ZigBee Ready to Buzz?

The curiously named "ZigBee" specification could finally be on the verge of buzzing into wireless devices after almost a two-year wait for ratification.

So far, the low-power wireless data technology has more closely resembled a sleeping dormouse than a stinging new specification designed for remote control and home networking applications (see ZigBee, the Wireless Dormouse).

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) last year finished work on standardizing the physical layer and media access controller for ZigBee -- otherwise known as 802.15.4 -- but the ZigBee Alliance is still working on the software stack and upper layers.

“Ratification should happen in the next two to three months,” assures Chris Lopez, analyst at ABI Research. “Definitely by the end of the year.”

ZigBee-enabled devices will be able to transfer data at a few hundred bits per second at a range of around 15 meters to 20 meters. Like Bluetooth and 802.11b, the technology uses a 2.4GHz radio.

Lopez expects ZigBee to be an initial hit with the industrial sector, with home networking buyers following “about a year later.” The analyst predicts approximately 1 million shipments of ZigBee devices in 2005, rocketing to over 80 million units worldwide by the end of 2006.

Recent member additions to the ZigBee Alliance help strengthen ABI’s bullish forecasts. Total membership now stands at more than 70 companies, including the likes of Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), and original backer Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. (see ZigBee Alliance Adds Members).

But why the long wait? According to Lopez, companies in the alliance “wanted to make sure it is absolutely foolproof. If it doesn’t work right out of the box, buyers will reject it.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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