As sensors in and around homes or commercial buildings are asleep most of the time and only wake up to send or receive their tiny data packages, they need a communication protocol that is very different from other wireless protocols like WiFi or DECT that continuously stream large amounts of data and require a great deal of power to operate.
While ZigBee is the open communication standard that was developed specifically to handle wireless data communication from sensor networks, it could also be referred to as the “low-power WiFi”. It addresses the low-power needs for sensor communication, allowing sensors to work on batteries for many years often longer than the expected lifetime of the device itself. This long battery life removes the maintenance burden of replacing batteries out of the wireless sensor network.
These are the first two green advantages: no longer does the sensor network need wiring (saving on copper for the cable) and no longer will it need frequent battery replacement, which holds an important impact on battery manufacturing and then disposal, as batteries are filled with heavy metals and toxic chemicals.
In many parts of the world, disposing of batteries has become a major challenge, with strict rules and regulations. The process of mining, refining and then transporting the raw ingredients to make batteries requires a lot of energy and has a heavy carbon footprint, as well as the actual manufacturing process.
As ZigBee is a low power RF technology, in many instances – depending on the size of the information package and the power needs of the sensor itself, it is possible to develop wireless sensors that do not require batteries but function from an “energy harvesting “ solution – piezo, solar, vibration, temp variation, etc., further reducing the need to use batteries.
The ZigBee Alliance has developed the Green Power standard, which allows manufacturers to develop and produce wireless electrical switches that do not require any battery at all. The energy that is required to “flip the switch” is captured and used for instantaneous data communication, turning something on or off.
Where otherwise a battery would be required, the need for batteries completely eliminated. That is green number three. That small pulse of energy is enough to turn on a light across the room or, when received by a home control box, to actuate other appliances and systems throughout the home.
But there is more: ZigBee is the ideal communication technology for energy efficiency applications in smart homes, for building automation and for automated energy meters in smart grid applications to help us to reduce overall energy consumption: a quadruple green win!
Energy management services in Smart Homes will allow people to manage their energy consuming devices from any place in the world. Consumers will be able to turn on/off their lights, heating/air-conditioners, etc. from anywhere in the world using smart phones or web connected tablets.
ZigBee enables the Green and Really Smart home which uses a network of sensors and actuators, combined with local intelligence or intelligence in the cloud, to monitor the energy needs of the occupants and to make sure that energy is not wasted.
For example, by using a motion sensor that detects movement in the room, the home intelligence can be smart enough to turn on either the heat or the AC to keep the occupant comfortable. When the occupant leaves, the actuator turns off the HVAC until the occupant returns. Window sensors in the room can also check to see that the windows are closed after the occupant leaves; ensuring that expensive treated air does not escape out the window.
In short, the life cycle assessment, on all levels, of ZigBee powered applications is green overall. ZigBee provides the technology that allows us to monitor, understand and control our environment and helps us to manage and reduce our carbon footprint.
Elly Schiatse oversees and directs marketing operations, customer relations and quality control for GreenPeak worldwide.