Wireless home automation with ZigBee


Imagine stumbling into your kitchen first thing on a hectic weekday morning. Your kitchen recognizes your presence and awakens with you. Lights come on over the sink and microwave, but not the stove. The kitchen knows you don’t cook in the morning. The coffee maker kicks on. Your kitchen media center switches on your favorite local news-and-traffic radio station as stock prices and weather conditions stream across the bottom of the screen.

Home automation like this kitchen scenario starts with the ZigBee Home Automation public application profile. The profile allows for ZigBee-enabled digital devices and products inside the home, letting people enjoy a high tech lifestyle once depicted as futuristic in the pages of the popular science magazines. These products automate home life, offering greater comfort, convenience, security, and energy savings. ZigBee technology in the average consumer home — be it new or ready for remodel — delivers smart, wireless capabilities that use various control devices to perform a number of high tech functions with ease.

The ZigBee Alliance is a group comprised of more than 250 international technology companies working together to enable reliable, cost effective, low power, wirelessly networked, monitoring and control products based on an open global standard. Companies use ZigBee standards-based wireless platform optimized for the unique needs of remote monitoring and control applications because of its simplicity, reliability, low power consumption and low cost. Using ZigBee in products is made easy because the network, security and application software layers are already defined. This provides interoperability, backed up with conformance testing specifications to ensure products operate as promised.

A ZigBee Home Automation system is primarily focused on the real time control of devices. The home’s ZigBee network is normally quiet, but when a user presses a button on a device, communication across the network happens quickly to execute the user’s commands. This helps lower device power consumption and keeps radio frequencies clear. Installation scenarios range from a single room to an entire home up to 1,850 m2. Home Automation networks scale from two nodes, the minimum to form a network, to hundreds of nodes. The key applications supported include lighting, heating/cooling, window shades and security.  With two-thirds of residential energy consumption powers heating/cooling and lighting in homes, utilizing home automation can reduce energy usage in key areas. By using ZigBee Home Automation, consumers may reduce their energy consumption without sacrificing on comfort or spending excessive amount of time managing lighting and thermostat settings.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory released the results of a year-long study showing that households with digital tools controlling temperature and price preferences saved on average 10 percent on utility bills. The study also showed that if households have digital tools to control temperature and price preferences, peak loads on utility grids can be cut by up to 15 percent, translating into $70 billion dollars saved over a 20-year period on new power plants and infrastructure expenditures.

A number of companies are hard at work today preparing products using ZigBee Home Automation. Home Automation networks will be easily installed by home owners, or professional installers, without needing extensive training on ZigBee networks. Because of its standard approach, ZigBee Certified Products using Home Automation will be easily installed. When forming a new network, or scanning to join a network, Home Automation devices scan the radio frequency channels to find the best channel. This improves response times while devices join the ZigBee network, and on average, improves network bandwidth. Built with security in mind, Home Automation includes several security features that prevent unauthorized users or devices from accessing your network. Security is based on keys that can be updated or changed as needed.

The Home Automation profile contains commands to form and maintain the network, switch devices on and off, and collect devices into a group. The profile also supports storing multiple settings into a “scene.” The opening example of a typical morning in a kitchen is just one way that using scenes can make home life more comfortable, convenient and energy efficient. With ZigBee Home Automation, ZigBee certainly expects to create a new scene in home comfort, convenience, security, and energy savings.