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Electronic Design

EiED Online>> Zigbee Surprise

It’s only midway through the Zigbee Developers Conference in Chicago this year but already there is some controversy swarming around the Zigbee Alliance. It centers around membership in the Alliance and the use of Zigbee technology.

There are three levels of membership in the Zigbee Alliance. The lowest is the Adopter level and it costs $3500 per year. That is not much and it provides access to impressive Zigbee technology, especially given the information I have seen at the Conference so far.

The issue is not so much the cost or benefits, but the requirements and who must be involved. It seems that the Zigbee Alliance wants everyone utilizing Zigbee in an end product to be a member of the Alliance, not just the chip or software vendors. In addition, each product with its own SKU that incorporates Zigbee is expected to chip in another $500. That is a total of $4000 for the first year that you ship a product, not including conformance testing. That’s extra.

Although the cost is not excessive, the implications are where the problem lies because everyone in the supply chain is expected to be a member. Ship a product based on the technology and you need to be a member. That includes your supplier of the Zigbee stack and the customer that uses your Zigbee module in a product. Sounds like double or triple dipping. Taken to the extreme with the current definition, the suppliers could include the Home Depot, a contractor, and a home owner that wants to sell a house with Zigbee switches and sensors installed. That is a bit far fetched and definitely not the intent of the Alliance, but it highlights the confusion and unknowns for most Zigbee developers at this point.

Most developers do not mind paying for technology or for the support of an organization such as the Zigbee Alliance with all its benefits. The trick is to have a known quantity. Anything else makes it difficult to evaluate the cost versus benefits.

The current problem is that most developers do not have a clue about the cost of using Zigbee, because tools like Zigbee development kits infrom you about the Zigbee Alliance in small print, if any. At least now you have an idea of the implications of using the Zigbee technology.

This issue was the point of heated discussion at the conference and it is not likely to be the last. The Zigbee Alliance members have heard the input from a number of vocal developers, so that will at least be a clarification of the requirements developers will have when using Zigbee. There may also be some changes forthcoming, but that is for a future article so stay tuned.

I’ll be following this up with a Q&A with the Zigbee Alliance powers-that-be, as well as continuing coverage of this issue. Zigbee is a great technology and its adoption will be accelerated if it is easy and economical to employ.

Related Links
Zigbee Alliance

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