• United States
Senior Editor

ZigBee gets with it

Aug 25, 20042 mins

* A look at the IEEE 802.15.4, or ZigBee, specification

As a recent Network World article noted, wired sensor networks have been around for decades, with an array of gauges measuring temperature, fluid levels, humidity and other attributes on pipelines, pumps, generators and manufacturing lines.

Thing is, many of these networks have been sort of outside the mainstream – run as separate wired networks, sometimes linked to a computer but often to a control panel that flashes lights or sounds an alarm when a temperature rises too high or a machine vibrates too much.

One of the technologies designed to help make these networks more enterprise-palatable is IEEE 802.15.4 or ZigBee as it is known from the group driving its development, the ZigBee Alliance.

ZigBee is intended as a specification for low-powered networks for such uses as wireless monitoring and control of lights, security alarms, motion sensors, thermostats and smoke detectors.  802.15.4/ZigBee networks are slated to run in the unlicensed frequencies, including the 2.4-GHz band in the U.S.

802.15.4 is part of the 802.15 wireless personal-area network effort at the IEEE. It is a simple (28K byte) packet-based radio protocol aimed at very low-cost, battery-operated widgets and sensors (whose batteries last years, not hours) that can intercommunicate and send low-bandwidth data to a centralized device.

According to our Technology Update author ( the v.1.0 draft of the ZigBee specification is set for release in the fourth quarter and a number of platforms based on the standard are expected to be available around the same time.