What is Zigbee? How is it important for your smart home?
Zigbee is a significant factor to smart home. From secured communication between devices to energy-efficient, this mesh network makes one viable language of IoT.
The Internet of Things (IoT) can sound like something from science fiction. Your light bulbs mimic sunrise to wake you up before they switch on your kettle. Then you leave the house, and your thermostat turns off all your sockets.
All without you pressing a button.
That’s not the current reality. Users operate devices using companion apps or universal apps like the SURE Universal Remote. Your “things” don’t talk to each other because the devices don’t all speak the same language.
Some devices work through Wi-Fi, others Bluetooth. But work is underway on common languages to help bridge the gap. One is Zigbee, and another is Z-Wave (which we discussed here).
Let’s explore what Zigbee is and how you can use it in your smart home.
What is Zigbee?
Invented in 1998, Zigbee was standardized in 2003 and revised in 2006. Its name comes from the waggle dance honey bees do when they return to the hive.
It’s a communication protocol that uses low power and a low data rate – it doesn’t eat up your bandwidth the way streaming movies does.
The devices need to be less than 100m apart for the small-scale network to work properly. But they can pass data between themselves using a mesh network to reach devices further away.
That data comes from the Zigbee controller, a central hub that processes the network’s data. It’s a simpler system than Bluetooth or Wi-Fi which makes it cheaper.
You can have up to 65,000 devices on one network. That means Zigbee is great for smart home use. Lighting, thermostats, security systems or kitchen appliances all support the protocol.
What is the Zigbee Alliance?
The Zigbee Alliance formed in 2002 to maintain the Zigbee standard. Profiles published by the Alliance help vendors create compatible products.
The Alliance boasts over 400 members and 600 certified products in their range. Logitech, Belkin, Philips and AT&T all back Zigbee. When using Zigbee, IoT devices gain a lot more potential.
What Devices are Available?
Zigbee lets you use different manufacturers within one network. With more devices now available to act as a controller, you need fewer hubs. For example, the Amazon Echo Plus can find and add Zigbee devices on your network automatically. A Zigbee USB dongle is another alternative if you want to use a home computer as a hub.
If you want a Zigbee smart home, here are suggestions to get started.
For home security, install a Yale Assure SL Lock Touchscreen. It works with compatible alarm systems, and you can work it using your smartphone.
Add color and mood to your home with the Sengled Element dimmable smart bulbs. They support 16 million colors.
Get the peace of mind for your family with the Midea Smoke Alarm Sensor. And if you often worry you’ve left an appliance plugged in, try the Salus miniSmartPlug. It can track the energy used by your appliance and even senses temperature changes.
There are many more products available that are compatible with Zigbee.
Should I Use Zigbee or Z-Wave?
Zigbee uses 128-bit symmetric encryption, so your data is secure. That said, it operates on the common 2.4GHz frequency. A lot of other devices also use it, so you can end up with interference.
That’s one reason you might try Z-Wave instead. It uses a different spectrum which solves the interference problem. More companies are signed up to Z-Wave, and it has a better range.
Check out what devices are available for each protocol. See which one works with your chosen smart home hub.
No one yet knows which protocol will win so work with the technology that suits your home.
Over to you – which protocol do you use?