Gary Audin
Gary Audin is the President of Delphi, Inc. He has more than 40 years of computer, communications and security...
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Gary Audin | January 09, 2015 |


The Next ZigBee, 3.0

The Next ZigBee, 3.0 If you're working Internet of Things into your IT plan -- as you should be -- then you'll need to know all about this latest wireless standard.

If you're working Internet of Things into your IT plan -- as you should be -- then you'll need to know all about this latest wireless standard.

If the Internet of Things isn't already part of your IT plans, it will be soon -- IoT endpoints are proliferating, and efficient resource use demands your attention. And, if IoT becomes part of your world, then ZigBee wireless networks will too, as I wrote in my recent No Jitter post, IoT Meets ZigBee.

Developed by the ZigBee Alliance, ZigBee is a wireless standard for supporting the IoT and enabling interoperability among a wide range of smart devices for businesses and consumers. The latest version, ZigBee 3.0, is based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, which operates in the 2.4-GHz frequency band accepted worldwide with no geographic restrictions. ZigBee Alliance members currently are testing ZigBee 3.0 and expect to ratify the standard by 4Q15.

Why ZigBee 3.0?
With ZigBee 3.0, the alliance aims to simplify choices for developers of IoT products and services. It will deliver all the features available in previous versions, already implemented in tens of millions of IoT devices, in a single, unified standard. Because ZigBee 3.0 will enable communications and interoperability among disparate device types, product developers and service providers should more easily be able to build fully interoperable solutions for building automation, smart homes, connected lighting and other IoT environments.

Previously, the ZigBee Alliance had focused on optimizing standards on a market basis and with an eye toward addressing processor speed, memory size and other hardware limitations. Hardware advancements, including development of fast, low-cost chips, combined with the goal of connecting a wide variety of devices in every market, led the alliance to create the unified ZigBee 3.0 standard.

ZigBee 3.0 initially will include ZigBee Telecommunication, ZigBee Home Automation, ZigBee Light Link, ZigBee Building Automation, ZigBee Retail Services and ZigBee Health Care services; others will follow. It uses ZigBee PRO, a low-power, low-cost, low-complexity spec that supports mesh networking for reliable operations. ZigBee PRO can be run in tiny devices, such as simple sensors.

Adding Application Level Standards
The IEEE 802.15.4 standard covers the lower two levels of the OSI model. Previous ZigBee Alliance standards cover the presentation through network layers. ZigBee 3.0 adds the application layer standards, as shown below.

Source: ZigBee Alliance

At the application layer, ZigBee 3.0 supports more than 130 devices, including building and home automation, lighting, energy management, smart appliances, security, sensors and health care monitoring products. It supports easy-to-use, do-it-yourself installations as well as professionally installed systems. All current device types, commands and functionality defined in current ZigBee PRO-based standards are available in ZigBee 3.0.

ZigBee for Telecom Services
The ZigBee Alliance members have created a ZigBee public application profile, ZigBee Telecom Services, that covers a wide variety of application scenarios for mobile devices designed to deliver services. These include: indoor location-based services; information delivery services; infomobility services; mobile ticketing, payment, advertising, couponing and office services; multiplayer services (mobile gaming and multi-chatting); and social networks.

Mobile phones equipped with a ZigBee SIM card may receive a variety of information provided by network operators and can be used to pay for services, with the charges authenticated by the network operator. ZigBee Telecom Services allow mobile devices to move about in a ZigBee network and communicate among themselves. The devices can communicate with other fixed nodes/devices, including information nodes, ticketing machines and anchor nodes for indoor locations.

Impact on Existing ZigBee Implementations
ZigBee Home Automation 1.2 or ZigBee Light Link 1.0 products will be forward compatible with ZigBee 3.0. Getting a product ZigBee-certified today means that the product is ZigBee 3.0-ready. IoT endpoint devices supporting other standards may need to be updated.

Pertinent documentation includes the ZigBee PRO spec, which defines the network operations; a ZigBee 3.0 Base Device Behavior spec, which defines the behavior for all devices when forming or connecting to a network; a ZigBee 3.0 Application Architecture document, which provides guidance for implementing ZigBee; and the ZigBee 3.0 Cluster Library, which provides a single document defining all application-level functionality. (Click here for an on-demand webinar on ZigBee 3.0).

If ZigBee is unknown to you or your organization, now is the chance to learn about this latest version. Given that IoT endpoints are becoming a major part of how an organization manages its resources efficiently, IT professionals, facilities managers, automation implementers and operations personnel should all know what ZigBee 3.0 is and the role it plays in the IoT.

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