Zigbee Research - Mesh Networking Standard

Zigbee networking came up as a fairly serious discussion topic and I spent some time with Google. Here is where I document what I learned so I can find it again.

Zigbee is a mesh network standard that operates over IEEE 802.15.4 networking hardware. The software protocol is called Zigbee and it is administered by the Zigbee Alliance (link is to the products page). There are plenty of announced gateways and products out there. I wonder how many are real?

There is a reasonable explanation of the 802.15.4  spec here. At least it looks reasonable to a Zigbee novice like me.

Product Design and Development has a sort of round table on 802.15.4. A comment by Robin Heydon caught my eye:

The technology best suited for consumer products is either Bluetooth low energy, or a combination of Bluetooth with a higher speed radio for transferring large files. Unlike 802.15.4, Bluetooth only needs to be on when it is sending or receiving. During down time the radio is switched off to save power. Bluetooth low energy is designed for products such as watches, sports devices and products that do not need to send large amount of data.

Zigbee comes in various forms including chipset radios that cost about $5 each, near as I can tell. Texas Instruments makes some of these products. Others do as well. Here is a chipset level comparison chart. Zigbee/802.15.4 Chip Comparison Guide.

Trilliant appears to be focused on selling to utilities: Trilliant passes 1 million.

Tendril is the company that got us started thinking about Zigbee.

Tendril explained by Tendril. 

Zigbee is an "open standard", but it costs $3500 per year to get the specs. However, there is an in progress truly open source effort that you can read about at freaklabs open source zigbee blog. I think this may be the mother lode for learning about Zigbee. See the Featured Zigbee Articles.

Engaget has a Zigbee tag. Some of these look pretty interesting:

Nokia launching Z-Wave Home Control Center next year

Philips SJM3151 universal remote mirrors your iPod screen

"Tweet-a-watt - our entry for the Core77 & Greener Gadgets design competition" is a Kill-a-Watt(TM) power meter modified to "tweet" (publish wirelessly) the daily KWH consumed to the user's Twitter account (Cumulative Killowatt-hours).

And here are the instructions. There are several links inside. Pretty much anything you need to know is there.


We had a conversation with  Hayden Williamson of Digi International, mostly about their X2 ($200), X4 ($400 or $500 depending on options), and X10(?) gateway devices. These are programmable in Python and have about 1 mB of unused memory. It has an Arm processor.

An alternative to Zigbee is GainSpan's lower power WiFi: http://www.gainspan.com/ GainSpan is claim 3 years on one AA battery (versus Tendril's 2 AA).

Another alternative is X10:

And here is a fancy home power meter based on X10 and an IOBridge IO-204 Monitor & Control Module.


I just found a XBee Wiki 


27. February 2009 11:08 by Kal | Comments (0) | Permalink

Monterey Bay Shores Green Development

Monterey Bay Shores Website

Off highway one north of Monterey.


10. February 2009 08:55 by Kal | Comments (0) | Permalink

Google Power Monitoring Initiative

Imagine how hard it would be to stick to a budget in a store with no prices. Well, that's pretty much how we buy electricity today. Your utility company sends you a bill at the end of the month with very few details. Most people don't know how much electricity their appliances use, where in the house they are wasting electricity, or how much the bill might go up during different seasons. But in a world where everyone had a detailed understanding of their home energy use, we could find all sorts of ways to save energy and lower electricity bills. In fact, studies show that access to home energy information results in savings between 5-15% on monthly electricity bills. It may not sound like much, but if half of America's households cut their energy demand by 10 percent, it would be the equivalent of taking eight million cars off the road.

And now for the new part

But deploying smart meters alone isn't enough. This needs to be coupled with a strategy to provide customers with easy access to energy information. That's why we believe that open protocols and standards should serve as the cornerstone of smart grid projects, to spur innovation, drive competition, and bring more information to consumers as the smart grid evolves. We believe that detailed data on your personal energy use belongs to you, and should be available in an open standard, non-proprietary format. You should control who gets to see your data, and you should be free to choose from a wide range of services to help you understand it and benefit from it. For more details on our policy suggestions, check out the comments we filed yesterday with the California Public Utility Commission.

In addition to policy advocacy, we're building consumer tools, too. Over the last several months, our engineers have developed a software tool called Google PowerMeter, which will show consumers their home energy information almost in real time, right on their computer. Google PowerMeter is not yet available to the public since we're testing it out with Googlers first. But we're building partnerships with utilities and independent device manufacturers to gradually roll this out in pilot programs. Once we've had a chance to kick the tires, we'll make the tool more widely available.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to providing consumers with detailed energy information. And it will take the combined efforts of federal and state governments, utilities, device manufacturers, and software engineers to empower consumers to use electricity more wisely by giving them access to energy information.

The bold is mine. There will be a place for rMeter in this environment.

10. February 2009 08:10 by Kal | Comments (0) | Permalink


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