This week in ZigBee: The low-power wireless standard gets a boost

ZigBee is one of several brand name specs for the 802.15.4 wireless personal area network standard that concentrates on simple, low data rate connections. In the roughly five years it has existed, it has found its place in home automation, smart metering and remotely controllable embedded systems.

Openness: As carbon waste reduction becomes a greater interest to the public, ZigBee has enjoyed improved adoption, and this week the ZigBee Alliance announced its latest spec will be even more diverse. The next draft will include Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards, which will add native IP support to ZigBee and in turn open the low-power wireless technology to new potential uses.

Laurent Giai-Miniet, general manager of the Low-Power RF division of Texas Instruments (one of the premier members of the alliance) said, "The ZigBee Alliance decision to expand its leading wireless networking standard to incorporate IP standards will solidify and accelerate developments and innovation of rapidly growing smart grid applications."

Power: Ember, maker of ZigBee systems, chips, and software, announced this week that its soon-to-be-released next generation of ZigBee semiconductors will be based on the 32-bit ARM Cortex M3 processor, instead of the aging 16-bit XAP-2 that its former System on a Chip solution utilized.

This improvement was fueled by a recent surge in venture capital which, when combined with previous investments from Chevron, STMicroelectronics, Hitachi and MIT, brought Ember to a total of $89 million in funding.

"ZigBee standards extend the developing 'smart grid' out to the billions of devices, appliances and equipment where most energy efficiency goals will be achieved," said Ember Chairman Bob Metcalfe earlier this month.

Accessibility: British ZigBee solutions vendor Vesternet today unveiled a dedicated ZigBee shop, where consumers can assemble a home automation and smart metering system that utilizes the wireless standard.

The store carries many prefabricated home metering solutions such as the Plogg smart meter, but it also has a good number of development kits and tools from companies such as Digi, Atmel, and Freescale.

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