The ZigBee Alliance is unifying its various wireless standards to a single standard named ZigBee 3.0 desgned to provide interoperability over a range of consumer and other Internet of Things smart devices.
The initial release of ZigBee 3.0 includes ZigBee Home Automation, ZigBee Light Link, ZigBee Building Automation, ZigBee Retail Services, ZigBee Health Care, and ZigBee Telecommunication services.
ZigBee 3.0 defines more than 130 devices and the widest range of devices types including home automation, lighting, energy management, smart appliance, security, sensors, and health care monitoring products. It supports both easy-to-use DIY installations as well as professionally installed systems. All current device types, commands, and functionality defined in current ZigBee PRO-based standards are available in the ZigBee 3.0.
Zigbee 3.0 does not include two Zigbee specs — Smart Energy 2, a profile based on IP; and RF4CE, a version of Zigbee for remote controls. But it does cover all specs based on Zigbee Pro, the group’s standard for how networks are formed and devices attach to them across different application areas.The Zigbee Pro spec is designed for implementation of devices that operate for more than seven years on a coin-cell battery and can scale up to 90,000 nodes on a segmented network.
The draft standard is available to members of the ZigBee Alliance now and is expected to be ratified in Q4 2015. ZigBee 3.0 demonstrations are planned for the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2015.
According to Tobin J. M. Richardson, President and CEO of the ZigBee Alliance, certification testing for Zigbee 3.0 is expected to begin in the fall of 2015 for compliance with the new standard’s application profiles in home and building automation, LED lighting, healthcare, retail, and smart energy.
He said ZigBee 3.0 is currently undergoing testing with many Alliance members, including The Kroger Co., Legrand, NXP, Philips, Schneider Electric, Silicon Labs, Texas Instruments, Wincor Nixdorf and V-Mark. The alliance has already sponsored about three plugfests to test out the feature-complete but still-evolving specification.
The emergence of the new standard is coming at a time when Zigbee is facing competition from a number of IEEE 802.15.4 products incorporating the IPv6-based 6LoWPAN protocols. How these new protocols will impact Zigbee's current penetration into many segments that are now being called the “Internet of Things,” depends in part on how widely IPv6 is deplayed by Internet Service Providers.
While major Internet players such as Google, Microsoft, and the major network router and switch service providers have committed to it, many of the regional ISPs, in the U.S. at least, are still using IPv4, which will slow significantly the transition to 6LoWPAN baseed IoT protocols.
“The ZigBee Alliance has always believed that true interoperability comes from standardization at all levels of the network, especially the application level which most closely touches the user,” said Richardson with reference to the new Zigbee 3.0 spec which he said supports both easy-to-use DIY installations as well as professionally installed systems.
Based on IEEE 802.15.4, which operates at 2.4 GHz (a frequency available for use around the world), ZigBee 3.0 uses ZigBee PRO networking to enable reliable communication in the smallest, lowest-power devices. Current ZigBee Certified products based on ZigBee Home Automation and ZigBee Light Link are interoperable with ZigBee 3.0.
In the past, said Richardson, the Alliance has focused on optimizing standards for individual markets based on limitations of hardware (including processor speed and memory size) and the particular requirements of individual markets.
“The latest hardware solutions like fast, low-cost SOCs combined with the increasing desire to connect an even wider variety of devices in every market led our members to create ZigBee 3.0,” he said, with great care devoted to compatibility.
End devices certified to ZigBee Home Automation 1.2 and ZigBee Light Link 1.0 will be forward compatible with ZigBee 3.0. In order to take advantage of all ZigBee 3.0 functionality, devices supporting other standards may need to be updated, he said.
Also, all application level functionality of ZigBee Smart Energy is already included in ZigBee 3.0. However, ZigBee Smart Energy uses advanced security based on elliptical curve cryptography specifically implemented for use by electric utilities to enable a highly secured smart grid. This level of security will be integrated as an optional feature of ZigBee 3.0 in the future and will enable merging ZigBee Smart Energy, said Richardson.