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What is ZigBee?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 16, 2024
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ZigBee is the set of specs built around the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless protocol. The IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering technology involving electronics and electronic devices. The 802 group is the section of the IEEE involved in network operations and technologies, including mid-sized networks and local networks. Group 15 deals specifically with wireless networking technologies, and includes the now ubiquitous 802.15.1 working group, which is also known as Bluetooth®. The standard itself is regulated by a group known as the ZigBee Alliance, with over 150 members worldwide.

While Bluetooth® focuses on connectivity between large packet user devices, such as laptops, phones, and major peripherals, ZigBee is designed to provide highly efficient connectivity between small packet devices. As a result of its simplified operations, which are one to two full orders of magnitude less complex than a comparable Bluetooth® device, pricing for these devices is extremely competitive, with full nodes available for a fraction of the cost of a Bluetooth® node. They are also actively limited to a through-rate of 250 Kbps, compared to the much larger pipeline of 1 Mbps for Bluetooth®, and operates on the 2.4 GHz ISM band, which is available throughout most of the world.

ZigBee has been developed to meet the growing demand for capable wireless networking between numerous low-power devices. In industry, it is being used for next generation automated manufacturing, with small transmitters in every device on the floor, allowing for communication between devices to a central computer. This new level of communication permits finely-tuned remote monitoring and manipulation. In the consumer market, the technology is being explored for everything from linking low-power household devices such as smoke alarms to a central housing control unit, to centralized light controls.

The specified maximum range of operation for ZigBee devices is 250 feet (76 m), substantially further than that used by Bluetooth® capable devices. Security concerns raised over "sniping" devices remotely, however, may prove to hold true for both technologies.

Due to its low power output, ZigBee devices can sustain themselves on a small battery for many months, or even years, making them ideal for install-and-forget purposes, such as most small household systems. Predictions of its installation for the future, most based on the explosive use of this technology in automated household tasks in China, look to a time when upwards of 60 devices may be found in an average American home, all communicating with one another freely and regulating common tasks seamlessly.

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Discussion Comments
By anon349552 — On Sep 27, 2013

How is zigbee used for color detection for the blind?

By anon278054 — On Jul 03, 2012

Is there a zigbee in the Philippines?

By anon246844 — On Feb 11, 2012

What is the cost of a zigbee module for smart meters?

By anon238109 — On Jan 02, 2012

I am trying to control my wireless motor monitor by using zigbee. How can I do this? Please explain.

By ash10 — On Jul 19, 2011

how can I set up a zigbee network for my project on a cyber physical system. Please reply soon.

By anon150360 — On Feb 07, 2011

what is the band width of zigbee?

By anon148977 — On Feb 03, 2011

i want know about the working of zigbee transmitter and receiver.

By anon139656 — On Jan 05, 2011

what is the range of zigbee? is it just 75m or can we extend its range further?

By anon135510 — On Dec 19, 2010

What is the basic concept of zigbee? previously has anybody given a seminar report on this topic and where can we find it?

By Brighten — On Nov 01, 2010

How can i define ZIGBEE in simple terms?

By anon114317 — On Sep 28, 2010

i would like to know the internal architecture of zigbee

By anon114315 — On Sep 28, 2010

What is the basic concept of a zigbee transmitter and receiver?

By anon110198 — On Sep 11, 2010

We are using zigbee for flood and traffic detector so which model of zigbee will be better.

By jennernj — On Aug 09, 2010

how is voice communication over zigbee possible?

By anon89223 — On Jun 09, 2010

Please let me know the principle behind zigbee's working.

By anon86439 — On May 25, 2010

is it possible in zigbee to communicate multipoint nodes?

By anon85353 — On May 20, 2010

Zigbee is all about theft of intellectual property pertaining to my 'Wise guy idea' for two-way wireless monitoring and control with sleep function, handheld interrogator programmer unit and wireless panic button. One radio controlled main unit manager coordinating a number of remote radio slave units.

The Inventor, Alvin Borthwick (Perth, Western Australia)

By anon70369 — On Mar 13, 2010

i would like to know the internal architecture of zigbee.

By sunitha — On Mar 05, 2010

Can anyone send me a word document of the basic principle behind zigbee module's working?

By anon68192 — On Mar 01, 2010

any one can give me the data sheet for zigbee?

Thanks a lot.

By anon62977 — On Jan 29, 2010

Zigbee won't support Audio well. RF throughput is 250kbps, but the actual data throughput is much less, 64kbps is more like it. Plus that's only one way, for bidirectional audio you'd need to cut that in half. Also, every hop the packet has to take through the mesh will increase the latency. Use bluetooth for audio, that's what it's for.

By anon59899 — On Jan 10, 2010

currently i am in my fourth year of electronic engineering and i am working on my project. i was looking at rf tx and rx to build a pet tracker. by use of rf i want to be able to find the location of the pet by measuring the power leve of the rf but i am not sure which item will be better. i would really appreciated if you can direct me in the right direction.

By anon59255 — On Jan 07, 2010

we chose a main project called jewelery management using RFID technology and we have one small doubt that can we do that same project using zigBee technology. please suggest the answer as soon as possible. it's very urgent.

By anon54038 — On Nov 26, 2009

I am doing a project on the zigbee module using fpga. Can rs232 be uses for interface or any other devices or modules available for interfacing?

By anon45801 — On Sep 20, 2009

i want to design an ECG recording and monitoring system using ZigBee. would this be a simple process? thank you.

By anon43197 — On Aug 26, 2009

what initial study is required to start zigbee?

By anon39935 — On Aug 05, 2009

we are doing a project on vehicle authentication based on a transmitter and receiver ckt.

Can we use a zigbee based circuit to set up a communication link here? please help.

By anon27230 — On Feb 25, 2009


The answer is *yes*. For an intercom you most probably need much less than the 250 kbps Zigbee offers, probably like 64 kbps. And if you really wish to make it spectrally efficient you could compress the signal with a Vocoder to use about 6 kbps!

anon19998: How can you say that ZigBee does not have enough bandwidth?

By anon25919 — On Feb 05, 2009

May i know precisely as what is zigbee all about???

I'm a bit confused about the topic..

By dinesh — On Nov 20, 2008

i am interested in doing research work for my phd in the area of zigbee. how to support mtself that zigbee is better solution to go for when compared to the other technologies.

By anon19998 — On Oct 23, 2008

Ethan: Zigbee does not have the bandwidth to support live wireless audio.

Anon: Control4 is the only company I know of selling lighting control like you requested. However, it may not support 220VAC as it is focused on US homes.

By anon19299 — On Oct 09, 2008

Can some one point me to a wall mounting dimmers or light switchers using the zigbee standard but operating on a 220VAC power? I want to build a home automation system and control multiple zigbee devices from a dedicated computer, and i plan to do the programming by myself

By ethan — On Mar 31, 2008

We are making a project on wireless intercom. can zigbee be used for Wireless Audio transfer?

By freaklabs — On Mar 15, 2008

In regards to dmcgrew's questions, you don't need to have the controllers at the breaker panels. What you do need is something like a solid-state-relay connected to a Zigbee or other home automation device which can be remotely controller. A solid state relay will allow you to toggle the 120VAC power on and off by sending a signal to the relay. Once you have these in place, you can then plug the device into the relay, and the relay into the wall socket. Then you can use Zigbee, X10, or whatever to control it.

By dmcgrew — On Jan 28, 2008

I have multiple appliances powered by 120 vac. I wish to automate these devices, separately and for different amounts of time. Can I do this with this system? If so, is it best to centralize the controllers at the breaker panel, or have each controller at each appliance?

It seems that the Zigbee should be able to do this.

Would this be a simple process?

Thank you,


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