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ZigBee Pro, the New Home Automation Standard? 170

An anonymous reader writes "Echelon, Microsoft, Intel, Sun and the Electronic Industries Alliance have been trying to create a home automation standard for two decades — to no avail. Now the ZigBee Alliance, proprietor of a low-rate two-way wireless mesh networking technology, says it will prevail. In six weeks, automation vendor Control4, which has about one million ZigBee nodes installed, will flip the switch on the new ZigBee Pro, which promises interoperability among light switches, thermostats, door locks, motorized shades, security systems, remote controls and some 36 million electric meters."
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ZigBee Pro, the New Home Automation Standard?

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  • Too expensive (Score:5, Informative)

    by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:21PM (#28086647) Homepage

    I like the idea of home control, lights that turn on and off, and I've been doing it with X10 for about 20 years. But I realize it has problems, poor reliability, requires neutral in the switch box for most installations, switches and outlets that actually stop functioning after 2 years, limited availability, poor selection of switch types and colors, and extremely high prices.

    So Insteon comes out and solves the first problem, and nothing else. Hey, dig that light switch for $45 plus shipping! ( A standard switch costs all of $1.

    And ZigBee doesn't even have interoperability on it's side? And I'm guessing we're not going to see remote switches for $1. I'd even settle for $5-10. I'm guessing the switches will cost $70. It's like they aim at the high-end of the market to get a little traction, then settle comfortably into selling $45 light switches.

    It's been many years, and I guess the market isn't there, because everything we have now is overpriced and underperforming.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:24PM (#28086681)


  • Not "new" (Score:4, Informative)

    by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:57PM (#28086991) Homepage Journal
    Zigbee pro is not new. They may have a newer version but it has been around for years. The main issue with any zigbee chip is its high current draw. You need at least 55mA for receiving data and if you run a mesh network, you cannot use power saving built into the chip. Older chips are not compatible with newer versions even thought they are labeled the same, and there are numerous unexplained problems with them. Unless you are running from the mains and hence don't need to conserve power, give them a miss. Plus they run at 2.4GHz, so you get interference issues. They also don't use a standard pin pitch so you have to make a breakout board or spend extra for SIL sockets (x2). Been there, done that. Sure, if you have unlimited budget you can play with them, but they are not as good as they like to make out. Plus in the EU you are limited to 10dB output, when the pro versions are capable of 100dB.

    The chips are known as XBee, the protocol is zigbee. They promise long battery life - probably true if you run off a car battery ! Try running them off AAs or PP3. You need at least 2500MaH to last a few days if they are set up to listen for data. And that includes power saving produced by hacks. Transmit I can make last for 1.5 months, if it is intermittent (ie, on an alarm condition), but the receive always has to be ready, hence the high power requirement.
  • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:29PM (#28087295) Journal

    But I'd really prefer if my locks remain off any kind of network and have my security system talk over good old-fashioned copper.

    Then I learned about lock-picking and bump keys.
    Here : []
    I'll use encryption on my doors the day it becomes cheap enough (and I become an owner). Anyway, all the burglars I have heard of do not use lock-picking but rather brute force...

  • IAAZP (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:55PM (#28087539)

    I Am A Zigbee Programmer.

    Some of the points being raised are a bit.. underinformed.

    Interoperability: the Zigbee Cluster Library includes standard APIs for many kinds of devices, including lightswitches, HVAC, home security, etc. Devices that are certified to conform to the specification are fully interoperable. The Zigbee APIs are publicly available at

    Battery life: battery powered devices may last for several years if they "sleep" between transmissions. Their "parent" node in the network stores messages destined for the sleeping node. These so-called "sleepy" nodes cannot route for other nodes though, so if you have a physically large network, you'll probably want some non-sleepy devices in there running on building power. This is one of the most important features of Zigbee, and in spite of some of the other commenters here, this is actually real.

    Price: this is the key reason why Zigbee will succeed: it is cheaper to retrofit a building with Zigbee devices than to knock out walls and run new wires. It's far more expensive than installing tradition switches in a new building, but that's not the a "use case." My company's clients are all looking at retrofitting HVAC systems on existing buildings and are finding some decent cost savings.

    Interference: Zigbee does use the 2.4 GHz band as a lot of other devices, but there are various mechanisms (link-level acks and retries, and some other things I don't understand) built into Zigbee to mitigate this. In our tests, interference has not been an issue. Metal objects such as doors and filing cabinets have been a much bigger problem in our tests.

    - Dave

  • by SgtChaireBourne ( 457691 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @06:18AM (#28092803) Homepage

    zigbee was fine in certain circumstances, but has largely been superceded by IPv6 over Low power WPAN aka 6lowpan [] Two major advantages of 6lowpan are that it is more or less regular Internet (TCP/IP) the other is that, as a result, more secure and almost infinitely more scalable.

    Additionally, zigbee is not a standard, 6lowpan is. That difference has important repercussions for long term planning of projects. The IETF has a good track record for standard maintenance. There are also GPL tools for 6lowpan devices [].

    6lowpan is more flexible []. Unlike zigbee, which is fine in some contexts, 6lowpan works with a variety of wired and wireless, low-power, low-bitrate transmissions.

    The Internet is where things happen nowadays. 6lowpan is part of that.

  • by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:47AM (#28095113) Homepage
    I agree. The reason I'm interested in home automation (specifically ZigBee in every device) is the ability to do things like:
    * Turn on the lights that shine on the driveway from my bedroom (or any other room) if a car drives up in the middle of the night
    * Use far less copper wiring - imagine being able to wire all of your lights, fans, etc directly to the power source without having to first run to a wall switch.

Would you people stop playing these stupid games?!?!?!!!!