But its high-speed data transit capabilities of 40 to 60 megabits per second—in some cases nearly 10 times as fast as Wi-Fi, low power requirements, and its ability to penetrate walls—make UWB an attractive option for all kinds of handy machine-to-machine communications.

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