“Certainly, interoperability is a key concern because embedded system must have easy-to-use and easy-to-connect devices that simply work together,” Maley says. “ZigBee 3.0 will allow a wider range of network communication appliance to seamlessly interoperate. ZigBee has always provided interoperability among the various network security domains (lighting, health care), but ZigBee 3.0 will permit a wider variety of devices to connect together, which should simplify the choice for product developers and consumers alike.
“The ZigBee Certified program can help by insuring interoperability between certified devices regardless of the manufacturer,” he adds.
With ZigBee 3.0, all of the traditional characteristics of ZigBee devices are maintained, such as the self-healing embedded Linux associated with mesh networks and power consumption several orders of magnitude less than Wi-Fi, as well as features such as Green Power that support battery-less energy harvesting devices. This last point on power is also a crucial one for the smart home, on the one hand because improved efficiency in one area shouldn’t come at the expense of inefficiency in another, and on the other hand the prospect of network security batteries for a house full of connected devices on a regular basis is simply a non starter in the embedded system.
Cost and the “killer app” of embedded Linux
As intriguing as application-level standardization is for the advancement of the smart home, architectures that make beneficial decisions based on behavior and efficiency being embraced by the broad market is a question of cost and consumer demand. As O’Donovan notes, “costs are important if you have to pay $1,500 for new lighting that will only save you $50 in energy costs. There has to be a compelling reason to buy into the smart home concept.”
On the heels of recent discussions in the network communication appliance related to regulating the standby power requirements for set-top boxes, Cees Links, Founder and CEO of leading ZigBee chipset and module vendor GreenPeak Technologies (www.greanpeak.com), believes an answer to both is on the horizon (Figure 5).