ZigBee technology has been created with IoT specific scenarios in mind. The main design requirements may be formulated loosely as: low latency, mid-range bandwidth (lower than cellular, yet higher than other IoT technologies), and the use of unlicensed industrial, scientific and medical radio frequency bands (ISM bands), which limits the spectrum load. Less data intensive scenarios, with low latency and coverage requirements that are within the capabilities of the ISM bands is why developers should consider ZigBee.
ZigBee is currently the leading technology for smart homes, especially due to the remote switching and lighting applications. The remote switching products available from IKEA stores are based on ZigBee’s Light Link protocol. Whilst this is not the only application, it is a good example of a readily available and widely adopted IoT use-case. The connectivity in ZigBee is built around gateways, like in other non-cellular technologies, which may have an increased deployment complexity compared to the cellular technologies.
One of the aspects that differentiates ZigBee from similar technologies, is the network protocol, ZigBee PRO. It has been created to address specific challenges, such as region specific implementations, inter-band communications, and more importantly, built-in security. This makes it a robust network protocol for the intended applications.
The ZigBee application layer and the ZigBee application architecture and cluster library allows for customization for the intended vendor and specific application. It is worth mentioning that ZigBee is quite an old technology, already more than ten years on the market. It has been deployed in the market place accordingly, and has only recently experienced serious competition from different technologies that threaten the position of ZigBee in the smart home sector.
It remains to be seen if ZigBee is able to adapt and continue with its current traction in a market where new technologies are being proposed. One must wait to see if the ZigBee specific components of the ZigBee stack can evolve and address new challenges, such as those that require subsequent iterations or revisits to the standard, while other technologies offer a higher degree of reutilization, giving an edge in flexibility.
ZigBee is, one of the few technologies that offers users a wide range of products that are already available and fully functional, and that is difficult to beat in the short-term.