ZigBee is the wireless-mesh networking technology based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. It adds a stack that builds various mesh configurations. Designed for wireless sensor networks as well as monitoring and control operations in the home, business, and industry, ZigBee is doing strong business, especially in the commercial and industrial space. It’s finding its way into a myriad of large buildings and manufacturing environments. And while it’s showing up in home applications, it has gotten some heavy-duty competition from Z-Wave and Insteon, which offer simpler and lower-cost solutions to turning lights and appliances off and on as well as providing security.
The big problem with ZigBee is that it’s expensive to join the ZigBee Alliance and get your products certified. If you’re deploying hundreds or thousands of mesh points that require the excellent ZigBee protocol, the cost can be justified. But if you’re designing simpler systems with fewer nodes, ZigBee may not be economical. You can still use 802.15.4, but you’re on your own for the mesh networking. Z-Wave and Insteon use proprietary protocols that fit well in the home space. Some newer alternatives also are available, such as Micrel’s MicrelNet and Microchip Technology’s MiWi lightweight networking solution.
Further competition has come from sensor networking experts at Dust Networks, who virtually invented the sensor network concept. Nevertheless, ZigBee is a fully developed, proven, and flexible technology that’s growing and prospering with chips from Freescale, Philips, STMicroelectronics, and Texas Instruments.