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Event Report
ZigBee Open House – Oslo, Norway June 15, 2005

   Paul Ehrlich

Paul Ehrlich, President
Building Intelligence Group

Contributing Editor

Excitement and interest in wireless mesh networking continues to build as was evidenced at the recent ZigBee Alliance open house event in Oslo, Norway.  The event was open to the public and featured seminars and exhibits featuring ZigBee and other mesh solutions.  Attendance was strong, with over 300 participants.     

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Keynote speaker, Bob Metcalfe, the founder of Ethernet, provided comments about the importance of standards.  Alliance chair Bob Heile, announced the impending release of version 1.0 of the ZigBee design specification.  A certification program is already in place to test products and several suppliers are already actively participating in it.   

Exhibits from 27 members showcased chipsets, tools, software stacks, and early product implementations.   Many of the early products showcased are focused on residential or consumer applications.  Examples of these include a residential control system that is now shipping from Control4 and a soon to be released solution from Eaton called “Home Heartbeat”.  Both of these products appeared to be well designed and implemented. 

Interestingly in discussions with early implementers few appear to plan on using the newly passed specification.  Instead they are using radios that utilize IEEE standard 802.15.4 and mesh networking solutions developed by suppliers such as Ember and Figure 8.  While they are anxious to follow the networking standards there is concern that V1 does not provide all needed functionality.   

Wireless mesh networking has incredible potential for use in building automation applications.  The ability to provide economical, reliable wireless communications for low speed sensor and data networks offers the potential to dramatically reduce wiring costs for installations.  However there are still some stumbling blocks limiting acceptance and broad implementation.  These include: 

  • Open standards pertaining to building automation

  • Resolution of issues pertaining to interference, commissioning, security, and interoperability

  • Successful demonstration projects in commercial buildings

  • Acceptance by suppliers, consultants and owners

 The next open house event will be held in Chicago in September.  For more information see www.zigbee.org.

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