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ZigBee is the name of a specification for a suite of high level communication protocols using small, low-power digital radios based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for wireless personal area networks (WPANs). ZigBee, is targeted at RF applications that require a low data rate, long battery life, and secure networking.

The relationship between IEEE 802.15.4-2003 and ZigBee is similar to that between IEEE 802.11 and the Wi-Fi Alliance. The ZigBee 1.0 specification was ratified on December 14, 2004 and is available to members of the ZigBee Alliance. An entry level membership, called Adopter, in the ZigBee Alliance costs US$ 3500 annually and provides access to the specifications and permission to create products for market using the specifications. For non-commercial purposes, the ZigBee specification is available to the general public at the ZigBee Specification Download Request. Most recently, the ZigBee 2006 specification was posted in December 2006.

ZigBee operates in the industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio bands; 868 MHz in Europe, 915 MHz in the USA and 2.4 GHz in most jurisdictions worldwide. The technology is intended to be simpler and cheaper than other WPANs such as Bluetooth. The most capable ZigBee node type is said to require only about 10% of the software of a typical Bluetooth or Wireless Internet node, while the simplest nodes are about 2%[citation needed]. However, actual code sizes are much higher, closer to 50% of Bluetooth code size[citation needed]. ZigBee chip vendors have announced 128-kilobyte devices[citation needed].

As of 2006, the retail price of a Zigbee-compliant transceiver is approaching $1, and the price for one radio, processor, memory package is about $3.[1] Comparatively, before Bluetooth was launched (1998) it had a projected price, in high volumes, of $4 – $6[citation needed]; the price of consumer-grade Bluetooth chips is now under $3.[2]

ZigBee has started work on version 1.1. Version 1.1 is meant to take advantage of improvements in the 802.15.4b specification, most notably that of CCM* as an alternative to CCM (CTR + CBC-MAC) CCM mode. CCM* enjoys the same security proof as CCM and provides greater flexibility in the choice of Authentication and Encryption.




ZigBee protocols are intended for use in embedded applications requiring low data rates and low power consumption. ZigBee’s current focus is to define a general-purpose, inexpensive, self-organizing, mesh network that can be used for industrial control, embedded sensing, medical data collection, smoke and intruder warning, building automation, home automation, domotics, etc. The resulting network will use very small amounts of power so individual devices might run for a year or two using the originally installed battery.

Device types

There are three different types of ZigBee device:

  • ZigBee coordinator(ZC): The most capable device, the coordinator forms the root of the network tree and might bridge to other networks. There is exactly one ZigBee coordinator in each network. It is able to store information about the network, including acting as the repository for security keys.
  • ZigBee Router (ZR): Routers can act as an intermediate router, passing data from other devices.
  • ZigBee End Device (ZED): Contains just enough functionality to talk to its parent node (either the coordinator or a router); it cannot relay data from other devices. It requires the least amount of memory, and therefore can be less expensive to manufacture than a ZR or ZC.


The protocols build on recent algorithmic research (Ad-hoc On-demand Distance Vector, neuRFon) to automatically construct a low-speed ad-hoc network of nodes. In most large network instances, the network will be a cluster of clusters. It can also form a mesh or a single cluster. The current profiles derived from the ZigBee protocols support beacon and non-beacon enabled networks.

In non-beacon enabled networks (those whose beacon order is 15), an unslotted CSMA/CA channel access mechanism is used. In this type of network ZigBee Routers typically have their receivers continuously active, requiring a more robust power supply. However, this allows for heterogeneous networks in which some devices receive continuously, while others only transmit when an external stimulus is detected. The typical example of a heterogeneous network is a wireless light switch: the ZigBee node at the lamp may receive constantly, since it’s connected to the mains supply, while a battery-powered light switch would remain asleep until the switch is thrown. The switch then wakes up, sends a command to the lamp, receives an acknowledgment, and returns to sleep. In such a network the lamp node will be at least a ZigBee Router, if not the ZigBee Coordinator; the switch node is typically a ZigBee End Device.

In beacon enabled networks, the special network nodes called ZigBee Routers transmit periodic beacons to confirm their presence to other network nodes. Nodes may sleep between beacons, thus lowering their duty cycle and extending their battery life. Beacon intervals may range from 15.36 milliseconds to 15.36 ms * 214 = 251.65824 seconds at 250 kbit/s, from 24 milliseconds to 24 ms * 214 = 393.216 seconds at 40 kbit/s and from 48 milliseconds to 48 ms * 214 = 786.432 seconds at 20 kbit/s. However, low duty cycle operation with long beacon intervals requires precise timing which can conflict with the need for low product cost.

In general, the ZigBee protocols minimize the time the radio is on so as to reduce power use. In beaconing networks, nodes only need to be active while a beacon is being transmitted. In non-beacon enabled networks, power consumption is decidedly asymmetrical: some devices are always active, while any others present spend most of their time sleeping.

ZigBee devices are required to conform to the IEEE 802.15.4-2003 Low-Rate Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) standard. The standard specifies its lower protocol layers—the physical layer (PHY), and the medium access control (MAC) portion of the data link layer (DLL). This standard specifies operation in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz, 915 MHz and 868 MHz ISM bands. In the 2.4 GHz band there are 16 ZigBee channels, with each channel requiring 5 MHz of bandwidth. The center frequency for each channel can be calculated as, FC = (2405 + 5*(k-11)) MHz, where k = 11, 12, …, 26.

The radios use direct-sequence spread spectrum coding, which is managed by the digital stream into the modulator. BPSK is used in the 868 and 915 MHz bands, and orthogonal QPSK that transmits two bits per symbol is used in the 2.4 GHz band. The raw, over-the-air data rate is 250 kbit/s per channel in the 2.4 GHz band, 40 kbit/s per channel in the 915 MHz band, and 20 kbit/s in the 868 MHz band. Transmission range is between 10 and 75 meters (33~246 feet), although it is heavily dependent on the particular environment. The maximum output power of the radios is generally 0 dBm (1 mW).

The basic channel access mode specified by IEEE 802.15.4-2003 is "carrier sense, multiple access/collision avoidance" (CSMA/CA). That is, the nodes talk in the same way that people converse; they briefly check to see that no one is talking before they start. There are three notable exceptions to the use of CSMA. Beacons are sent on a fixed timing schedule, and do not use CSMA. Message acknowledgements also do not use CSMA. Finally, devices in Beacon Oriented networks that have low latency real-time requirements may also use Guaranteed Time Slots (GTS) which by definition do not use CSMA.

Software and hardware

The software is designed to be easy to develop on small, cheap microprocessors. The radio design used by ZigBee has been carefully optimized for low cost in large scale production. It has few analog stages and uses digital circuits wherever possible.

Even though the radios themselves are cheap, the ZigBee Qualification Process involves a full validation of the requirements of the physical layer. This amount of concern about the Physical Layer has multiple benefits, since all radios derived from that semiconductor mask set would enjoy the same RF characteristics. On the other hand, an uncertified physical layer that malfunctions could cripple the battery lifespan of other devices on a ZigBee network. Where other protocols can mask poor sensitivity or other esoteric problems in a fade compensation response, ZigBee radios have very tight engineering constraints: they are both power and bandwidth constrained. Thus, radios are tested to the ISO-17025 standard with guidance given by Clause 6 of the 802.15.4-2003 Standard. Most vendors plan to integrate the radio and microcontroller onto a single chip. (Some interesting links: [1][2] look for the USB Dongle)

ZigBee Home Automation Example

ZigBee Home Automation Example

The practical example shown is a home with a ZigBee network controlling lights, security system, fire system, and the heating and air conditioning.

The diagram shows a number of devices — red marks a "router to router" link, and blue link an "end node to router" link.

Here, lighting fixture B (which might also be the "coordinator") has identified and established routes via routers embedded in lighting fixtures A and F, mains-powered (with battery backup) smoke detector C, and table lamp D.

All the routers are mains-powered devices (lamps, heat pump, lighting fixtures, smoke alarms) and the "end" devices are battery-powered (switches, thermostats, motion detectors). Sensors are bound to actuators sometimes through user choices, otherwise because of bindings specified by the manufacturers.


  • ZigBee-style networks began to be conceived about 1998, when many engineers realized that both WiFi and Bluetooth were going to be unsuitable for many applications. In particular, many engineers saw a need for self-organizing ad-hoc digital radio networks.
  • The IEEE 802.15.4 standard was completed in May 2003.
  • In the summer of 2003, Philips Semiconductors, a major mesh network supporter, ceased its investment. Philips Lighting has, however, continued Philips’ participation, and Philips remains a promoter member on the ZigBee Alliance Board of Directors.
  • The ZigBee Alliance announced in October 2004 that its membership had more than doubled in the preceding year and had grown to more than 100 member companies, in 22 countries. By April 2005 membership had grown to more than 150 companies, and by December 2005 membership had passed 200 companies.
  • The ZigBee specifications were ratified on 14 December 2004.
  • The ZigBee Alliance announces public availability of Specification 1.0 on 13 June 2005, known as ZigBee 2004 Specification.
  • The ZigBee Alliance announces the completion and immediate member availability of its enhanced version of the ZigBee Standard in Sep. 2006, known as ZigBee 2006 Specification.


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Wibree[1] is a digital radio technology (intended to become an open standard of wireless communications) designed for ultra low power consumption (button cell batteries) within a short range (10 meters / 30 feet) based around low-cost transceiver microchips in each device.

Wibree is designed to work side-by-side with and complement Bluetooth. It operates in 2.4 GHz ISM band with physical layer bit rate of 1 Mbps. Main applications include devices such as wrist watches, wireless keyboards, toys and sports sensors where low power-consumption is a key design requirement. The technology was announced 200610-03 by Nokia. Partners that currently license the technology and cooperate in defining the specification are Nordic Semiconductor, Broadcom Corporation, CSR and Epson[2]. Other contributors are Suunto and Taiyo Yuden.

Bob Iannucci, head of Nokia’s Research Centre, claims the technology is up to ten times more efficient than Bluetooth.[3] It will reportedly have an output power around -6 dBm.[4] Nordic Semiconductor is aiming to sample Wibree chips during the second half of 2007.[5]


  1. ^  The name is a portmanteau of "Wi," for "wireless," and "bree," for "crossroads" (Old English). (EE Times, 16 October 2006)
  2. ^  "Bluetooth rival unveiled by Nokia", BBC News, 4 October 2006
  3. ^  "Nokia’s Wibree and the Wireless Zoo", by Iddo Genuth, The Future of Things (TFoT) online magazine, 16 November 2006,
  4. ^  "Nordic Semiconductor becomes a member of the open Wibree industry initiative", Nordic Semiconductor press release, 3 October 2006
  5. ^  Wibree press release 3 October 2006


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EnOcean company logo

EnOcean GmbH is a spin-off company of Siemens AG founded in 2001. It is a German company headquartered in Oberhaching, near Munich. Venture capital firms as Wellington Partners, 3i, SAM Private Equity, enjoyventure Management, Siemens Venture Capital, and BayTech Venture Capital provide financing. It currently employs 25 staff.


The company has developed a technology that is based on the efficient exploitation of slightest changes in the environmental energy using the principles of energy harvesting. In order to transform such energy fluctuations into usable electrical energy, piezogenerators, solar cells, thermocouples, and other energy converters are used. The company’s products are battery-less and wireless radio sensors and radio switches that need no maintenance during their whole lifetime. The signals of these sensors and switches can be transmitted across a distance up to 300 metres.

EnOcean PTM 250 Wireless & Batteryless switch

Put very simply, it is now possible to have wireless remote switches controlling, for example, wireless light switches that don’t require batteries. This makes the actual light switch itself maintenance free, and simple to install – in many cases simply glued to the wall’s surface. Wiring is reduced, installation costs reduced, and switches can now be installed in places where there may have been safety issues (e.g. bathrooms). These switches are already finding applications as shower remote controls for example. They also avoid the need to run switched circuits as the actual power switching is performed locally at the load itself.

Packets of data are tramsitted at 120kbps with the packet being 14 bytes long with a four byte data payload. RF energy is only transmitted for the 1’s on the data, so inherently reducing the amount of power required. Three packets are sent at psuedo-random intervals reducing the possibility of packet collisions to a very low figure. Push switches also transmit a further three data packets on release of the switch push button, so allowing other features such as light dimming to be performed.

This technology enables a wireless community of batteryless sensors to connect to just a few transceivers that need to be powered for continuous operation. Therefore it can be easily used for wireless mesh networking (nonstandard mesh protocol).

All switch signals or the information gathered by the sensors are transmitted with utmost reliability – unwanted interference with other signals can be completely excluded. Every device has a unique 32-bit serial number, so local interference is avoided by ‘training in’ receivers to the transmitters required to operate them. The frequency used for the majority of the devices is 868.3MHz.

ECO 100 power generator and PTM 230 transmitter module

EnOcean products are already used in, for example, building automation, the automotive industry (replacement of the conventional battery in tyre pressure sensors), and logistics. One particularily interesting application demonstrated is an audience voting system, developed by EnOcean’s UK distributor. Each member of the audience is given a four-button remote with en EnOcean transmitter, and the signals are decoded by a receiver connected to a PC. This avoids the need to manage batteries in many remote handsets, and each handset is uniquely identified, so the ‘quizmaster’ or presenter can see each individual answer from each member of the audience.

Apart from finished switches, the company also produces modules ready for integration into third-party products allowing the technology to be used in many other devices. Applications such as temperature monitoring, fan control and bespoke remote controllers have been realised in this way.

The company was awarded the Bavarian Innovation Prize 2002 in June of that year for its globally unique technology.

In December 2005, EnOcean was selected as "Technology Pioneer 2006" by the renowned World Economic Forum.