ZigBee Wireless Device Standard – Time To Throw Out Infrared Remotes?

That is what the ZigBee Alliance means to do. With a new worldwide specification for wireless communication for many devices, they will certainly fuel a number of replacements in the next few years.

The standard is said to be considered for adoption for many things, including mice, keyboards, set-top boxes, and anything that might currently work with an infrared connection, like television remotes, DVD players, and perhaps game console controllers.

The main reason for replacing the IR remotes is the fact that no longer will a direct line of sight be necessary for operation, so telling the children to “get their fat heads out of the way” will no longer be a phrase heard in many houses. The use of RF technology will also be greener we are told, with batteries being used up, or needing a charge, much less frequently. In some cases, fewer batteries will be used because of lowered requirements.

For those not completely aware of what ZigBee is, there is an explanation from Wikipedia that is very concise –

ZigBee is a specification for a suite of high level communication protocols using small, low-power digital radios based on the IEEE 802.15.4-2003 standard for Low-Rate Wireless Personal Area Networks (LR-WPANs), such as wireless light switches with lamps, electrical meters with in-home-displays, consumer electronics equipment via short-range radio. The technology defined by the ZigBee specification is intended to be simpler and less expensive than other WPANs, such as Bluetooth. ZigBee is targeted at radio-frequency (RF) applications that require a low data rate, long battery life, and secure networking.

only when one goes to the very bottom of the wiki is there an explanation of the origin of the name, which I was unaware of, though I had known about the ZigBee Alliance since about 2005, when there was lots of buzz about Personal Area Networks. ZigBee was to have ushered in that age, and with this ratification, it may now be finally on the way.

The name of the brand is originated with reference to the behaviour of honey bees after their return to the beehive.

The InformationWeek article that speaks of the new standard is certainly written as if there is no competition for the adoption by the greater market, but low-power Bluetooth was to have supplanted ZigBee a couple of years ago. I am not certain if low-power Bluetooth was able to meet the requirements of many needs, but part of the ZigBee specification is that components that are certified need to have a battery life of two years. With that kind of lifespan being a possibility, it is easy to imagine devices that will be lost before the first battery change.

Since that time there has been little discussion in print about either of them, and the use of Wi-Fi Direct was to have been the darling of the consumer electronics world by now, but nothing has been released thus far. It is speculated that new Wi-Fi Direct devices will see the light of day at the 2011 CES in January, but many devices will certainly be offered in ZigBee form as well, due to the lower energy requirements.

This time next year, many of us will no doubt have computers with their front facing USB ports filled with not only a Bluetooth dongle, but one for ZigBee components as well.