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ZigMe

Hey there, happy reader…

This Bitstream installment is a result of the ZigBee® Alliance’s announced development of the ZigBee Green Power feature set to establish global, standards for self–powered devices operating through energy harvesting techniques. Think symbioses: a close association, usually a mutually beneficial relationship, between two dissimilar organisms. That about sez it all for me when it comes to Zigbee–enabled sensors and whatever the heck it is their sniffing.

OK, let’s back up a moment and look at Zigbee and why it’s kewel. In brief, Zigbee is a suite of PAN or personal area network communication protocols that use UWB or ultra–wideband radio frequency for their physical layer. In other words, wireless communication. Now, Zigbee was designed from the getgo to provide a low bandwidth channel. With low bandwidth comes low power so Zigbee radios are very efficient at moving data short distances at what we moderns consider a glacial pace. But, that’s cool cuz not every wireless transport has to stream HD video plus eight channels of bombastic audio. No sir, many application require a leisurely back and forth between network nodes and ZigBee’s good at that. Did I mention ZigBee rigs are small?

Laird Technologies' ZB2430 ZigBee module

Laird Technologies’ ZB2430 ZigBee module

 

The above Laird module is a typical example: it draws 95 mAmps at 3.3 Volts. It has a range of 160 meters with its integrated antenna and, with an external antenna, a range of 1.6 km. It provides a blistering serial data rate of up to 115 bits per second and, when sleeping only consumes 7.6 uA. It fully supports ZigBee mesh network architecture for complete ad hoc networking right out of the box.

To go along with the self–powered thing, the ZigBee Green Power feature set includes:

  • Readily available standardized radios
  • Global, not parochial, frequency allocation
  • Interference robustness for difficult environments
  • Easy, reliable mesh networking
  • Security baked right in
  • Assured interoperability via independent certification
  • Open standards discourage vendor lock–in and insure family longevity

In March of this year, I blogged about a new ZigBee standard for CE (consumer electronics) remotes. Great, a standardized way of communicating is good so CE manufacturers can build an ecosystem of interoperable appliances and remotes without reinventing the wheel. Now, consider the recent announcement of  standardizing self–powered ZigBee devices. Mash up those two techs and whaddah ya get? Why, a self–powered remote! Imagine a universal remote, something like what you may already own, that controls your stack of entertainment boxes in the living room or den…I love the concept of a human den, that so 50’s mancave ideal, strewn with bones cast off from recent poultry and pork pigouts, beer cans and wine bottles littering a landscape dotted with discarded clothes, castoff cell phones and near–sentient hairballs…but I digress. Back to that entertainment stack; imagine a remote that needs no batteries, ever. With a combination of photovoltaics and kinetic energy harvesting, the meager requirements of a remote could easily be satisfied.

OK, now think newspapers…remember those? Disposable, laminar cellulose or polymer sheets carrying something that passed for news? Well, those puppies are printed on giant, many ton presses that require a small army of “pressmen” to keep them well oiled and trumming along. A big machine that would benefit from wireless sensors, connected into a mesh network that feeds their data to a control console so the presswoman knows that the left bearing on inlet feed roller 3 is starting, ever so slightly, to go cycloidal. Humm, time to schedule maintenance on that bearing. The point is, there are many examples of machines that would benefit from instrumentation but the cost or logistics preclude that option. Trains, cranes, heck even aeroplanes are candidates. Since a self–powered ZigBee–enabled sensor can derive its power from kinetic energy or a wide range of radiation, from infrared to microwave, there’s no need for batteries. With few or no moving parts, maintenance is a breeze and, in the unlikely event of a failure, oh well, write it off and grab another one.

From smart buildings to personal medical expert systems to smart agriculture, this ZigBee Green Power thing will add a new and very important element to complex systems that incorporate a deeper understanding of their world into their overall function…All for now. Until next, geek on!

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2 Responses to “ZigMe”

  1. OMas here…This just in:

    “The ZigBee® Alliance, a global ecosystem of companies creating wireless solutions for use in energy management, commercial and consumer applications, today announced the certification of 17 devices from 10 manufacturers using ZigBee Home Automation, plus enhancements to the public application profile.”

    For more, check out:

    http://www.zigbee.org/Markets/ZigBeeHomeAutomation/ZigBeeHomeAutomationOverview/tabid/457/Default.aspx

  2. “Great, thanks a lot for posting this post.Thanks a lot Again. Really Cool.”