Merry Christmas to one and all!

We're taking a bit of a break to be with our loved ones over the holiday, and we hope you are too. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, and we'd like to pass along a heartfelt "Thank You" for your readership. We'll be back posting again tomorrow once we can burn off some of the egg nog!

"ZigBee-certified" products ready to hit the streets

It appears that ZigBee wireless technology will begin entering the marketplace en masse with a number of products getting the stamp of approval from the ZigBee Alliance.

As a result, a number of ZigBee-certified wireless network products are about to hit the streets. According to the Alliance, certification ensures that a product will perform in ZigBee networks as promised. In addition, all products have undergone a testing process to prove their adherence to ZigBee standards. Certified products will have the ZigBee logo prominently displayed on them which will alert end users that these products have been assured of networking performance.

Among the certified products are:

  • NEC Engineering's ZB24FM-Z family of embedded modules allow for the monitoring and communication with any person voluntarily carrying the device as they enter or exit a defined location. An example application includes system facility managers having the ability to conduct accurate headcounts at private events or locations and improve emergency response planning.
  • The Sensor Network Infrastructure (SNI) from Software Technologies Group enables rapid development of ZigBee-based sensor network products for a variety of commercial and industrial applications. Users will be able to install sensors and other control mechanisms wirelessly and connect to a remote master control area. SNI products have been tested in various real-world sensor applications, including a 250 node deployment of a wireless fire extinguisher monitoring

system.

ZigBee Alliance announces enhanced standard

The ZigBee Alliance announced today that they have enhanced their standard to offer a host of new features which will be available in the first quarter of next year.

Key features of the enhanced standard include:

  • Group Devices -- developers will have the ability to create groups of devices while allowing individual devices to belong to multiple groups. The alliance provides the example of all lights in a home could be turned off, or all of the lights on a single floor or a single room, can be executed by pushing a single button.
  • Maintenance – The ZigBee technology can prevent a single point-of-failure on the network and allows for replacement or repair of devices through the storage of a device's information onto a nearby device.
  • Targeted Broadcasts – Broadcasts of commands can be specified for specific types of devices: routers, "awake" or "sleeping" devices.
  • Over-the-Air Setup – Allows for new setup tools that can be develop to facilitate the addition of devices onto a network.

Does wireless broadband face threats?

Qualcomm's CEO thinks that wireless broadband services just now becoming popular will face threats as data becomes ubiquitous, as it knows no bounds. Data, voice, video, GPS and other forms of data are all traveling -- or will travel -- down the same pipe.

In a rather lengthy but truth-filled statement, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said "wireless technology is moving quickly from initial third-generation data capabilities to becoming a true computer that transmits myriad applications, including GPS location, data, video and voice, using a variety of wireless networks simultaneously. The wireless device, he said, stands to inherit the PC's versatility and capability combined with mobility."

That is quite a statement that ushers in thoughts of everything we know of -- data-wise -- becoming wirelessly enabled soon. That ought to be a fun ride.

AMX intros Zigbee remotes and other gear

Looks like Zigbee may not be a household name, but its still a viable alternative for remote controls that power your home entertainment gear. Why use Zigbee instead of the trusted infrared, you might say?

Well, Zigbee is one heckuva bigger standard used for more than simple remote control transmissions. It's a complete short-range telecommunications medium -- talk about wireless routers and other computer gear with Zigbee built-in.

[via Engadget]

Study says UWB, ZigBee chipset sales to increase over next three years

A new study from Frost and Sullivan indicates that sales of ultrawideband (UWB) and ZigBee chipsets will increase significantly over the next three years.

I can't help but be a bit skeptical over this new research. We've seen over the past couple of years the turf war over the definition of a single standard for UWB, and that effort fell right on its face. Plus, we were supposed to see a slew of products being released over the course of this year, including those dealing with home entertainment. So far, we haven't seen anything yet. To be fair, we do have a few months left in the year and the holiday shopping season around the corner, so there is still time left for this wireless technology to make some sort of impact on the marketplace.

With regard to ZigBee, it definitely is finding a niche in the home automation market, especially in the security/alarm sector. It doesn't appear that ZigBee will ever become a "hit" like Bluetooth, but if it can find a couple of strong niches to park itself in, that will be just fine for its supporters.

TWR's Top 5

It's been another busy week in the home office of The Wireless Report. Check out the five best of the best stories of the past week. Enjoy!

  1. AT&T, MetroFi team in wireless network proposal
    Well, this is certainly interesting news. We've been seeing for months on end how telcos and cable companies have been fighting against citywide wireless initiatives, including lobbying efforts to get legislation passed in various states.
  2. Is Motorola trying to overtake Nokia as world's largest handset maker?
    I'm sure Motorola is trying to somehow become the world's largest wireless handset maker, almost 10 years after Nokia overtook the giant as the world's largest wireless handset manufacturer after several stumbles by the RAZR-maker. Can it do it?
  3. Signs pointing upward for ZigBee
    Things certainly seem to be progressing forward for ZigBee technology. With industry biggies like Texas Instruments, Siemens AG, and STMicroelectronics joining the ZigBee Alliance this year, and with the technology finding homes in applications ranging from monitoring temperature controllers and security systems to (potentially) cellphones, the momentum for the acceptance of ZigBee into the mainstream is not that far away.
  4. Get your "Reality TV" fix on your Sprint Nextel handset
    Sprint Nextel, which continues to unleash quite interesting and innovative programming designed for the wireless handset screen, has announced that it will have an exclusive on the "Primped" made-for-mobile Reality TV series. The series, which features an "extreme makeover" theme, will be available for $6.99 for the 30-episode run to Sprint Power Vision (EV-DO) customers.
  5. Philly's wireless champion gets grief for spending too much time on the road
    This is a silly story, IMHO. There are some folks who are complaining that Philadelphia's CIO Dianah Neff, the woman who led the Wireless Philadelphia initiative, has been taking too many trips on the city's dime as well as being paid for by other parties, including EarthLink.

Signs pointing upward for ZigBee

Things certainly seem to be progressing forward for ZigBee technology. With industry biggies like Texas Instruments, Siemens AG, and STMicroelectronics joining the ZigBee Alliance this year, and with the technology finding homes in applications ranging from monitoring temperature controllers and security systems to (potentially) cellphones, the momentum for the acceptance of ZigBee into the mainstream is not that far away.

In addition, it looks like ZigBee supporters are going about it the right way in making sure that the technology works in the applications it was originally targeted for and, when indications are that it has, then that is the time to look to expand its range.

ZigBee not making a big splash in consumer market--yet

The ZigBee Alliance and other supporters say the technology has yet to make a dent in the consumer market. When ZigBee first appeared, it was targeted as a home automation platform that would allow for the monitoring of applications such as security, sprinkler systems, and lighting. However, in the last year or so, ZigBee seems to have increasingly found a home in the industrial and commercial sectors.

But with announcements such as Freescale Semiconductor's working on offering Zigbee functionality for cellphones and a U.K-based company looking at devices that allow users to set a specific water temperature while in the shower, the pendulum seems to be shifting. The next six months will tell us much about ZigBee's future in the home automation market.

ZigBee looking for a home in cellphones

Although ZigBee has found its niche in the home automation market, it now seems that this emerging wireless technology may find a home in cellphones.

The idea is that with ZigBee embedded into cellphones, users would gain the ability to perform such tasks as control and monitor home alarm systems. Freescale Semiconductor is one of the leading proponents of ZigBee technology and is said to be developing a single-chip device targeted at cellphones that it will announce later this year.

It'll be interesting to see how far this initiative will go. Will consumers be ready and willing to control their home automation systems from their cellphones? Time will tell...

RFID or ZigBee: Which is better for tracking cattle?

Although there is a movement underway to apply RFID tags on all cattle in the U.S. by 2009, there are some who believe the system will not work and are already looking at alternatives.

Because RFID tags can only broadcast information over a short range, many beef producers feel they will not be able to accurately track their cattle since they travel in close proximity and accurate readings may not be possible.

There is a growing feeling that ZigBee technology, which can provide readings from longer distances, may be a more effective platform to use, and it may be cheaper to implement as well.

With all of the concern over Mad Cow disease as well as more awareness of how beef is produced in this country, any kind of wireless tracking system would help. It's just a matter of implementation.

TI Demonstrates New ZigBee Modules

TI seems to be on the warpath to making sure ZigBee becomes the ad-hoc standard for wireless mesh networking for control systems such as gas meters, electric meters, HVAC control, etc. We know the day is soon when the gas and electric meter folks will no longer be required to jump fences and visibly note utility usage. They'll just be able to drive down the street and have all the readings they need zapped to their in-truck wireless readers.

If the low-power focus can continue unabated (since that is one of the key features of ZigBee in my opinion), then this newly-emerging global wireless interconnection standard may be a perfect example of how industries and hardware manufacturers can actually work together to enhance the world to everyone's benefit. Now, if the UWB and WiMAX camps could just get along....

Making "ZigBee Certified" Count

So far, 2006 has started out very well for ZigBee technology and its supporters. According to the ZigBee Alliance, a new testing process built to ensure interoperability between enabled products before they hit the marketplace will go a long way toward making sure end users are confident that ZigBee Certified carries weight. The process allows manufacturers, OEMs, and developers to qualify for one of three designations:

  • ZigBee Compliant Platform tests modules or platforms that are intended to be used as building blocks for end-products
  • ZigBee Certified tests apply to end-products built on a ZigBee Compliant Platform using a ZigBee public application profile
  • ZigBee Network Capable tests products built upon a ZigBee-compliant platform but using a non-public ZigBee application profile

A number of industry analysts are saying that because of Texas Instruments' and STMicroelectronics' increased involvement in ZigBee, the market for products aimed at wireless sensor networks for remote monitoring, home control, and building automation network applications will grow as time moves forward.

TWR's Top 5

Welcome to our newest feature here on The Wireless Report, where we will list what we consider to be the Top 5 stories of the week. Below is our list with direct links to these featured blog posts. Enjoy!

  1. 3GSM Happening Next Week in Barcelona, Spain -- Next week is sure to bring a bevy of announcements from new handset models - both humans and phones - and new, up-n-coming technology like ZigBee. We'll be blogging about all the goodies from Spain next week, so keep your browser or RSS reader ready. It's going to be a wild week.
  2. Boston Foundation Issues It's Own Wireless Network Report -- After a long period of foot-dragging, it seems that Boston is seriously committed to bringing wireless access to its residents.
  3. Will WiFi and WiMax Laptops Spell the Death of the Desktop PC? -- With even $500 entry-level laptop PCs coming with WiFi (802.11b, but so?) built in, and with folks on the move more and more, and with WiFi hotspots and municipal wireless being all the rage (and sure to increase expenentially), is the standard "beige box" PC and flat-screen TFT monitor - and those clunky CRTs - going the way of the dinosaur soon for the most part?
  4. Wireless Communications Systems Being Developed for Miners -- The recent mining disasters where sixteen miners have perished has resulted in a call by state governments, including West virginia and Pennsylvania, for a wireless communications system whereby rescuers can quickly locate the positions of the victims and get them out of the danger zone.
  5. The Art of RFID -- Instead of using RFID to track high-dollar paintings - so Thomas Crown won't steal them - many artists are using RFID an a rather interesting way - to provide their masterpieces with a unique identity all their own.

3GSM Happening Next Week in Barcelona, Spain

Next week is sure to bring a bevy of announcements from new handset models - both humans and phones - and new, up-n-coming technology like ZigBee. We'll be blogging about all the goodies from Spain next week, so keep your  browser or RSS reader ready. It's going to be a wild week.

With that said, some of the neater pre-released or pre-announced products include  Cicero's wVoIP (now, which letters are capitalized?), a very slick wireless VoIP system for carriers. If you thing Vonage is a mold-breaker, the firms that step up to the plate early and offer VoIP using the airwaves (and WiFi/WiMax airwaves at that) are going to hit homerun after homerun. When you can take your wVoIP handset to any public or municipal hotspot and have it auto-login and be ready to make/take voice calls -  that will be a mind-blower for many of us (and worrisome for telcos and cellular carriers). UMA is a decent first stab at this kind of mobility thinking I think (to many thinks there).

More neat news seems to be on the plate from Macromedia, now part of Adobe Systems. With Flash being the global standard for online low and high-bandwidth web animation and visual engagement, what have they got in store for mobile devices? The same kind of engagement you can get from regular web content on a PC? Let's hope so. Macromedia ought to have some neat stuff in store for next week.

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