ZigBee Alliance Announces Six-in-One Standard Designed for All Users

The organization says the new standard allows a range of applications and was enabled by hardware advances.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Nov 19, 2014

The ZigBee Alliance, an industry organization that sets communication and interoperability standards for wireless sensor networks using devices compliant with the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for wireless devices operating at 2.45 GHz, today announced ZigBee 3.0. The new protocol unifies six industry-specific ZigBee standards into a single umbrella standard.

Ryan Maley, the ZigBee Alliance's director of strategic marketing, says ZigBee 3.0 was developed partly in response to the fact that hardware used to build wireless sensors has evolved significantly since the IEEE 802.15.4 standard was ratified in 2003. Back then, he says, a sensor might have been built on a board with an 8-bit microprocessor with separate radios, but system-on-a-chip electronics now combine microprocessors offering greater computing power with integrated radios. "So there is no need to optimize and cut down every bit and byte specific to the environment [in which the device will be used] or the application it will support," Maley explains.

The ZigBee Alliance's Ryan Maley
What's more, Maley adds, ZigBee devices are increasingly being used across applications and industries. "ZigBee has multiple standards for building automation or home automation," he says, "but as devices become more prevalent and there is more connectivity, people are thinking of more things to do with them."

Under ZigBee 3.0, devices compliant with the ZigBee Home Automation, ZigBee Light Link, ZigBee Building Automation, ZigBee Retail Services, ZigBee Health Care or ZigBee Telecommunication standards will all be able to interoperate. A seventh standard, ZigBee Smart Energy, is interoperable with ZigBee 3.0 at the application level, but the security specification (based on elliptical curve cryptography) that ZigBee Smart Energy employs will be integrated as an optional feature of ZigBee 3.0. Many "smart" utility meters utilize the ZigBee Smart Energy standard to enable bi-directional communication between utilities and rate-payers. According to Maley, there are currently 70 million ZigBee-compliant utility meters installed throughout the United States.

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