ZigBee is Ready for its Close-up

Carl Weinschenk

Some technologies sit at the periphery of the telecommunication world for a long time until the world changes enough for them to become bigger players than they were.


That may be happening with ZigBee, a short-distance, low capacity networking protocol. The German site Franunhofer provides a nice review on the technology. A couple of items suggest that the future has arrived for the technology. I recently blogged about the great potential of the smart energy sector. One of the tangential links that I found was a study by Research and Markets that suggests that smart home applications will be a big application for ZigBee (and a related specification, the more mundanely named 802.15.4) as the market matures.


One way of measuring how a technology (or a person, for that matter) is doing is to look at the enemies that are being made. By that standard, ZigBee's fortunes indeed are on the rise. This Venture Beat story describes a dust-up between GE and the Wi-Fi Alliance over the spec. The story says that GE signed off on ZigBee "as the wireless standard of choice for smart appliances in a white paper."


The Wi-Fi Alliance took issue with the finding. The story describes the paper, the Wi-Fi Alliance's objections and the general back and forth. The bottom line, though, is that ZigBee emerges as a major player.


The growth of an industry that plays to ZigBee's strength is leading to other good news. Electronista is among the sites reporting that the ZigBee Alliance has finished a specification called the ZigBee Input Device standard. The spec is an alternative to infrared technologies now used for mice, keyboards and other input devices, the story says. ZigBee Input Device is capable of two-way communications and, according to the story, can add functions that typically are not available to these devices today.


To some extent, it is unfair to say that ZigBee has been out in the cold to date. The Venture Beat story, for instance, says that the ZigBee Alliance claims the technology already is in 40 million smart meters. Whether that's true or not-and even if it is in the devices, that doesn't mean it actually is being used-is important. Even more important, however, is the broader reality that ZigBee is starting to realize the potential its proponents have long seen for it.

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