I have mentioned Z-wave a few times on this site, especially since getting the Wayne Dalton USB Interface. But do you remember Zigbee (aka IEEE 802.15.4)? Certainly the emergence of the Schlage Link Wireless Keypads and the addition of not only Schlage but also a number of other Z-Wave products into Radio Shack’s retail chain, Z-Wave has seemed to be doing really well these days. But Zigbee is definitely still kicking around. Unlike Z-Wave, they seem to have people pushing for larger-scale ratification and implementation. For example, I noticed in Gothenborg, Sweden, that they were implementing Zigbee into power meters in order to comply with the once-per-month meter readings that Sweden is pushing to go national with. And then there’s iControl, who seems to be able to bridge Zigbee home security and temperature control when they’re not meeting with the FCC. iControl has more money and business than engineering, and are quite busy, so it will be interesting to see what comes of them.
Both Z-Wave and Zigbee work on the Mac. The Telegesis USB stick can provide Zigbee connectivity to Mac OS X, thus allowing your Mac to communicate with IEEE 802.15.4. There are also books for ZigBee, like Fred Eady’s Hands-On, which I found a hard read and Farahani’s Zigbee Wireless Networks and Transceivers, which I found much more accessible. But Zigbee books are easier to find than the transceivers themselves, and it’s going to be a fairly command-line heavy path in order to communicate to Zigbee over the Mac. Digi has a nice tutorial on sending commands to the XBee, but you’re still gonna’ need to wrap it into a GUI yourself. Therefore, while Z-wave is heavily in the throws of possibly premature consumerization it seems as though Zigbee is out there beating down the doors of governments, the FCC and the global business world, including the likes of GE.
Z-Wave is proprietary, with Zensys, the manufacturer of all the radios basically leading the charge (and accepting VC if ya’ got any). Zigbee on the other hand is open source. But there are no battle lines between the protocols. Possibly in part due to the lack of a cohesive strategy for overall home automation and possibly just ’cause it was a cool thing to do at CES, BuLogics, announced a Z-Wave to ZigBee bridge on Friday. Check out the press release here! Rest assured that bridging my schwag in the house is a high priority of mine and so expect to see some writing on this here in the future.
And if you haven’t started to tinker or research home automation, the promises of the last decade were possible, but you needed to either spend an arm and a leg or spend countless hours of programming to figure out how to make any of it work. I like spending that time but it never got user friendly enough to actually implement in the home due to the fact that I’m not the only person in the home…