The smart home industry is one that’s rapidly on the rise, and it’s not going to die down anytime soon. A smart home means that your entire home is connected, from the simplest things such as your lighting system to complex systems, such as your home security devices and services. They all communicate with you, but even more important, they communicate with each other, and they know what all of them are doing at any given time.
This wasn’t always the case, though. At one point, we had systems that weren’t really communicating between themselves. They all used varying protocols for communication, which meant that you didn’t really have one system. Instead, you had multiple that worked independently from one another. This isn’t really where you want to be with home automation.
Well, at one point, smart home devices manufacturers realized that and started moving towards unifying those systems. In the current state, we have ecosystems such as Google Home and Amazon’s Echo devices, which act as hubs and allow different devices from different manufacturers to communicate with one another via those hubs. Many smart home devices are compatible with one or multiple types of hubs, which does allow them to communicate with each other to some extent.
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However, that’s still not where the smart home should be. The entire concept of a smart home is meant to have all devices talk to each other, and keep you informed. You should have a single network, a single protocol that’s going to handle all of this, but that’s not the case today. It will be, however, rather soon.
What is Zigbee?
Zigbee is the protocol we’ve been waiting for. It’s based on IEEE’s 802.15.4 personal area network standard, and as a specification, it’s been around for over a decade. It’s an excellent alternative to both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but it’s limited to devices that don’t need a lot of bandwidth and don’t consume a lot of power.
For example, you could have a Zigbee switch, and a Zigbee power outlet, but from different manufacturers. They don’t have to use the same software, but since they’re both using Zigbee for communication, they will communicate with each other, and you can use that switch to control the outlet.
Unlike other protocols, where there is a single high-powered device that sends data to another one over short ranges, Zigbee avoids point-to-point communication. It makes use of a mesh network instead, and that’s exactly why it’s perfect for applications such as the smart home, industrial offices, and firms with dedicated security monitoring systems.
At this point, you might be wondering what a mesh network is. It’s basically a network that wirelessly connects a large number of nodes. All of those nodes act like small transmitters, and they’re able to share that connection across a larger area. This is exactly why Zigbee makes use of a mesh network, because it boosts the data transmission range, and also offers a really stable experience.
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This stability is actually pretty important, and with a mesh network, there’s one great benefit. If a node fails to work, the entire network still continues to communicate as usual. You do have a master node in this scenario, and it should be able to communicate with all nodes. However, if one fails, it’s going to bounce the data via a third node that’s within range, and everything will work as expected.
It’s Going to Be Even More Important Soon
Since Zigbee is just perfect for the smart home, it was only a matter of time before someone took advantage of that and tried to make it a standard that all smart home devices will use. And it’s not just “someone,” but we’re talking about a massive alliance that has names such as Google, Apple, IKEA, Samsung, and a few other big names. And they’re all backed by the Zigbee Alliance, which does add a lot of weight to the project.
It will take a couple of years to incorporate everything, but once all is said and done, there will no longer be any disparity between devices and systems that use different types of communication. Just about any device in your home will be able to communicate with all other devices, which, as we mentioned, was the entire idea behind the smart home concept.
It’s worth noting that Zigbee is actually a pretty important standard as is, and you would be wise to start using them. As things progress, it’s going to become the gold standard for home automation and smart devices, and it’s going to make a massive difference in your home security, and the overall functionality of your smart home devices.