Honey, I shrunk the wireless network: What's behind Zigbee

Some of our readers may not be familiar with the term, but if analysts' predictions are anywhere near the truth, 2006 will probably be the year of the

Zigbee.

Based on 2.4GHz RF (Radio Frequency) technology and IEEE's

802.15.4 standard, this low cost, industrial-strength, low power network technology is on its way to revolutionise the way we live.

With other 80 million Zigbee enabled devices expected to be produced by the end of 2006 - that's in just 13 months chaps -Zigbee could well wipe out Bluetooth and encroach on WiFi territory.

Backed by big names like Philips, Motorola, Huawei and Samsung, as well as IT celebrities such as Microsoft's Co-Founder, Paul Allen, and Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe, its future seems to be rosy for now.

Sceptics argue that the Zigbee will go the same way as WiFi did with proprietary features being grafted on to the original WiFi standard therefore making supposedly WiFi compliant products incompatible with each other.

It should be noted that consumer electronics champions like Sony, Microsoft, Intel or HP are notably absent from the member list.

Zigbee is more about applications rather than computers – alarm systems, intrusion detection, automation control, wireless communication. The the sample list given on the Zigbee

FAQ page highlights this.

Zigbee promises advantages that Bluetooth users can only dream of, like the fact that a node can survive on a single watch battery for years, that up to 65000 nodes can be controlled by one root Zigbee appliance, transmission distances can go up to 100m, and that the system resources required are up to 80% less.

The battle is on between various existing and forthcoming short range technologies. Zigbee is one of them and probably the most likely to succeed but don't place your bets yet.