In a report released last week, West Technology Research Solutions (WTRS) LLC said it is anticipating the start of a moderate adoption growth cycle for ZigBee technology by the end of 2004 – a technology that may steal vendor support away from struggling Bluetooth.
ZigBee is an open standard, low data rate application technology, according to Kirsten West, a principal researcher with Mountain View, Calif.-based WTRS.
ZigBee, unlike the costly enterprise focused Bluetooth technology, is designed more for use with home electronics equipment. An example of its functionality would be to have a television remote control embedded with a ZigBee chipset, enabling the ability to control a ZigBee-enabled thermostat along with other household devices containing ZigBee nodes.
One remote control device, or network coordinator, is capable of controlling up to 250 nodes depending on access frequency and data load, according to the WTRS report entitled ZigBee Market Report and Analysis Q2’03.
Although ZigBee and Bluetooth may not be in competition for customers due to minimal overlap in technology focus, they may be competing for vendor support.
Warren Chaisatien, a senior telecom analyst with IDC Canada Ltd., said that because Bluetooth has been around for more than five years but still hasn’t gotten off the ground, the vendor community isn’t likely to invest more into the technology.
“Vendors are saying, ‘Look, we better get together one more time and create something that can deliver very similar functionality, but this time let’s try to make it easier for people to buy, to adopt. And how do we do that? By making it cheaper, by making it more efficient,'” Chaisatien said.
He added that vendors have spotted ZigBee as a good alternative to promote instead of Bluetooth partly because of the growth ZigBee would bring to the market.
“It’s not only IT and computing vendors but also home electronics, home entertainment [vendors] which would expand the usage and application of the technology, which is good,” Chaisatien said.
George Karayannis, vice-president of marketing at Helicomm Inc. – a company which was created to focus on both 802.15.4 and ZigBee technologies – said that ZigBee is going to be “an enormous market on a worldwide scale.”
He said that although ZigBee works closely with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.15.4 standard, the standards also work independently of one another. He added that a good way to tell the two standards apart is to think of 802.15.4 as the radio and ZigBee as the network.
“The physical layer, the media access control layer, that’s where 802.15.4 stops. And then the network layer, the security layer and the application layer is what ZigBee is focused on. So, just because I make a radio, doesn’t mean it is a network node,” he added.
Karayannis said that all wireless technologies have different things to offer, so it is important to choose the one that is right for what ever it is being used for.
“Just pick the right one, it’s not a religion. Bluetooth is great, I wish I could get rid of all of my printer cables, but I am never going to use Bluetooth in a thermostat. So, they are complimentary technologies, Bluetooth will live or die on its own.”
Additional information on ZigBee can be found at www.zigbee.org.