SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Gary Audin
Gary Audin is the President of Delphi, Inc. He has more than 40 years of computer, communications and security...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Gary Audin | November 13, 2014 |

 
   

IoT Meets ZigBee

IoT Meets ZigBee What is going to happen as the proliferation of IoT devices, especially the endpoint population, goes well beyond what Wi-Fi can effectively support?

What is going to happen as the proliferation of IoT devices, especially the endpoint population, goes well beyond what Wi-Fi can effectively support?

In a previous blog, IoT Impact on Wireless, I wrote that wireless network designers have been focusing on the physical coverage area rather than on the number of wireless devices the network is supporting. But this needs to change with the Internet of Things trend driving designers to focus more on capacity and performance.

The support of hundreds of IoT endpoints will require a dense concentration of low-power, low-bandwidth devices. The IEEE 802.15.4 standard, also known as ZigBee, is a mature front runner.

What is ZigBee?
ZigBee is a specification for a group of communication protocols used to create personal area networks (PAN) that support low-power digital radios. ZigBee is based on an IEEE 802.15 standard that specifies transmission distances to 10 to 100 meters line-of-sight. The useful distance depends on power output and environmental characteristics.

portable


Who Defines What?
Only the lower two layers seen in the above graphic are defined by the IEEE standard, while the ZigBee Alliance embraces all four lower layers. The top layer, Application Profiles, can be defined by the ZigBee Alliance or a vendor producing a proprietary solution.

What is the ZigBee Alliance?
Established in 2002, the ZigBee Alliance is an open, non-profit association of members that has created a global ecosystem. Anyone can join, and membership is comprised of businesses, universities, and government agencies from around the world.

Members work together to develop standards that deliver greater freedom and flexibility for a smarter, more sustainable world. The ZigBee Alliance:

  • Provides low-power and open global wireless networking standards focused on monitoring, control, and sensor applications
  • Allows products to run on harvested energy or batteries for years with its low-power wireless standards
  • Connects many different types of devices into a single network
  • Offers a variety of intelligent features designed to ensure devices communicate in any environment anywhere in the world


Where ZigBee Fits
ZigBee offers a number of solutions for a range of applications including:

  • Building automation
  • Energy management
  • Home automation
  • Lighting control
  • Healthcare
  • Advanced remote controls
  • Retail/shopping services
  • Telecom services
The ZigBee Alliance produces a standards overview that covers the range of applications mentioned above.

ZigBee is often mentioned in two areas: building and home automation. I found that ZigBee has been applied to a manufacturing line, in store (retail) communications, and alarm systems. ZigBee is also in use with cable service remote controllers. The business applications will eventually expand beyond the home/consumer applications, so enterprise IT should acquaint themselves with ZigBee now in addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Comparing Wireless Choices
There are three common choices for connecting to wireless endpoints over short distances (generally considered 100 meters or less): Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Bluetooth. The choice for IoT has to be able to support many endpoints in a limited area. The data produced by IoT endpoints is modest, so the bandwidth required is also modest (kbps not mbps). The number of endpoints ZigBee can support is far greater than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Neither of these was designed for high-density, large endpoint populations.

portable


Comparing Wireless Solutions
Wi-Fi is best suited for desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones that require high data rates. Bluetooth was designed mainly to service on a desk connecting a wireless keyboard, mouse, printer, or headset. When the supported population and area coverage are both large, then ZigBee becomes the obvious solution.

A Different Endpoint Design
A major benefit to ZigBee is its design to reduce power consumption, which can thereby vastly extend battery life. Tobin Richardson, chairman and CEO of the ZigBee Alliance, made this comment to me at the IoT summit that took place at the end of October in Washington, D.C. He also pointed out that IoT endpoints will probably be installed to operate for 10 to 20 years.

Tobin also said IoT endpoints must be very reliable so that they require little or no maintenance. He foresees that the cost of maintaining IoT endpoints must be very low in order to be affordable. This means there should be very little labor expended for their support. The endpoints may only be visited every few years. This is significantly different than many IT endpoints today that may be obsoleted every one to three years.

Network Topologies
Another advantage of ZigBee is that endpoints can act as relay sites for other endpoints. Since ZigBee is designed for line-of-site transmission, not all endpoints will be capable of connecting to a ZigBee router that then connects to a remote system or cloud service. ZigBee network devices can be a:

  • PAN coordinator (central controller and access to remote networks, either cellular or wired)
  • Full-function endpoint (sensor and/or controller endpoint)
  • Reduced-function endpoint (simple endpoint)


portable
This graphic is from a presentation on ZigBee by Dusan Stevanovic.


IT or OT for IoT?
When researching the applications of ZigBee for IoT, it became apparent that IoT sensors and the data they collect is for business operations (OT), not IT. There are installations where the collected data is processed in a cloud service and the results are communicated to operations personnel.

When this is done, IT has no useful function other than to help OT with some technology decisions, but IT is not involved with the business decisions generated by IoT data. Further, when changes have to be made to the IoT control devices, the changes are an OT decision. So although IoT appears to be an IT responsibility, I predict that a number of IoT applications and endpoints will not be the responsibility of IT, but operated disconnected and independent from IT.

Do you agree with my prediction or do you foresee a different future? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.





COMMENTS




April 25, 2018

Yesterdays simple phone call to a contact center or business location is rapidly becoming todays interactive session, spanning multiple channels and devices. If you need to know how Omnichannel can

March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.