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Low-cost radio network has a buzz about it

01 November, 2002

Low-cost radio network has a buzz about it

More than 25 companies, including Mitsubishi, Invensys, Motorola, Eaton, Intel and Philips, have joined forces to develop a low-cost, low-power, two-way wireless communications technology called ZigBee. They are designing modules to be embedded in devices such as industrial controls, consumer electronics and PC peripherals. The first commercial versions are expected to emerge by mid-2003 with a target price of around $2 each.

A ZigBee network will be able to support up to 254 nodes and will broadcast data at 10-115.2 kb/s over a range of up to 75m. A key attraction will be the modules` low power consumption - they will be able to operate for several months on a standard battery. In Europe, they will operate in the 868MHz unlicensed radio band, in the Americas on 915MHz, and elsewhere on 2.4GHz.

ZigBee`s data rates are lower than those of alternative technologies such as Bluetooth, but the technology is aimed at lower-cost, less demanding applications, especially where long battery life would be an advantage.

The ZigBee protocol, based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, is being developed by a non-profit alliance. It derives its name from the zigzag dance that bees perform when they retuurn to the hive to inform each other of sources of food.

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