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Zigbee protocol

ZigBee is a communication protocol widely used in home automation. It connects LEDs and many other products in the Smart Home from different manufacturers. We explain what advantages the ZigBee standard offers you.

Explanation zigbee

Dim the light, change the color or call up light scenes at the touch of a button. This and more is one of the advantages of wireless lighting systems for the Smart Home.

ZigBee is a versatile, energy-efficient wireless home networking protocol designed for smart buildings and smart home solutions. It is designed for the transfer of small amounts of data with minimal energy consumption and is used by several major manufacturers. Like the competing radio protocols Z-Wave and Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth Low Energy), ZigBee is well suited for building custom Smart home systems, sensor networks and medical applications. Because of its easy installation, ZigBee is the right wireless standard for users who want to spend little time with the technology.

The ZigBee protocol was developed by the ZigBee Alliance as a leading organization. Among the best-known manufacturers that support ZigBee are Philips, General Electric, Innr/Ledvance (Osram/Lightify), Huawei, Somfy, Amazon, Ikea, Honeywell, Busch-Jaeger, Jung, Gira, Bosch, Samsung, Kärcher, Siemens, Telekom, Velux and ZTE.

What benefits does ZigBee offer?

ZigBee Funkschema

ZigBee devices, in this example lamps, communicate with each other wirelessly.

The application possibilities of ZigBee are endless. Using the standard, intelligent home automation systems can switch appliances on and off and control them, dim lights, automate motorized shutters and blinds and realize many comfort applications. ZigBee is also used for sensor measurements, control systems and in the medical sector.

ZigBee devices communicate with each other wirelessly. This makes it easy to equip any building with a ZigBee system. Since no wiring is required, the system is equally suitable for new construction and renovation of flats and houses. If you move, you can simply take your ZigBee components with you, which makes devices that transmit according to the ZigBee standard also recommended for tenants.

Due to its energy-saving working method and small data packets, the ZigBee standard is very suitable for the transmission of sensor data for battery-operated or battery-powered sensors, such as motion detectors or smoke detectors, and for battery-operated wireless control elements, such as hand-held transmitters. Due to the low energy consumption, a battery lasts a long time. Some sensors or signal transmitters work for years without having to replace the battery.

Another advantage of ZigBee control is that the technology enables devices such as lamps to network independently with each other (mesh network). Due to the communication between the sensors, switches or lamps, a ZigBee network can also extend over greater distances. You can therefore also use ZigBee in large rooms, flats and houses with obstacles such as reinforced concrete walls, partitions and glass surfaces.

How does the ZigBee system work?

The ZigBee protocol governs how devices on the network communicate with each other and transmit signals. The standard connects networked products over short distances. The radio signal is broadcast in the license-free ISM bands at 868 MHz, 915 MHz and 2.4 GHz.

As with WiFi and Bluetooth, the transmission range is between 10 and 20 meters, depending on the transmission power and the architectural environment - under ideal conditions, theoretically up to 100 meters is possible. The maximum achievable data transfer rate is 250 kilobits per second (kBit/s). This is considerably lower than the 802.11 WiFi standards for the transfer of multimedia data at high data rates, but is completely sufficient for control tasks in the Smart Home and for the transfer of status messages. You can use ZigBee for all types of living spaces, homes and commercial properties. There is usually no interference with other electronic devices. Computers, Wi-Fi, alarm systems and cordless telephones are usually not disturbed.

What can the mesh network do with ZigBee?

ZigBee devices can connect and communicate with each other in a star structure, a tree structure and through a peer-to-peer construction (mesh network scheme). Mesh transmission guarantees high reliability and efficiency because each ZigBee device is both a receiver and a transmitter, thus acting as a repeater for the neighboring devices. The parts are not only in contact with the one central point, but also with each other. In this way, each lamp sometimes even extends the range beyond the boundaries of the WiFi, for example to adjacent floors, distant rooms, the terrace or the garden. Even large flats and houses can be fully controlled thanks to the mesh function if you install at least one ZigBee product in every room.

The mesh function also prevents connection gaps and ensures high reliability: if the signal path is interrupted by a switched off or failed device, an alternative route is simply used via the other devices to bring the data signal to its destination.

How is ZigBee controlled?

Devices that transmit according to the ZigBee standard use a wireless central unit (bridge, gateway) as a base station, communication center and Smart Home central unit. This hub can be viewed here and included in our webshop . The gateway is connected to a free socket and connected to the router via a network cable or WiFi. You can then set up the system as a controller on your smartphone, tablet or PC via an app, configure it and operate it as you wish.

Additional devices and accessories can be added at any time via the app. The app shows you the status of the connected devices and lamps and offers automation options. You can include light scenes or recurring sequences in scenes and activate them with a fingertip. Time-controlled light control or activation when a sensor is activated is also possible. Remote control from outside the local network is common. In this way, your ZigBee products can also be operated when you are on the road, for example to switch the light on and off.

How is the ZigBee protocol built?

ZigBee is an open smart home standard and is based on the wireless data specification IEEE 802.15.4. The ZigBee protocol stack consists of several layers. The physical layer (bit transmission layer) with the basic functions for sending and receiving forms the basis. Above that are the Medium Access Control Layer (MAC, media access layer for setting up logical channels), the Network Layer (NLF, network layer) and the Application Layer (APL, application layer). The application layer is customizable. Manufacturers can thus realize their own additions to ZigBee. As a result, there is not one ZigBee standard, but a multitude of profiles. The profiles contain specifications for specific applications. The most popular are the lighting control profile ZigBee Light Link and ZigBee Home Automation for the control of smart devices in small buildings. Other profiles include ZigBee Building Automation, ZigBee Health Care and ZigBee Retail Services.

The individual adjustments in the application layer and the differences in the profiles do not always make it easy for users to combine ZigBee products from different manufacturers. This works in individual cases or very comfortably via small detours, such as the Alexa voice control in Amazon Echo Plus as a smart home center with ZigBee support. ZigBee devices can also be connected to devices from other brands via Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant (Google Home).

What innovations does ZigBee 3.0 bring?

With the introduction of ZigBee 3.0, you as a user benefit from a uniform standard for all devices in buildings with a network. The ZigBee Alliance has brought many different profiles under one roof in ZigBee 3.0 for cross-manufacturer interoperability. In detail, these are Light Link, Home Automation, Building Automation, Retail Services, Health Care, Telecommunications Services and Green Power.

Thanks to this standardization, you as a user no longer have to pay attention to the profiles when purchasing new devices for your home automation system: sensors and actuators certified according to ZigBee 3.0 understand each other. This means that the LED luminaires from one manufacturer can be registered with the radio control unit from another supplier and vice versa. This works, for example, with the Hue Bridge, which supports ZigBee 3.0. ZigBee 3.0 thus allows for a mix of different brands and expands your choice. Only specific additional features that some manufacturers integrate into their products beyond the scope of ZigBee 3.0 will remain available exclusively with those brands.

Big plus: ZigBee 3.0 is backward compatible. So you can register other devices with the previous profiles to a wireless control unit with ZigBee 3.0. In short, ZigBee 3.0 makes wireless home networks future-proof, more convenient, simpler and more versatile.

How secure is ZigBee?

The data transfer between the app as a controller on your smartphone or tablet, the gateway (bridge) and the smart ZigBee devices such as lamps is encrypted. According to the ZigBee specification, the encryption uses the AES-CCM algorithm with 128 bits and is therefore protected against eavesdropping. In the past, security researchers under laboratory conditions have identified security flaws due to limitations in the ZigBee implementation. Many manufacturers have responded with software updates to their products to mitigate the effects. If you mainly use ZigBee for lighting control in your building, the risks remain limited.


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