There was a point when Smart Homes meant nothing but a long-standing promise that was made around 30 years ago. But today, Smart Homes stand as our reality. With the increasing popularity of Smart Home, Zigbee emerged as an outstanding protocol for establishing wireless communication among smart home devices.
The main reason behind Zigbee’s popularity is its lower power consumption, which allows us to make our home smart and secure with a minimum expenditure of energy. Moving further, we have elaborated that, Why Zigbee is an integral element of our smart homes.
Before moving on…
Let’s know more about the much-talked Smart Home now. A smart home refers to an automated home that allows devices to communicate with one another. It also allows homeowner to manipulate these devices by using the dashboard on his smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Even in the last few years, Smart Home was limited only to a bunch of hobbyists and early innovators.
The potential for mass-market home automation was recognized a long time back. And eventually many large network operators and service providers came up to launch the new era of Smart Home applications. The subscribers can avail of the services with the help of a set-top box or gateway via the web. This will help them embed their households into state-of-the-art machines that can be remotely controlled by mobile apps.
How is a Smart Home built?
Smart Home is not built overnight, it is built step by step in its corresponding phase. Nowadays, operators and service providers offer a wide range of supplementary Smart Home applications apart from the usual television, phone, entertainment, and internet services. The customers can choose any of the pre-existing plans or can pick from the applications that are tailored considering their specific requirements.
The requirements of all the homeowners are not uniform. A homeowner’s requirement to make his home smartly will vary greatly from households with infants or senior citizens.
Smart Home applications can detect and manipulate “things at home”, such as :
- Temperature control: Changing the setting of the thermostat automatically according to the time of the day.
- Baby-cry monitor: This is a boon for households with infants.
- Security: Smart door locks to ensure there are no intruders or trespassers.
- Alarm Systems: Fire and person sensors along with surveillance cameras
- Energy Management: Lighting control measures or power saver mode.
- Health and Status monitoring: For elderly people, smart devices can detect the vitals such as heart rate, pulse, temperature.
All smart devices need to communicate with each other to create an interoperable system. By utilizing efficient network protocols such as Zigbee, Smart Homes are becoming the present day’s reality. Smart homes rely on the symbiosis of mobile applications for allowing homeowners to monitor and control smart devices remotely. This improves energy efficiency, security, home monitoring, access control, and home care.
What is the need for Industry Standards?
Let’s talk about our own residence, most of our home electronic devices, sensors and appliances are placed on distant isolated sections, disconnected from the internet and unable to communicate with other devices of our home. This is a major challenge for Smart Home adoption. The only prerequisite for Smart Home applications is to make all the devices wireless so that they are easy to install and come with low maintenance costs.
The open communication standards have contributed the most to the popularity of wireless residential applications. Open communication standards such as Zigbee offer OEMs, the liberty to pick from a huge bucket of diverse suppliers. Along with this, Zigbee permits devices from different vendors to interoperate among themselves. This is the most significant paramount in the industrial achievement of integrated Smart Home applications, as this increases customer retention even if customers try to assort products from different manufactures in a single network.
Smart Home applications from any operator can work under the same open Zigbee communication standard, due to the high interoperability offered by Zigbee. Using Zigbee you can create something known as “Really Smart Home” as it not driven by human intervention. It is possible as the various sensor applications and smart devices they control are integrated and their decision making & reception capabilities are synchronized.
The “Really Smart Home” integrates all applications and their intelligence in a unified application layer. So that, the same motion sensor can be used for performing multiple tasks. For instance, in the security system to trigger an alarm, or in the light control and HVAC system that switches off the lights and for manipulating the thermostat reading when nobody is present in a room.
Zigbee vs WiFi – Which is better for your smart home?
Currently, the most asked question in this industry is, “Which networking protocol is the most suited for managing smart home?”. The answer to the question, Zigbee vs WiFi is not distinctly evident, as both have their own pros and cons when it comes to managing smart home.
WiFi technology is based on IEEE 802.11, LAN protocol. The prime motive behind the development of Wi-Fi was to optimize the distribution of web content through your home. From usually browsing the internet to high-quality media downloads by providing high-speed data rate (100 Mb/s and beyond). WiFi connected devices are usually driven by the main power supply of your home and the energy consumption is merely as a secondary criterion.
Zigbee technology is based on IEEE 802.15.4, LAN protocol. Zigbee is complementary to WiFi. Its aim is to sense as well as control networks and to provide a longer battery life. Smart home devices can have a battery of around ten years if they are Zigbee enabled. This reduces the maintenance costs and allows sensors to be installed behind the drywall or under the furniture.
Zigbee devices have an average battery life of a few years; whereas Wi-Fi has an average battery life of a few months or weeks.
To sum up about the comparison of Zigbee vs WiFi for smart home, Zigbee is a compatible version of WiFi with a similar indoor range but higher battery life and low power consumption.
Ranging from Smart Homes to the Internet of Things
With the ingress of Zigbee, there was an unusual hike in the development curve of the Internet of Things. The technical audience or the end-nodes currently are nothing but the global population using PCs, laptops, and smartphones. However, this set is getting expanded swiftly as a high number of devices at homes are not being driven by the internet. The primitive purpose of the internet was to connect people across the globe, but now it aims at connecting things or devices remotely.
These Smart Home devices are referred to as (“sentrollers”) and are usually created by combining sensors, controllers, and actuators. For instance, an automated thermostat senses the temperature, if it is lower than the threshold value, it controls the temperature by manipulating the reading to an optimum value.
It literally “sentrols” the smart devices, via its communication with a higher layer control system that is further connected to other control systems, that is a system for detecting the time of the day or season. The smart home era has pushed the use of sentrollers from Smart Home to Smart grids and various other applications in the logistical, industrial and agricultural sectors respectively.
WiFi is a true milestone for initiating the use of the internet in households. Analogously Zigbee invoked the beginning of the IoT, ranging from family units to business security. It also marked the beginning of technical evolution in networking protocols.
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