ZigBee is the name of a specification for a suite of high level communication protocols using small, low-power digital radios. The technology is intended to be simpler and cheaper than other WPANs such as Bluetooth. The most capable ZigBee node type is said to require only about 10% of the software of a typical Bluetooth or Wireless Internet node. The estimated cost of the radio for a ZigBee node is about $1.10 to the manufacturer in very high volumes. Most ZigBee solutions require an additional microcontroller driving the price further up at this time.
ZigBee is the newest and provides specifications for devices that have low data rates, consume very low power and are thus characterized by long battery life. Other standards like Bluetooth and IrDA address high data rate applications such as voice, video and LAN communications.
The target networks encompass a wide range of devices with low data rates in the Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) radio bands, with building-automation controls like intruder/fire alarms, thermostats and remote (wireless) switches, video/audio remote controls likely to be the most popular applications. So far sensor and control devices have been marketed as proprietary items for want of a standard. With acceptance and implementation of ZigBee, interoperability will be enabled in multi-purpose, self- organizing mesh networks.
When you hold the TV remote and wish to use it you have to necessarily point your control at the device. This one-way, line-of-sight, short-range communication uses infrared (IR) sensors to enable communication and control and it is possible to operate the TV remotely only with its control unit. Add other home theatre modules, an air- conditioner and remotely enabled fans and lights to your room, and you become a juggler who has to handle not only these remotes, but also more numbers that will accompany other home appliances you are likely to use. Some remotes do serve to control more than one device after „memorizing' access codes, but this interoperability is restricted to LOS, that too only for a set of related equipment, like the different units of a home entertainment system.
Now picture a home with entertainment units, security systems including fire alarm, smoke detector and burglar alarm, air-conditioners and kitchen appliances all within whispering distance from each other and imagine a single unit that talks with all the devices, no longer depending on line-of-sight, and traffic no longer being one-way. This means that the devices and the control unit would all need a common standard to enable intelligible communication. ZigBee is such a standard for embedded application software.