ZigBee and IEEE 802.15.4
ZigBee technology is a low data rate, low power consumption, low cost, wireless networking protocol targeted towards automation and remote control applications. IEEE 802.15.4 committee started working on a low data rate standard a short while later. Then the ZigBee Alliance and the IEEE decided to join forces and ZigBee is the commercial name for this technology.
ZigBee is expected to provide low cost and low power connectivity for equipment that needs battery life as long as several months to several years but does not require data transfer rates as high as those enabled by Bluetooth. In addition, ZigBee can be implemented in mesh networks larger than is possible with Bluetooth. ZigBee compliant wireless devices are expected to transmit 10-75 meters, depending on the RF environment and the power output consumption required for a given application, and will operate in the unlicensed RF worldwide(2.4GHz global, 915MHz Americas or 868 MHz Europe). The data rate is 250kbps at 2.4GHz, 40kbps at 915MHz and 20kbps at 868MHz.IEEE and ZigBee Alliance have been working closely to specify the entire protocol stack. IEEE
802.15.4 focuses on the specification of the lower two layers of the protocol(physical and data link layer). On the other hand, ZigBee Alliance aims to provide the upper layers of the protocol stack (from network to the application layer) for interoperable data networking, security services and a range of wireless home and building control solutions, provide interoperability compliance testing, marketing of the standard, advanced engineering for the evolution of the standard. This will assure consumers to buy products from different manufacturers with confidence that the products will work together.
IEEE 802.15.4 is now detailing the specification of PHY and MAC by offering building blocks for different types of networking known as ”star, mesh, and cluster tree”. Network routing schemes are designed to ensure power conservation, and low latency through guaranteed time slots. A unique feature of ZigBee network layer is communication redundancy eliminating ”single point of failure” in mesh networks. Key features of PHY include energy and link quality detection, clear channel assessment for improved coexistence with other wireless networks.
ZigBee vs. Bluetooth :
ZigBee looks rather like Bluetooth but is simpler, has a lower data rate and spends most of its time snoozing. This characteristic means that a node on a ZigBee network should be able to run for six months to two years on just two AA batteries. (HOW?) The operational range of ZigBee is 10-75m compared to 10m for Bluetooth(without a power amplifier).
ZigBee sits below Bluetooth in terms of data rate. The data rate of ZigBee is 250kbps at 2.4GHz, 40kbps at 915MHz and 20kbps at 868MHz whereas that of Bluetooth is 1Mbps.
ZigBee uses a basic master-slave configuration suited to static star networks of many infrequently used devices that talk via small data packets. It allows up to 254 nodes. Bluetooth’s protocol is more complex since it is geared towards handling voice, images and file transfers in ad hoc networks. Bluetooth devices can support scatternets of multiple smaller non-synchronized networks(piconets). It only allows up to 8 slave nodes in a basic master-slave piconet set-up.
When ZigBee node is powered down, it can wake up and get a packet in around 15 msec whereas a Bluetooth device would take around 3sec to wake up and respond.