Various home automation products are available in the market that can control different aspects of your home, including lighting and heating, through your smartphone. With the rise in popularity of voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri, it is now possible to connect devices from different manufacturers, thanks to wireless standards like Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Thread.
These standards enable instructions to be sent simultaneously to multiple devices, allowing a compatible smart home hub to communicate with all your devices. Unlike Wi-Fi, these smart home standards consume significantly less power, enabling many smart home devices to run on batteries that can last for months or even years without needing to be replaced or recharged.
What Is Zigbee?
Zigbee is a wireless networking standard maintained and updated by the non-profit organization Zigbee Alliance, founded in 2002. This standard is supported by over 400 tech firms, including major players like Amazon, Apple, Google, Belkin, Huawei, Ikea, Intel, Qualcomm, and Signify.
Zigbee has a broadcasting range of approximately 82 to 109 yards / 75 to 100 meters indoors and up to 328 yards / 300 meters in the open air. This makes it easy to provide strong and stable coverage in large homes.
The name Zigbee comes from the waggle dance that honeybees use to communicate by moving. Although the connection may seem tenuous, the idea is that Zigbee devices share messages like bees do without dancing, which would be impractical.
How Does Zigbee Work?
Zigbee is a wireless communication standard that allows smart home devices to communicate with each other directly without the need for a central control hub like a Wi-Fi router. This means that devices from different manufacturers can communicate with each other as long as they support Zigbee.
The network operates as a mesh, with each device acting as a node that can receive and transmit data to other devices on the web. This ensures that commands can be relayed to every device on the network, even if one fails.
However, some Zigbee devices can’t forward commands, and battery-powered devices generally don’t act as repeaters. This is where a Zigbee-enabled hub comes in, as it can ensure that orders are relayed to all the devices on the network.
Some Zigbee products come with their hub, but third-party hubs like Amazon Echo or Samsung SmartThings can also connect Zigbee-enabled devices.
This can be more cost-effective and reduce the number of devices in your home. Unlike Wi-Fi, Zigbee signals can cover a large area and are less likely to be blocked by thick walls.
Is Zigbee Better Than Wi-Fi And Z-Wave?
Zigbee utilizes the 802.15.4 personal-area network standard by IEEE and works on frequencies of 2.4GHz, 90MHz, and 868MHz. Its data transfer rate is 250kB/s, which is slower than Wi-Fi. However, since only small amounts of data are transmitted, the slower speed of Zigbee does not affect its performance.
Zigbee has a limit to the number of devices or nodes connected to its network, which is 65,000 nodes. This limitation should not pose a problem for most smart homes, except those with an exceptionally large number of devices. Z-Wave can only support up to 232 devices per hub, making Zigbee a better option for large smart homes.
Z-Wave can transmit data over a longer distance, up to 100 feet, compared to Zigbee’s 30 to 60 feet range. However, Z-Wave’s data transfer speed is slower, ranging between 10 and 100 kilobits per second, while Zigbee’s speed is between 40 and 250kbps.
On the other hand, Wi-Fi is much faster than Zigbee and Z-Wave, with data transfer rates measured in megabits per second and a range of approximately 150 to 300 feet, depending on obstacles.
Which Smart Home Products Have Zigbee?
Zigbee is not as widely used as Wi-Fi but still in many products. The Zigbee Alliance has over 400 members from 35 countries and has certified over 2,500 Zigbee products, with over 300 million produced.
In most cases, Zigbee is a technology that operates in the background of your smart home and is not easily noticeable. For instance, a Philips Hue smart lighting system controlled by a Hue Bridge uses Zigbee wireless technology, but the user may not be aware of it. This is one of the advantages of standards like Zigbee, as they do not require any configuration by the user, unlike Wi-Fi.