According to Statista the quantity of IoT devices is about 43 billion now.
And by 2025, 75 billion IoT devices are predicted to be online and Statista predicts that rather a lot of those devices will be in areas that lack a standard connection.
The future of IoT will be built through open networks and collaboration. Until the future has not come, let's discuss the variants of connection for nowadays.
I think there is no need to mention BLE, Wi-Fi, or 5G. There is no competition between these networks – rather, they are complementary.
Let’s speak about Zigbee. What is this technology different from above mentioned?
Zigbee and "what it is eaten with"
Zigbee is a standards-based wireless technology developed as an open global market connectivity standard to address the unique needs of low-cost, low-power wireless IoT data networks. The Zigbee connectivity standard operates on the IEEE 802.15.4 physical board radio specification and operates in unlicensed radio bands including 2.4 GHz, 900 MHz and 868 MHz.
Specifications of Zigbee
The Zigbee specifications, which are maintained and updated by the Zigbee Alliance, boost the IEEE 802.15.4 standard by adding network and security layers in addition to an application framework.
In theory, it enables the mixing of implementations from different manufacturers, but in practice, Zigbee products have been extended and customized by vendors and, thus, plagued by interoperability issues. In contrast to Wi-Fi networks used to connect endpoints to high-speed networks, Zigbee supports much lower data rates and uses a mesh networking protocol to avoid hub devices and create a self-healing architecture.
There are three Zigbee specifications: Zigbee PRO, Zigbee RF4CE and Zigbee IP.
Zigbee PRO aims to provide the foundation for IoT with features to support low-cost, highly reliable networks for device-to-device communication. Zigbee PRO also offers Green Power, a new feature that supports energy harvesting or self-powered devices that don't require batteries or AC power supply.
Zigbee RF4CE is designed for simple, two-way device-to-device control applications that don't need the full-featured mesh networking functionalities offered by the Zigbee specification.
Zigbee IP optimizes the standard for IPv6-based full wireless mesh networks, offering internet connections to control low-power, low-cost devices.
Mesh networks are decentralized in nature. It’s flexible, reliable and expandable - End Node, Router or Coordinator, where nodes can communicate peer-to-peer for high speed direct communication, or node to Gateway.
Zigbee and Z-wave are two well-known mesh networking technologies. In a mesh network, nodes are interconnected with other nodes so that multiple pathways connect each node. Connections between nodes are dynamically updated and optimized through sophisticated, built-in mesh routing tables.
Zigbee is inherently secure. It provides options for authentication and data encryption. Zigbee uses 128-bit AES encryption keys, similarly to its primary competitor, Z-Wave (all pros and cons of Z-wave will be considered in the next article).
This plus short-range signals make Zigbee secure. However, most home automation protocols have similar levels of security when you configure them properly.
Power consumption for Zigbee is comparable with BLE. However, the proven, routed mesh mechanism adopted in Zigbee makes it slightly more power efficient.
What Is Zigbee Compatible With?
The devices are controlled by Samsung SmartThings and Zigbee. Amazon Echo Dot, Philips Hue, IKEA Tradfri. Hive Active Heating is a device that uses natural gas and has accessories. Honeywell manufactures a variety of thermostat products.
Conclusion. Why choose Zigbee?
Comparing Zigbee with existing variants of connections, it’s obvious that Zigbee offers multiple advantages over Bluetooth.
For example, BLE works best for smaller size packets (i.e. less than 12 bytes). For smaller size (less than 12 bytes), its comparable to Zigbee but as packets size starts increasing BLE higher layers do the fragmentation and cause latency to increase.
However, BLE has a cost advantage over Zigbee. BLE mesh has a bigger eco system and uses the same BLE chipset used in other applications, therefore high scale production of BLE chipsets pulls down the cost of IC compared to Zigbee.
Need of gateway device for Zigbee further increases the cost of the overall system. BLE based systems can provide limited functionality (everything except full-fledged internet connectivity) without a gateway as well. In addition, licensing of Zigbee is more expensive and complex than BLE.
Meanwhile, Zigbee is more cost-effective and uses significantly less energy than Wi-Fi, resulting in better battery life. To speak about another “rival” LoRaWAN, it’s significantly cheaper than Zigbee and they are close by some characteristics.
And if you are looking for a cheap and long battery life sensing project, where no real-time, control or automation requirements are anticipated and slower poll-rates are suitable, then LoRaWAN is a good contender and is a good choice for many entry-level sensing applications.
But, if it is necessary to control automation or faster poll rates, it’s better to step up to Zigbee. As it was mentioned Z-Wave will be considered next time.
Where to use?
The Zigbee wireless communication system is used by homes, businesses, and other locations to communicate.
Zigbee can transmit data over a long distance, which is sufficient for most applications. Zigbee is a clear winner for industrial applications that require reliability, real-time monitoring, control or automation and this protocol is highly under-rated for low power sensing.