December 2011

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Bob HeileEMAIL INTERVIEW - Bob Heile and Ken Sinclair

Bob Heile, Chairman ZigBee Alliance

Bob is a 20-plus year veteran in the field of data communications and wireless data with several articles and workshops to his credit. He is the Chairman and founding member of the ZigBee Alliance, and Chair and founding member of the IEEE 802.15 Working Group on WPANs, Co-Chair of IEEE P2030 Smart Gird Communications Task Force, and is a founding member of IEEE 802.11.

ZigBee Building Automation

ZigBee Building Automation allows building owners to utilize the newest wireless technologies available today while reducing overall costs and materials.

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Sinclair: To start, can you provide a brief overview of the ZigBee Alliance?

Heile:  We are a non-profit organization that has grown tremendously to become a global ecosystem of over 400 members. As our membership has grown, we now have representation from some of the world’s leading utilities, energy service providers, technology companies, and manufacturers of all types including major consumer electronics players. I believe they’re all here to develop innovative products and solutions based on ZigBee’s global standards for wireless sensor networks. 

One of the keys to our success has been our open standards development approach, taking input from a wide variety of stakeholders and experts at different organizations to ensure the standards that are produced for a particular application purpose are smart, relevant, and very green since ZigBee is a low-power wireless solution.

Sinclair:  What is the newest standard the ZigBee Alliance has completed?

Heile: We are very pleased with the completion of the ZigBee Building Automation standard, which we announced just this last September.  ZigBee Building Automation provides the commercial building industry with a global standard for interoperable products and enables secure and reliable monitoring and control of a variety of building systems. It’s also the only BACnet approved wireless mesh network standard for commercial buildings, letting buildings with BACnet expand their existing systems into new areas that were previously unreachable before.  For example, spaces with unique architecture elements such as atriums, high ceilings and even historical features can now be controlled wirelessly without the need to add very expensive wiring and without fear of damaging the unique and historical elements.

As many of your readers know, wireless solutions are very well suited for existing spaces because they eliminate the need to remove walls, floors or ceilings to access or install control products. With wireless, buildings can be upgraded without disrupting the people working in those areas.  This is critical when adding building automation systems s to labs, sensitive storage, health facilities and critical process areas. This is especially true when you look at other very sensitive environments such as museums, hospitals and data centers that require very specific and stable conditions.

Sinclair:  What are some of the advantages and benefits of the ZigBee Building Automation standard?

Heile: At the end of the day, it comes down to the Alliance helping our members create standards that serve their customers with smart solutions.  And what is great about ZigBee Building Automation is that it helps them by providing a proven standard to expand their product line and help their customers adapt for the challenges that lie ahead. Smart energy consumption is often discussed as a future issue, but it’s really a huge issue for everyone today. Owners, operators and tenants would definitely benefit from increased energy savings by using ZigBee Building Automation.  They’d also see what we believe what should be the lowest total cost of ownership and lifecycle costs with ZigBee Certified products built to the ZigBee Building Automation standard. 

For buildings with high tenant turnover rates, a ZigBee Building Automation network makes it easier, faster and cheaper for a space to be reconfigured to meet new tenant needs. Also the wireless controls and sensors can more easily support the needs of tenants for a variety of one-time events that can require temporary restricting for different purposes.  You normally see these events taking place at auditoriums, warehouses or conference and exhibition halls.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Sinclair:  How can the ZigBee Building Automation standard provide a sustainable solution?

Heile: ZigBee Building Automation allows building owners to utilize the newest wireless technologies available today while reducing overall costs and materials. It is amazing to think that for every 10 million wireless switches and sensors, it saves nearly 50,000 miles of cable, 3,000 tons of copper and 7,100 tons of PVC. At the end of the day, that amounts to a tremendous savings of environmental resources and money.

Another interesting point is that these are multiplied with each building that implements a ZigBee Building Automation system.  Plus, these savings can contribute toward satisfying LEED credits in the Sustainable Sites, Energy and Atmosphere, Indoor Environmental Quality categories.

Sinclair: Why choose ZigBee over other solutions for building automation?

Heile:  There are many reasons to choose ZigBee Building Automation. First, until ZigBee Building Automation was introduced, there was no wireless standard for building automation. Most of what’s out there today is proprietary which locks owners into using a single company solution. When ZigBee Building Automation products start hitting the market, they will have passed the Alliance’s ZigBee Certified product program that tests each product to ensure it meets the standard and operates as promised.

As I mentioned earlier, ZigBee Building Automation delivers low-energy consuming mesh networks that will meet the needs of just about any type of building. The standard enables existing building management systems with BACnet to expand to include wireless sensors and controls.

On the business side of equation, the main point of differentiation usually comes down to price.  Our open standards approach creates a competitive marketplace.  You’ll see products from a variety of manufacturers competing against one another. Plus, these products use shared ZigBee networking components that are already ZigBee Certified and very competitively priced for product manufacturers today.

Your readers might find it interesting to know that ZigBee Building Automation was developed by numerous leading building automation companies like Johnson Controls, Schneider Electric, Siemens, Ingersoll-Rand’s Trane and some entrepreneurial companies including Convergence Wireless and Ubilogix.   Having companies of all sizes working together in an open way through the Alliance’s structure truly creates the best standard. And in the end, it helps the industry in a very substantial way.


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