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ZigBee is a low-cost, low-power, wireless mesh network standard targeted at wide development of long battery life devices in wireless control and monitoring applications. Zigbee devices have low latency, which further reduces average current. ZigBee chips are typically integrated with radios and with microcontrollers that have between 60-256 KB flash memory. ZigBee operates in the industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio bands: 2.4 GHz in most jurisdictions worldwide; 784 MHz in China, 868 MHz in Europe and 915 MHz in the USA and Australia. Data rates vary from 20 kbit/s (868 MHz band) to 250 kbit/s (2.4 GHz band).

The ZigBee network layer natively supports both star and tree networks, and generic Mesh networking. Every network must have one coordinator device, tasked with its creation, the control of its parameters and basic maintenance. Within star networks, the coordinator must be the central node. Both trees and meshes allow the use of ZigBee routers to extend communication at the network level.

ZigBee builds on the physical layer and media access control defined in IEEE standard 802.15.4 for low-rate WPANs. The specification includes four additional key components: network layer, application layer, ZigBee device objects (ZDOs) and manufacturer-defined application objects which allow for customization and favor total integration. ZDOs are responsible for a number of tasks, including keeping track of device roles, managing requests to join a network, as well as device discovery and security .

ZigBee is one of the global standards of communication protocol formulated by the relevant task force under the IEEE 802.15 working group. The fourth in the series, WPAN Low Rate/ZigBee is the newest and provides specifications for devices that have low data rates, consume very low power and are thus characterized by long battery life. Other standards like Bluetooth and IrDA address high data rate applications such as voice, video and LAN communications.

Use Cases

ZigBee protocols are intended for embedded applications requiring low data rates and low power consumption. The resulting network will use very small amounts of power — individual devices must have a battery life of at least two years to pass ZigBee certification.

Typical application areas include:

Home Entertainment and Control — Home automation such as in QIVICON, smart lighting, advanced temperature control, safety and security, movies and music
Wireless sensor networks — Starting with individual sensors like Telosb/Tmote and Iris from Memsic
Industrial control
Embedded sensing
Medical data collection
Smoke and intruder warning
Building automation