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Zigbee is one of the least understood, and most important, words in all of home automation. Whether you’re a smart home newbie or trying to expand your knowledge, we’ve got all the info you need to understand this popular smart home device feature.
What Is Zigbee?
Zigbee is a wireless communication protocol designed to connect smart devices in your home, providing an alternative to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Just like Wi-Fi, Zigbee is a combination of protocols. It operates on the same 2.4GHz radio frequency range as most Wi-Fi devices, and it can connect up to 65,000 devices in your home.
What makes Zigbee more distinct compared to communication protocols like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is that it caters to low-data-rate applications and requires very little power to operate.
- Zigbee requires a hub. Unlike Bluetooth devices that connect directly, Zigbee devices need a hub to manage communication between each other and non-Zigbee devices.
- Zigbee is a mesh network. It’s not necessary for each device to have a direct connection to the hub. They can relay their signal across several other devices until it reaches the central hub.
How does Zigbee work?
Here are the steps in a typical Zigbee communication:
- Device is triggered: The device can be triggered by time, a sensor, or a response to another Zigbee communication. The smart device then sends out Zigbee signals.
- Signal passing and processing: These signals are transferred along the mesh network until intercepted by a Zigbee hub, which interprets, processes, and acts on, or passes the signals to other devices.
- Execution: The action prompted by the signal is carried out by your smart devices—this could range from turning off lights, adjusting the thermostat, or detecting motion with a sensor.
Each of these devices should be Zigbee compatible. You can find the Zigbee logo on the product or product description. If you’re about to purchase your first Zigbee device, ensure you have a compatible hub to connect it to.
Zigbee operates on a separate frequency from your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth traffic, lessening the chance of interference from computers, phones, and household appliances.
Why Choose Zigbee in 2023?
Does Zigbee deserve space in your smart home tech arsenal?
Zigbee protocol is quicker than many alternatives because it uses smaller data packets for communication. So, if speed is your thing, Zigbee would do marvelously.
Zigbee has good compatibility with a wide variety of devices. If you plan to expand your smart home ecosystem, Zigbee’s broad compatibility is a boon.
Integrating new devices is straightforward with Zigbee. You can often initiate pairing by simply pressing a button on the hub and the new device.
Zigbee devices consume less power compared to many Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices. This energy efficiency can prove particularly beneficial if you’re trying to reduce power consumption.
Zigbee devices, though, can sometimes cost more than their non-Zigbee counterparts. Consider whether the benefits outweigh the initial investment.
Alternatives to Zigbee
While Zigbee has a lot to offer, there are other players in the market:
Z-Wave, like Zigbee, uses a low-energy radio frequency and can connect a multitude of devices. Wi-Fi is ubiquitous, and so benefits from being virtually everywhere.
Mixing and matching protocols isn’t a bad idea—several hubs support multiple protocols, and many devices can operate on multiple protocols. A lower power-consuming protocol like Zigbee or Z-Wave would be better for switches, while Wi-Fi could be more suitable for devices needing to transfer larger amounts of data quickly.
Ensuring all your devices can communicate effectively is essential for any smart home. The Matter standard promises to simplify this aspect, but until then, this is likely the most challenging part of building a smart home.
In a typical smart home, multiple communication protocols will be in use, and having Zigbee in the mix is a smart choice, especially for smaller low-power devices like sensors and smart plugs.
Zak has spent 12 hears in the tech industry focusing on automation, analytics, and cybersecurity. His passion is tech education; he uses his industry expertise and STEM PhD to break down complicated concepts into simple step-by-step guides. When he’s not writing or coding, you can find him binging anything Star Trek or Marvel or reading far too many sci-fi novels.