Figure 2: ZigBee 3.0 supports an application library that has lived through multiple iterations of maturation.
In addition to ultra-low power requirements (comparable to Bluetooth Low Energy, but with much better range), the key value add of ZigBee RF4CE is its low latency. User interface devices benefit from low latency, because they enable product builders to provide the user immediate feedback (usually required to be less than 30 milliseconds). Normally meshing networks (including Thread) tend to see latency going up to hundred milliseconds or more, making the user experience quite unpleasant. Almost everyone has had the experience of pushing a button, nothing happens, and then pushing the button again: the light finally turns on and then, immediately turns off again. Arggh! That is not what happens with a wired light switch today, so nobody needs to accept this just because “now it is wireless”. Being able to add low latency human interface devices to the network is very key for ZigBee.
ZigBee green power
ZigBee 3.0 also includes ZigBee Green Power. ZigBee Green Power was originally developed as an ultra-low power wireless standard to support energy harvesting devices. Energy harvesting devices are devices without batteries that are able to extract their energy requirement from the environment (e.g. motion, light, piezo, Peltier, etc.). The most common application is the light switch, where the flipping of the switch generates the energy to send a communication package (“on”, “off”, etc.) through the air and to the lamp. Green Power is especially effective for devices that are only sometimes on the network (when they have power). Green Power enables these devices to go on and off the network in a secure manner so they can be off most of the time.
As an ultra-low wireless technology, Green Power is also a very effective option when using battery powered devices as it enables them to run off a battery for years. Green Power also allows for low cost end nodes to communicate with the rest of the network, specifically in situations where there is no meshing required. All in all, Green Power is a great addition to ZigBee 3.0.
ZigBee 3.0 IP compatibility
ZigBee 3.0 is also fully IP compatible. ZigBee devices, just like WiFi devices, are usually connected to the internet via a router, gateway or set-top box, and as such can be immediately controllable by any other device that is connected to the internet, from PC, to tablet or smart phone app, and from any place in the world. Because ZigBee is fully WiFi and IP compatible, there is no need to have a ZigBee chip in the phone itself in order to find and control ZigBee connected Smart Home and IoT devices. It all happens through any web-connected hub (router, set-top box, gateway), which means that connected PC’s and smart phones (via WiFi or cellular) can function as dashboards, as they can find and communicate with any ZigBee devices without a problem.
ZigBee 3.0 is open, universal, and complete. It is fully interoperable with existing internet applications. It is supported by volume shipments today, with estimates ranging from 1M units per week to 1M units per day. There are probably already 500M ZigBee devices in the market. ZigBee 3.0 is the optimal solution for a wide range of Smart Home applications: lighting, security, thermostats, remote controls, etc. ZigBee 3.0 is secure, supports battery free devices, meshing, low latency and energy harvesting. It is unmatched and even unchallenged, even with Thread trying. For many application builders it is the one and only networking solution on top of the IEEE 802.15.4 radio technology. ZigBee 3.0 will be the low-power WiFi for many of our future IoT sense and control networks and applications.