Characteristics Overview

Zigbee characteristics make it suitable for short range wireless communications.

It is based on the IEEE 802.15.4-specification, created by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

The technology is used to create personal area networks, also known as PAN(s).

PAN’s are created using low-power digital radio tranceivers, using Zigbee technology.

 PAN’s are used in applications including home automation, data collection, and medical devices.

Zigbee is designed to be used in small scale projects requiring wireless connection.

Characteristics of the technology is low-power consumption and RF transmit power, low data transmission rate, and short communication range.

  • Developed by Zigbee Alliance
  • IEEE 802.15.4 based specification
  • High level communication protocols
  • Used to create Personal Area Networks (PAN)
  • Uses small low power digital radios
  • Typically used for home automation, medical device data collection, other projects requiring low power & low bandwidth
  • Conceived in 1995, standardised in 2003, revised in 2006

Features of Zigbee

  • Low power
  • Low data rate
  • Close proximity data communications
  • Wireless ‘ad hoc’ network (WANET), which is a decentralised type of wireless network.

Zigbee Advantages (compared with other WPANS, such as Bluetooth & WIFI)

  • Simpler
  • Less expenditure

Applications (typical uses)

  • Wireless light switches
  • Home energy monitors
  • Traffic management systems
  • Other consumer & industrial equipment, requiring short communication range & low wireless data transmission rate
Typical  Performance
  • 10 – 100 meters range (per device), based on line of sight
  • Range dependent on both power output & environmental characteristics
  • Long distance communication possible by passing data through a ‘mesh network’, which allows the data to transfer through ‘intermediate’ devices between zigbee nodes
  • Long battery life, due to low power consumption
  • Secure communication using 128 bit symmetric encryption keys
  • 250 kbit/s, which is suited to intermittent data transmissions, such as from a sensor or other input device.

Wireless Data Overview

What is 802.15.4 and Zigbee?

IEEE 802.15.4 is a technical standard which defines the operation of low-rate wireless personal area networks (LR-WPANs).

It specifies the physical layer and media access control for LR-WPANs, and is maintained by the IEEE 802.15 working group, which defined the standard back in 2003.


WLAN is short for Wireless Local Area Network.


WPAN is short for Wireless Personal Area Network.

Zigbee versus Bluetooth & WIFI

For the Internet of Things (IOT) & IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) the choice of wireless technology, depends on application.

If large amounts of data need to be transmitted between the sensor, and the receiving end, then Wifi may provide the best solution.

An example of an application requiring high data rates is transmitting video images, such as those from a CCTV camera.

WIFI is ideally suited to such an application.

Where WIFI has disadvantages however, is in power consumption and maximum amount of user nodes.

The relatively high power consumption of WIFI, compared with Bluetooth (especially Bluetooth Low Energy), and Zigbee, has issues.

The main issue is that the technology is not well suited to battery powered operation.

If WIFI links are used for data transmission, from remotely located sensors, then regular battery changes are necessary.

Of course if a mains electrical supply is available, then this isn’t an issue.

Bluetooth offers better (lower) power consumption than WIFI, so is a better solution for battery powered equipment.

The disadvantage of Bluetooth is that only 7 connections can be made simultaneously.

The connection time to establish a new connection is also longer in both Bluetooth and WIFI, compared with Zigbee.

Zigbee offers very low power consumption (especially in sleep mode), making it suitable for remote sensors, with long battery lives.

Battery lives can be a few years!

Zigbee is best suited to applications that require small amounts of data to be transmitted at a time.

An example is medical data monitoring of patients, or wireless light switches (Home automation).


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Published by Craig Miles

Craig Miles

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