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ZigBee Alliance Opens Membership to Adopter Class

The ZigBee Alliance has begun promoting a new adopter class level of membership, which the group hopes will appeal to companies that want to develop ZigBee-based products, but don't care about extensive participation in the organization promoting them.

"These are people who haven't expressed a lot of interest in being right in the middle of things," says ZigBee Alliance chairman Bob Heile. "They're fast followers, not early adopters, and this will give them the vehicle to do that."

Adopter Class membership provides access to all final, approved ZigBee specifications, Heile says. Members at this level who develop, deliver, and receive certification for their ZigBee products are allowed to use the ZigBee logo and marketing collateral to promote them. And they are welcome at interoperability events and ZigBee Alliance-sponsored workshops and developer conferences.

At $3,500 a year, the membership dues for adopter class status are considerably less than promoter class ($40,000 a year) and participant class ($9,500 a year).

Zigbee is a proprietary set of networking, security, and application protocols for small, low-power, digital radios. It is based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for wireless personal area networks (PANs). ZigBee-enabled devices operate in the same 2.4GHz radio band as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but with a range of up to 30 meters. ZigBee offers less bandwidth than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (20-250, 11,00+, and 720, respectively), but it requires much less power. A ZigBee radio, for example, could run on a standard alkaline battery for as long as three years.

ZigBee is narrowband technology, which transmits tiny bits of data in the sub-200-kbps range. It is also a type of mesh technology, which comprises networked devices equipped with two-way radios that can communicate with each other, rather than just with the network command controller. The radios in a mesh network can also act as repeaters, passing data on to other radios out of the range of the controller.

ZigBee is currently touted primarily as sensor network technology, both for consumer and industrial applications. Proponents of the technology expect to see it in everything from automatic meter readers and medical sensing and monitoring devices to wireless smoke detectors and TV remote controls.

Companies that want to deploy ZigBee technologies in their products have to become members of the ZigBee Alliance. The group is a non-profit industry consortium organized to define and promote ZigBee technologies. The Alliance lists more than 140 member companies, including Motorola, Samsung, and Philips, among others. The group ratified the ZigBee spec in December of last year.

"We created a good combination of a standards organization with a business orientation," Heile says. "We want the good ideas of every member, so it's an open and inclusive organization that involves everybody from day one. But unlike IEEE or a standards body, if consensus is taking too long and it gets down to making a business decision, we can make that decision. That's when it's fun to be blatantly commercial."

The Alliance announced the new membership at its quarterly open house and member meeting in San Francisco last week. More than 600 people attended the event, Heile says; 27 companies exhibited ZigBee-based products.

ZigBee competes in this space with the wireless Z-Wave standard, and Insteon, which combines powerline and wireless technologies for home automation.

For more information about the ZigBee Alliance, go to: http://www.zigbee.org/en/join/.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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