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Building Automation Will Drive ZigBee Adoption

Systems using the communication standard for active 2.4 MHz RFID devices will be widely deployed in 2008, according to a report from market research firm ABI Research.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jan 02, 2007Five major vendors of building-automation systems, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Siemens, TAC and Trane have introduced wireless products based on ZigBee recently. ZigBee, a communication standard for active 2.4 MHz, low-power, wireless RFID devices designed for sensor networks, will be widely deployed in 2008, according to a new report from market research firm ABI Research. ZigBee networks can be used for such things as digitally control lighting, HVAC, access control or safety systems (exit lighting and emergency lighting systems), and in comprehensive systems that combine these various building monitoring networks into single building automation platforms.

It predicts that constructors of offices and other commercial buildings will be the biggest adopters of ZigBee networks. Adoption will be slower by companies that erect factories and other industrial buildings and by the home-construction industry, where proprietary wireless sensor networks that use proprietary RF protocols, such as X-10 and Z-Wave, already have a foothold.

The report says that the growth ZigBee market for lighting and HVAC systems will see the most growth. ZigBee technology for lighting and HVAC generated $72,400 and $95,300 in revenue, respectively, in 2005, and it estimates they will generate $15,371,800 and $19,012,500, respectively, by 2008.

ZigBee sensors are typically battery-operated—though they are also available in versions that run off AC line current—and are compliant with the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for wireless personal area networks. The ZigBee Alliance, an industry group that includes providers of building automation systems, is working to certify that ZigBee sensors from different vendors will interoperate.

"ZigBee Alliance is an outstanding group to work with," says Barry Coflan, director of product management, worldwide, for TAC, which sells ZigBee sensor networks for HVAC and building security systems. "We've worked with lots of groups to develop similar standards in the past, but the ZigBee Alliance has been doing a great job of promoting its specification. Its member companies are developing products that use sound engineering, and the Alliance is not politically motivated. More than anything, I think these are the reasons that ZigBee networks will be successful."

A ZigBee sensor contains a radio transceiver that transmits a unique ID number, one or more sensors and a microprocessor to store data and control the sensor or sensors attached to the device. When multiple sensors are deployed together, they each form serve as a node on a network, wherein each node sends data to and receives it from any other nodes within its communication range. This enables the nodes to form a mesh, or ad hoc, network that can self-organize. Typical RFID networks, by contrast, include RFID tags, or sensors, that communicate directly to a single interrogator.

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