The ZigBee protocol is a global standard intended for low-data-rate low-power communications across short distances in a Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN). Devices can typically communicate over distances of a few metres, although data can be transmitted over longer distances by using multiple ZigBee devices in a mesh network to ‘hop’ messages from one point to another via intermediate devices. Its defined data rate is slower than either Bluetooth or WiFi (which both also operate in the same 2.4 GHz frequency band) at 250 kbit/s as it is intended for relaying low-power intermittent monitoring or control information rather than as a cable-replacement technology for streaming large volumes of data such as voice or video. Every ZigBee network requires a single ZigBee Coordinator device which creates and controls the mesh network in either a star or tree topology. Other devices in the network will either be a ZigBee Router, which can run application functions and also relay data throughout the network, or a ZigBee End Device, which can only communicate with its parent node and cannot transfer data elsewhere. This topology allows ZigBee End Devices to be asleep for much of the time and hence consume very little power and giving a longer battery life.
Similarly to Bluetooth, ZigBee uses Application Profiles to ensure interoperability between different devices; these include specifications for using ZigBee in Home Automation settings, Smart Energy applications, as Remote Controls and in Health Care applications.
ZigBeeTM is a registered trademark of the ZigBee Alliance.