Posts Tagged ‘home networking’

Home networking with Zigbee

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

For the last few years, we’ve witnessed a great expansion of remote control devices in our day-to-day life. Five years ago, infrared (IR) remotes for the television were the only such devices in our homes. Now I quickly run out of fingers as I count the devices and appliances I can control remotely in my house. This number will only increase as more devices are controlled or monitored from a distance.

To interact with all these remotely controlled devices, we’ll need to put them under a single standardized control interface that can interconnect into a network, specifically a HAN or home-area network. One of the most promising HAN protocols is ZigBee, a software layer based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. This article will introduce you to ZigBee—how it works and how it may be more appropriate than simply accumulating more remotes.

Why so many remotes? Right now, the more remotely controlled devices we install in our homes, the more remotes we accumulate. Devices such as TVs, garage door openers, and light and fan controls predominantly support one-way, point-to-point control. They’re not interchangeable and they don’t support more than one device. Because most remotely controlled devices are proprietary and not standardized among manufacturers, even those remotes used for the same function (like turning on and off lights) are not interchangeable with similar remotes from different manufacturers. In other words, you’ll have as many separate remote control units as you have devices to control.

Some modern IR remotes enable you to control multiple devices by “learning” transmitting codes. But because the range for IR control is limited by line of sight, they’re used predominantly for home entertainment control.

A HAN can solve both problems because it doesn’t need line-of-sight communication and because a single remote (or other type of control unit) can command many devices.