What is Zigbee? The wireless network tech explained

There’s no shortage of networking technologies designed to connect devices wirelessly, but there’s one way most people probably do (even if you don’t know it yet). That would be Zigbee, a global communication standard that we promise is more exciting than it sounds.

It is often used to connect smart devices, such as lights and thermostats. Have you connected your smart home devices to Alexa? This is done through ZigBee wireless communication technology. It uses low-power technology, which is ideally suited for battery-powered devices in the home environment. Here’s more about Zigbee, what it can do and how it benefits.


Table of Contents

What is it?

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ZigBee is an open standard that provides a low-cost, low-power, wireless mesh network. It is designed to create private area networks, where devices can connect via built-in digital radios. Smart home automation and medical device data collection are good examples of Zigbee, as both benefit from Zigbee’s low power and low bandwidth usage.

The technology behind Zigbee is said to be much simpler and less expensive than other wireless private networks, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This is why Zigbee is used in some popular smart home devices, such as wireless light switches and home energy monitors. Just like a Wi-Fi network needs a wireless router, ZigBee needs a centralized hub to get started. This device creates and controls the network, with each device acting as a node.

Generally, products fall into one of four categories: smart home hubs, lighting, security sensors, and locks


How does ZigBee work?

Zigbee offers both wireless control and application monitoring capabilities over the network. Along the way, it provides secure communication by default. One of the reasons the standard remains popular is its simplicity. Other protocols, such as Z-Wave, can perform multiple functions. Zigbee only focuses on performing specific tasks, such as operating a wireless light switch from your phone.

Supports a variety of small device technologies. These include but are not limited to light bulbs, plugs, door locks, thermostats, security camera sensors, speakers, doorbells, switches and more. Do you have a Philips Hue? Then you are already using Zigbee.


What are the benefits?

There are several reasons to embrace Zigbee-compatible products that can streamline your home. Beyond its low power consumption and mesh network topology, Zigbee offers long battery life, scalability, security and ease of use. It’s affordable, and covers a wide range of compatible devices to boot It also helps that the standard is recognized around the world. The PHY supports 2.4 and sub-GHz bands, allowing it to cover a wide variety of setups and uses.


Is there a downside?

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type, variety. The architecture can only offer short range and is limited to a slow data rate. It can also interfere with other wireless devices.

Although it is a secure protocol, ZigBee has sometimes been accused of being a security risk. Some of the concern is the occasional vulnerability discovered over the years. One of the most common Zigbee security concerns is passwords. Often, default Zigbee device passwords are easy to guess. Unfortunately, this simplicity makes it easier for hackers to guess a password and gain access to devices.

Lack of encryption is another issue related to the Zigbee architecture. Without encryption, attackers can hide and siphon information as it travels back and forth between devices, including personal data. Over-the-air AES-128-CCM encryption and sophisticated security curves are among the ways ZigBee is often protected in the wild.

There are some steps you can take to alleviate these concerns, some more obvious than others. First, you can use strong passwords and enable encryption on your Zigbee network. You can be sure that all your devices use the latest firmware. Using a firewall is another possible solution, as is generally being more diligent and careful about what information you share between devices.

What about alternatives?

Few protocols are as popular or usable as Zigbee, but alternatives exist. Z Wave is sometimes considered a more accessible ZigBee alternative. It also uses small-scale networks for communication between devices and actually offers a good range And yet, it will only support 232 devices, whereas ZigBee can handle up to 6,500 on the same private network.

Bottom line: Regarding Zigbee, it’s less about making a “choice” than acknowledging that the devices you already own in your home probably support it. With this knowledge, you can learn how to connect your devices for home automation.

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