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ZigBee Pro, the New Home Automation Standard? 170

An anonymous reader writes "Echelon, Microsoft, Intel, Sun and the Electronic Industries Alliance have been trying to create a home automation standard for two decades — to no avail. Now the ZigBee Alliance, proprietor of a low-rate two-way wireless mesh networking technology, says it will prevail. In six weeks, automation vendor Control4, which has about one million ZigBee nodes installed, will flip the switch on the new ZigBee Pro, which promises interoperability among light switches, thermostats, door locks, motorized shades, security systems, remote controls and some 36 million electric meters."
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ZigBee Pro, the New Home Automation Standard?

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  • by senorpoco ( 1396603 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @02:58PM (#28086381)
    I love the idea of home automation, then I realize that my light switch isn't that far away.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 )
      But 36 million electrical meters? What Geek could resist?
      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        36 million electrical meters

        Electrical meters are physical meters times velocity of propagation, right?

        So, whats the conversion factor for electrical meters to imperial?

    • I love the idea of home automation, then I realize that my light switch isn't that far away.

      Good thing you're not in a wheelchair.

    • by Eil ( 82413 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:55PM (#28087535) Homepage Journal

      I love the idea of home automation, then I realize that my light switch isn't that far away.

      I'm sure you were going for +5 Funny, but somehow you wound up at Insightful instead.

      To enlighten the mods a little: home automation is less about having to leave your couch to turn off the light than it is about giving your house the ability to control itself according to parameters that you specify.

      These days, anyone can write a program that runs on their computer. Only a few of us so far can run a program that runs on our house.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Muad'Dave ( 255648 )
        I agree. The reason I'm interested in home automation (specifically ZigBee in every device) is the ability to do things like:
        * Turn on the lights that shine on the driveway from my bedroom (or any other room) if a car drives up in the middle of the night
        * Use far less copper wiring - imagine being able to wire all of your lights, fans, etc directly to the power source without having to first run to a wall switch.
    • Most people's light switches are further than the TV, and they'd be outraged to have to turn the tv on/off without a remote... I think remote control of lights and other home functions is a natural evolution that we will see become more and more commonplace. Possibly managed by a computer, but more likely interfaced through a dedicated remote-control device. (These already exist of course, just will probably become more of a standard thing.)

      • by Mr. Freeman ( 933986 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @07:20PM (#28088819)
        It's not remote control that's the biggest issue. It's automation.
        It isn't important that I can control my lights from my desk rather than walking over to the switch. The important thing is the ability for your house to realize that you just went to work in your car and you therefore don't need your lights on, the air conditioner doesn't need to keep the house as cool, the TV should be off, the computer monitor should be off, etc.
      • by jsiren ( 886858 )

        Most people's light switches are further than the TV, and they'd be outraged to have to turn the tv on/off without a remote...

        The real issue is when the remote is more remote than the light switch, which is very often the case.

    • by mcvos ( 645701 )

      I love the idea of home automation, then I realize that my light switch isn't that far away.

      A girl I know has a web interface to open her front door.

  • by toppavak ( 943659 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:01PM (#28086413)

    light switches, thermostats, door locks, motorized shades, security systems, remote controls and some 36 million electric meters.

    But I'd really prefer if my locks remain off any kind of network and have my security system talk over good old-fashioned copper.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PinkPanther ( 42194 )
      How *is* your lawn doing this year?


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anpheus ( 908711 )

      Copper, meet bump key. Oh, hello there interior of toppavak's home.

      Locked doors only keep out undetermined attackers. Imagine if your lock could text/page/call/tweet you when it was busted open though. Now, even a determined attacker can be quickly stopped. Short of an armed guard, you can't prevent a determined attacker while you're away. But a determined and unskilled attacker could be stopped.

      • Oh wait what if the attacker knew you had a text/page/call/tweet and disabled that before breaking down the door.

        THEN you would think your house is being protected, even though it is being robbed blind!

    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:29PM (#28087295) Journal

      But I'd really prefer if my locks remain off any kind of network and have my security system talk over good old-fashioned copper.

      Then I learned about lock-picking and bump keys.
      Here : []
      I'll use encryption on my doors the day it becomes cheap enough (and I become an owner). Anyway, all the burglars I have heard of do not use lock-picking but rather brute force...

      • by mcvos ( 645701 )

        Anyway, all the burglars I have heard of do not use lock-picking but rather brute force...

        Exactly. Skill is nice, but often unnecessary.

        It's mostly hackers that care about picking mechanical locks without causing damage.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by drizek ( 1481461 )

      Every security system can be compromised. You only prefer copper because you know more about hacking than you know about lock picking.

    • I prefer my security system to use wireless communication and backed up with lead [] notification system.

  • by McGregorMortis ( 536146 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:01PM (#28086417)

    I've been hearing about ZigBee and Z-Wave for years. But if you look at what's out there available to you, it's crap. Poor selection, limited capability, and a high price.

    Meanwhile, Smarthome and their INSTEON protocol have a broad selection of very powerful and flexible components, available today at a good price. For a DIY home-automation job, there's no contest.

    Personally, I think INSTEON will become the de-facto standard that takes over from X-10. The others are just not competitive in the ways that matter.

    I sound like a shill, I know. Sorry. I just like Smarthome stuff. But I wish they wouldn't embarrass me by hawking pseudo-science crap like electromagnetic water softeners.

    • Too expensive (Score:5, Informative)

      by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:21PM (#28086647) Homepage

      I like the idea of home control, lights that turn on and off, and I've been doing it with X10 for about 20 years. But I realize it has problems, poor reliability, requires neutral in the switch box for most installations, switches and outlets that actually stop functioning after 2 years, limited availability, poor selection of switch types and colors, and extremely high prices.

      So Insteon comes out and solves the first problem, and nothing else. Hey, dig that light switch for $45 plus shipping! ( A standard switch costs all of $1.

      And ZigBee doesn't even have interoperability on it's side? And I'm guessing we're not going to see remote switches for $1. I'd even settle for $5-10. I'm guessing the switches will cost $70. It's like they aim at the high-end of the market to get a little traction, then settle comfortably into selling $45 light switches.

      It's been many years, and I guess the market isn't there, because everything we have now is overpriced and underperforming.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BikeHelmet ( 1437881 )

        Zigbee is the most popular wireless module for DIY products/projects like the Arduino [].

        Current prices on sparkfun are $30 for an Arduino, and $25 for a wireless module. If the individual prices are that low, imagine how much markup companies like Insteon have? They're probably selling a $10 lightswitch for $45 plus shipping.

        But Arduinos are great because you can reprogram them easily, on a whim, and they're powerful enough to control whatever the hell you want.

        Oh, and a question (since I'm not actually into

        • "... does a light dimmer use something like a potentiometer?"

          A light dimmer uses a Triac [], a semiconductor device that can be turned on at some point during one half-cycle of alternating current. If it is turned on late, the light is dim. If it is turned on earlier, the light is brighter. When the alternating current [] passes through zero voltage, the device turns itself off.

          A Triac is a kind of Thyristor [].
        • They used to use variable resistors, yes. Not anymore though.
      • I'd certainly love the switches to be cheaper, but lets be realistic. My house is worth (in this oh-so-wonderful housing market) $170,000. To automate all switches, computer control, whole house music, all that good stuff, would be about $5000 using a mixture of Insteon, X10, and IR. That's 3% of the house, spread over as many years as needed. That assumes I'd do all the work, of course, but this stuff is so easy you'd be crazy not to.

        So for 3% of the value of my house, not even caring about any added value

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I'm a hobbyist who has been looking at using ZigBee for remote server control. Basically a wireless keyboard/serial console/power switch for doing stuff like entering pre-boot passwords or resetting a frozen machine.

        In that sort of application, the high cost might just be justifiable, but only if it scales and if it can be made secure. The latter is a real stumbling block, since ZigBee has not got any kind of security built in. You basically have to write your own encryption and ID verification on top of it

      • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

        This is the problem.

        I saw this article, and my first thought was "What's the per-node cost going to be?"

        Pretty much the only reasonably priced system out there is X-10, and for many of the reasons you describe, X-10 kind of sucks.

        Everyone wants to go with RF-based wireless systems, but X-10 established that powerline automation was feasible, and with just a few improvements to the comm protocol (error correction, improved modulation) it could become MUCH more reliable, and with minor improvements to the pro

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dfghjk ( 711126 )

      It's easy to think this way until you've actually purchased INSTEON products, then you'll beg for just about anything else. I'm in the process of replacing my INSTEON crap right now.

      • Yeah, from what I've heard, it has had its problems. Mechanical reliability problems with SwitchLinc switches, which I gather have been resolved. Firmware problems with some components, which I gather have been resolved.

        And it's apparently quite difficult to configure complicated switching arrangements. But I figure an computer scientist/electrical engineer should be able to figure it out.

        I admit, I've never actually bought any INSTEON yet, only X-10. But I looked at the other technologies, and just cou

    • by rindeee ( 530084 )

      I must agree. I was a serious X-10 junkie for years. INSTEON has already displaced X-10 amongst the nerdier of users (really, were there many non-nerds using X-10 anyway). It's reliable, easy, and dare I say nearly ubiquitous (amongst most serious hobbyists) even at this early stage. ZigBee??? Sorry, I gave at the office.

  • by PotatoFiend ( 1330299 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:09PM (#28086503)
    Take off every 'ZIGBEE'!!
  • ...ZigBee? Who the hell came up with that name?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by carlzum ( 832868 )
      The same people that revolutionized hair care [] of course. Just imagine the "product synergy." You're on a business trip and your child needs a hair cut. A few mouse clicks later, his hair looks great and there's a warm PopTart waiting for him in kitchen.
    • According to Wikipedia it was just a random name that wasn't encumbered. However, it also happens to be a spoonerism for "Big Zee" which is one nickname for Zaphod Beeblebrox in the Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. Coincidence?
  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi AT evcircuits DOT com> on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:16PM (#28086581) Homepage

    The main problem with advanced home automation is the cost, inoperability between brands (which works into the cost since you have to buy everything from the same company) and basic problems with those networks. They mostly work in the 2.4GHz band (where the average microwave oven and just about any wireless device operates) which causes random issues with connectivity and synchronization. And then they have the most awful interfaces to program it. They mostly work in Windows and crash at random are difficult to decipher and if you're lucky enough to get a web interface you're stuck with ActiveX controls. And then if you want to make it work with other things, there is no scripting language for it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward


      • by drmofe ( 523606 )
        There you go, dragging ISO and ANSI standards (amongst others) into a perfectly good Vendor-only standards discussion.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The mains power lines are the only ones most people have in every room of their house. It's a shame power line networking also is so expensive and also somewhat unreliable.

      What surprises me is that more wireless devices do not use the 5GHz band, like 802.11a wifi does. It's relatively uncluttered and range is generally fine within normal size houses.

      What really needs to happen is governments agree on a new open band, but require all devices using it to use some common protocol which allows them to interoper

      • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

        Actually, all of the cheapest home automation devices are powerline-based (especially X10).

        Pretty much all of the RF-based systems are far more expensive than powerline.

        It's sad that X10 didn't do an "X10 Version 2" or something that added improved modulation and ECC to their system. Improve the reliability of X10 and add some address bits (both relatively cheap things to do) and it would be an amazing system.

  • by Old97 ( 1341297 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:25PM (#28086691)
    Does it run on Linux?
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      ZigBee isn't a protocol like Bluetooth, it's just a physical layer. The data you transmit and the protocol you use is down to you to decide. In that sense, it is compatible with Linux.

  • lack of vision. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by simp ( 25997 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:35PM (#28086789)

    As someone who earns his money in industrial automation it amazes me how limited these home automation firms think. They want me to buy multiple sensors each with only one I/O point on them??? They want me to buy plastic toy-like stuff that breaks if you push the contact a few thousand times? And then there is the matter of future-proofing: in 5 years time nobody will be able to read the sensors anymore that you bought because "everybody" is on the new standard. What about spare parts for existing stuff, are they expecting me to rewire the house each time they come up with a new platform? Not a chance.

    Then there is software: Windows XP, maybe with .net, was a valid choice for building the interface when the company designed it a few years ago but I expect my light switch to last at least 25 years.

    These days you can run an oil refinery with a touch of a button and keep it running for 20 years with available spare parts. And you can get data in & out of that system in any format you want. Show me the same on a scaled down version for my home and I'll start installing it...

    • by Skapare ( 16644 )

      So you want industrial grade products for your home? How many millions of dollars did you plan to spend?

      • Re:lack of vision. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by simp ( 25997 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @06:00PM (#28088121)

        Not industrial grade, a bit scaled down for home use. But it has to last much longer than an average personal computer. I expect my fridge to last 15 years, the water boiler at least 20, the wall sockets and wiring in the house will probably last 50 years.

        Right now 99% of all home automation equipment are gadgets. Yes they do work for the first 1 or 2 years, but after that? Who knows...

        And then you are stuck with a not-quite working semi-autonomous robot house that will make bad decisions based on wrong sensor inputs. And there are enough bad Hollywood movies on that subject already.

        • "And then you are stuck with a not-quite working semi-autonomous robot house that will make bad decisions based on wrong sensor inputs. And there are enough bad Hollywood movies on that subject already."

          In a world where the lights don't turn off when they should... When everything you thought you knew about your house is wrong...
      • Re:lack of vision. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Mr. Freeman ( 933986 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @07:35PM (#28088933)
        There a difference between industrial grade products rated for high criticality applications and products that aren't shit.

        We're aiming for somewhere in the middle.
      • by egburr ( 141740 )

        Industrial versions already exist. This doesn't have to be quite that heavy-duty, but a step up from doll-house level would be nice.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The problem in the home environment is that most people don't want to install extra cable everywhere, because it means taking the plaster off their walls and then fixing it up again. In an industrial environment data cables are either put in when building it or are relatively easy to add thanks to accessible trunking and no requirement to look nice.

  • Gee, I wonder who cuts paychecks for the "anonymous reader"?

    Standards aren't really standards at all if they're simply rammed down the throats of consumers by a dominant entity, whether that entity is Microsoft or ZigBee.

  • Who'd think a signals intelligence analysis network can help in home automation? Pretty revolutionary thinking. It didn't occur to me.

  • by horza ( 87255 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:48PM (#28086911) Homepage

    I've invested in relays and dimmers from National Control Devices [] and have run Cat 5e all over my apartment, even into my light switches and where I expect to put sensors in the future. It's hard-wired, hence secure and safe from interference, and speaks via simple ASCII to a serial port which available on nearly any embedded controller. The great thing about serial is that you can add a dirt cheap serial-usb or serial-ethernet interface.

    I'm not really interested in a proprietary interface like Zigbee. What is needed is a HA API. That way you can write a driver for all the proprietary protocols such as this, as well as things like ProXR, Dallas 1-wire, DMX, and many more.

    Some ideas for a back-end to the API can be taken from the aging Perl app Mister House []. What would then be a REALLY nice addition is a MythTV module front-end so you can control the whole house via your television.


  • by RichardtheSmith ( 157470 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:55PM (#28086979)

    The nice thing about X-10 is that the protocol is simple and there are lots of devices that work with it, most of which are relatively inexpensive. It's also friendly to the home hobbyist, and the hacker, since you can buy interfaces that will hook up to your PC via a serial port and write your own scripts, or download free software like Misterhouse.

    If I can't turn my outside lights on at sunset via a script, then turn that script into a cron job, don't even talk to me about it. I'll write the interface myself, just give me a clean API I can code to.

    We hate it when Microsoft or Apple take the attitude of "No, we won't open up our API and play nice with the open source crowd. At best we will make you join our developer program and sign an NDA. At worst we won't talk to you at all."

    When the home automation vendors do it, they're no better. They don't deserve our respect or our help.

    • Mod Parent up. I've done X10 for years and yea, while it has issues such as reliability, it's dirt simple and cheap. Plus it's fairly easy to interface via serial & USB devices and script stuff.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      I'm not sure what the article is talking about, but Zigbee is a wireless mesh networking protocol built on an 802.15 standard. You can buy the transceivers from most electronics suppliers. If the home automation units adhere to the standard you should definitely be able to control the things from a computer, or even make your own modules. I expect they DON'T make it easy to do that, but Zigbee itself is a published standard.

      • This web site is interesting... []

        A quick look tells me that this is not hobbyist friendly at all. You have to buy a Raven USB stick, but there is no API support, you have to roll your own code to make sense of the 802.15.4 protocol stream before you can even begin to work on the level of devices or events.

        Like I said, tell me how to turn my outside lights on at sunset in the Zigbee world. How to I address devices and send commands to them? How do I get status back. X-10 has a fl

        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          ATMEL's chipset is for the more experienced hardware hacker, yes, but they're fairly inexpensive. The Raven kit can be a little pricy, but it's only about 1/3 the usual price of an evaluation kit.

          At the other end, the XBee modules are pretty much as simple as embedded networking can be.

          If the Zigbee home automation stuff truly sticks to the standards (which it won't) then it should be fairly easy to roll your own hardware, and trivial for the software. The Raven boards can even be configured as 802.15.4 s

  • Not "new" (Score:4, Informative)

    by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @03:57PM (#28086991) Homepage Journal
    Zigbee pro is not new. They may have a newer version but it has been around for years. The main issue with any zigbee chip is its high current draw. You need at least 55mA for receiving data and if you run a mesh network, you cannot use power saving built into the chip. Older chips are not compatible with newer versions even thought they are labeled the same, and there are numerous unexplained problems with them. Unless you are running from the mains and hence don't need to conserve power, give them a miss. Plus they run at 2.4GHz, so you get interference issues. They also don't use a standard pin pitch so you have to make a breakout board or spend extra for SIL sockets (x2). Been there, done that. Sure, if you have unlimited budget you can play with them, but they are not as good as they like to make out. Plus in the EU you are limited to 10dB output, when the pro versions are capable of 100dB.

    The chips are known as XBee, the protocol is zigbee. They promise long battery life - probably true if you run off a car battery ! Try running them off AAs or PP3. You need at least 2500MaH to last a few days if they are set up to listen for data. And that includes power saving produced by hacks. Transmit I can make last for 1.5 months, if it is intermittent (ie, on an alarm condition), but the receive always has to be ready, hence the high power requirement.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      XBee is a particular type of Zigbee (the networking protocol) capable radio. The radio spec itself is 802.15.4 and there are lots of other versions other than XBee, including an interesting chipset from Atmel... better known for their hobbyist microcontrollers.

  • I interviewed there. Interesting was very disorganized though.
  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:04PM (#28087065)

    which promises interoperability among light switches, thermostats, door locks, motorized shades, security systems, remote controls and some 36 million electric meters.

    Add personal vibrators (you know what I mean) to the list and we'll have a winner...

  • Home automation, and especially security, is not something I would want to put on radio waves. That makes it way too open to a denial of service attack. The electrical parts needed to build a device to trash the 2.4 GHz band are readily available (e.g. no security checks to buy a microwave oven) so a person competent in electronics could easily build something that can jam 2.4 GHz.

    I do have a home LAN on 2.4 GHz for convenience. But I've also tested most of it directly connected in case that is needed.


    • Home automation, and especially security, is not something I would want to put on radio waves. That makes it way too open to a denial of service attack.

      I think you overestimate the abilities of your average burglar. I'm certain what you're describing is possible and attainable with only the knowledge and a few days work. For the average burglar though this is way beyond his abilities. If he can really do what you're describing, why is he ripping off what probably amounts to few hundred dollars of random

  • The trouble with home automation is that it is far easier to find a light switch in a dark room, than to find the fscking remote control...
  • >ZigBee Pro, which promises interoperability among light switches, thermostats, door locks, motorized shades, security systems, remote controls and some 36 million electric meters

    Now how could that *possibly* go wrong :o)

  • The Terminator: The Zigbee Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line July 8, 2009. Human decisions are removed from strategic lighting operations. Zigbee begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

  • IAAZP (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:55PM (#28087539)

    I Am A Zigbee Programmer.

    Some of the points being raised are a bit.. underinformed.

    Interoperability: the Zigbee Cluster Library includes standard APIs for many kinds of devices, including lightswitches, HVAC, home security, etc. Devices that are certified to conform to the specification are fully interoperable. The Zigbee APIs are publicly available at

    Battery life: battery powered devices may last for several years if they "sleep" between transmissions. Their "parent" node in the network stores messages destined for the sleeping node. These so-called "sleepy" nodes cannot route for other nodes though, so if you have a physically large network, you'll probably want some non-sleepy devices in there running on building power. This is one of the most important features of Zigbee, and in spite of some of the other commenters here, this is actually real.

    Price: this is the key reason why Zigbee will succeed: it is cheaper to retrofit a building with Zigbee devices than to knock out walls and run new wires. It's far more expensive than installing tradition switches in a new building, but that's not the a "use case." My company's clients are all looking at retrofitting HVAC systems on existing buildings and are finding some decent cost savings.

    Interference: Zigbee does use the 2.4 GHz band as a lot of other devices, but there are various mechanisms (link-level acks and retries, and some other things I don't understand) built into Zigbee to mitigate this. In our tests, interference has not been an issue. Metal objects such as doors and filing cabinets have been a much bigger problem in our tests.

    - Dave

  • I just bought a Harmony One remote control, and after tinkering quite a bit I'm about 99% happy with it and have it set to control the TV, TiVo, Reciever, even the PS3 (using an RF attachment).

    My next step, since I'm replacing the lighting and fan in my living room anyway, is to program the Harmony to control the lighting and fan, too.

    I suppose any RF switch will work, but does anyone have any recommendations?

    And, is there an add-on that will bring Mountain Dew to me from my fridge?

  • Home automation has been a buzzword for years but in as mentioned elsewhere in this thread it has never really taken off. Cost, reliability, lack of standards all all good reasons but I think the bottom line is that no-one really needs their home turning lights on and off for security or convenience purposes.

    Where I do see some validity is the case where automatic control is used to actually reduce home electrical usage. Imagine your home being able to be put into an sleep or power-down mode using one but

  • as i recently tried to use Zigbee Pro in a development project and ended up throwing it away in favor of a custom 900mhz star network, let me say this... ZigBee is poorly designed for almost any application. its a 250k/bit link that at most can pass data at 20kbit, the rest is eaten up in the overhead of the mesh, theres also no support at the protocol level for transmitting information larger than 1 packet, which, if your using encryption, is 70 bytes. Zigbee should stay where it was originally designed
  • ZigBee requires me to place a bunch of 2.4GHz transmitters in and around my house. Isn't that the frequency that my microwave oven, wireless phone, and 802.11g access point use? What about interference problems?
    • Crikey yes. Last time I did a 2.4gHz WiFi scan there were 18 other nets in range. I became so disgusted that I moved my wireless net to 5GHz N. My phone is in the 800MHz band.

      The only thing I operate now in the 2.4GHz band anymore is my microwave. And that is broadcast only.

  • Why ZigBee will win. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MikeMulligan ( 946677 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @06:49PM (#28088555)
    (Disclosure/Insight: My company, MMB Research [], makes ZigBee Smart Energy hardware and software to help people integrate this kind of technology into products, and I've been involved with ZigBee for a number of years.)

    A lot of commenters here seem to be comparing the various features of competing home automation technologies, which is certainly appropriate, but you also have to look at the bigger, future picture.

    ZigBee - and specifically the ZigBee Smart Energy profile is becoming the standard of choice for in-home networks that will exist on the Smart Grid.

    So it's one thing to compare ZigBee to Z-wave or X10 on a merits basis (though I believe it's far superior based on years of real-world experience), but when you consider your utility is going to put a ZigBee Smart Energy enabled meter/gateway in your house, and that hundreds of OEMs are going to be integrating it into wide variety of appliances that can hop on that network, you're going to see drastic reductions in cost, and increases in choice and quality.

    In a few years, there might be a handful of WiFi or Z-Wave thermostats (or pool pumps, or light switches), but there will be dozens of ZigBee ones, because the installed user base will be there.

    Now, Control4 is talking about ZigBee Pro and the Home Automation profile, which isn't technically part of the Smart Energy profile, but they can coexist, and many developers of Smart Energy products/solutions - including ourselves - have implemented both, opening up the HAN (home area network) to a variety of devices and controls.
    • Your nice long post about how great ZigBee is left out a critical flaw with ZigBee - Cost. The per-node costs of every RF-based home automation system I've seen has been ridiculously high.

  • I found X10 devices failed all the time, and I've seen that mentioned here. But wasn't it the relays in them which failed, not the electronics? That means that any method of controlling a lightswitch would fail, unless you put a better switching mechanism in.

    Am I wrong about this?

    • You aren't making sense. Has your light switch failed in the last 5 years?

      If they used crap relays then they used crap relays. It doesn't matter what else they used. They should have used better relays.
  • home-control must distinguish between 3 levels of operation/control:

    1.) non-critical applications: TV, light, shades

    2.) critical application: pumps, heaters, etc...

    3.) security items: door openers, intrusion detection, fire detection, etc...

    for 1 IR control, maybe wireless possible, but not exclusively

    for 2 a constant sensor feedback/monitoring by the central control system is required, with auto-shutdown in case of failure. the power-lines should be the communication medium.

    for 3 only a wired system

  • by SgtChaireBourne ( 457691 ) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @06:18AM (#28092803) Homepage

    zigbee was fine in certain circumstances, but has largely been superceded by IPv6 over Low power WPAN aka 6lowpan [] Two major advantages of 6lowpan are that it is more or less regular Internet (TCP/IP) the other is that, as a result, more secure and almost infinitely more scalable.

    Additionally, zigbee is not a standard, 6lowpan is. That difference has important repercussions for long term planning of projects. The IETF has a good track record for standard maintenance. There are also GPL tools for 6lowpan devices [].

    6lowpan is more flexible []. Unlike zigbee, which is fine in some contexts, 6lowpan works with a variety of wired and wireless, low-power, low-bitrate transmissions.

    The Internet is where things happen nowadays. 6lowpan is part of that.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -- Thomas Alva Edison