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More ZigBee Home Automation Info

Zanthic

Member
The great thing about ZigBee is that it is an open standard...

only kind of... it is open the way TCP transport layer is open but what you run on top of it may or may not be compatible so there is no guarantee that two Zigbee devices will work together, especially currently as the home automation standards are just beginning to be used and most companies with released products have proprietary methods of packing their data.

No, this is not true. Initially, before the Home Automation spec was completed, some early adopter companies were creating their own proprietary means of using ZigBee for specific purposes. This still is possible, but any equipment which meets the ZIGBEE HOME AUTOMATION spec, signified with an orange circle and a picture of a house on it, will interoperate with other equipment meeting the spec. This isn't to say that even equipment meeting the spec can't have additional proprietary features, most will, but that piece of equipment will perform as expected.

So lets say you buy a home automation system that supports ZigBee Home Automation switches, then you can purchase ANY ZigBee Home Automation switch and be assured it will turn the lights on and off. Now certainly, if this was a Leviton system, lets say, maybe only Leviton switches had this extra indicating LED that meant this or that, but still the basic functionality will all be there. That is what is indicated by the recent certification announced.

I'll be writing more about ZigBee and the specs because there is some real interesting things happening that most of us here might not know about. Its almost finished.

actually, I stand by my statement, but I also agree with what you are saying. I think we are getting caught up on terminology. When you use the term "Zigbee" there is absolutely no guarantee of two devices working together. If you use the term Zigbee running the same home automation spec, that is a different story. To anybody else, this might seem that you and I are splitting hairs but it is important for people to realize that just because it says Zigbee, it doesn't mean anything in terms of interoperability. At this point there are more Zigbee different devices than there are Zigbee same devices. Hopefully in the near future this will become a non issue. Also remember that there will always be many Zigbee devices that are used outside of HA that will never adhere to an HA spec, even though they might have potential use within an HA environment.
 

ano

Senior Member
Well, I bet the average consumers in the future will get confused between "ZigBee" and "ZigBee Home Automation..."

i-home.jpg


Yup, that is why there is a fancy smancy little round orange blob with a picture of a house on it. Item has the round blob with the orange circle, it meets the home automation spec. No round orange blob, no spec compliance assumed. I'm not sure they could have made it easier than that.
 

drozwood90

Senior Member
So does that mean that I can monitor a door lock without a subscription? In other words, can I have a door lock linked up to a PC-based Z-Wave controller and monitor a door lock directly away from home (via a web server, for instance)?
No subscription is required when using HomeSeer. I'm doing this now with HomeSeer and my new Schlage dead bolts and lever locks. You can auto lock the Lever locks but only monitor the dead bolts. One nice benefit is you can trigger events based on who unlocked the lock so now when the wife gets home her emails and voice mails are played over the whole house audio system. Here's a link to the locks. I also love the fact that if a door isn't locked HomeSeer reminds me of this when the bedroom lights are turned off. Here's a link to the locks with the latest firmware.
http://store.homeseer.com/store/Schlage-LiNK-C183.aspx

Rupp,

Is that a limitation of the HS software at this time? I noticed on a few of the products on your weblink, that support is coming. I think I'd like to be able to remotely monitor and lock both the dead bolt and the door handle.

Do these units run on batteries?

Thanks!

--Dan
 

elcano

Active Member
ano, after several companies making so much noise about ZigBee Pro, I didn't see a mention of it at all in this press release. Am I correct to assume that all these new certified devices are not compatible with each other? I am really impressed with the number of ZigBee products out already (some really exciting stuff), but I am surprised that they made this announcement, eventho the products aren't interoperable (unless the home automation profile now equals ZigBee Pro). I definitely appreciate your insight (and time)!

I dont have the documentation to sustain this at this time, but from what I remember from when I did the research a few months ago, the Zigbee HA Public Application profile was based in regular Zigbee (non-pro). This makes sense, as the regular ZigBee protocol should be able to work on houses of practically any size - unless your house is the size of a small campus. This would keep the price of the devices low enough for the HA market.

Zigbee Pro was intended for big commercial implementations requiring complex routing protocols and thus more complex processors and larger memory (rom and ram). In my opinion, Control4 and a few of the other HA vendors selected Zigbee Pro as a mean to ramp up the prices and differentiate themselves from their competitors using the standard ZigBee. Ignorant clients would pay more for the Pro version even that the regular version works the same, just as people buy higher resolutions in compact cameras on the perception that they get better pictures.

When I did my research a few months ago I reach the conclusion that the Zigbee market is too unstable and undefined yet, and it was not worth looking at it for another year. Early adopters with big cash might feel great buying non-interoperable devices with the ZigBee Pro name stamped on them like that makes a difference, but that is not for me.
 

Steve

Senior Member
While I don't disagree with this, how would investing in say Jetstream or another proprietary Zigbee solution now be any different than investing in say Homeworks or ViziaRF or any other proprietary technology? Granted, it would be nice for everything to interoperate directly, but IMHO there are are Zigbee solutions out there now that are worth it.
 

elcano

Active Member
Steve,

I know that my answer to your question might not resonate in other people here, but I'm very principle based. When I don't agree with the business practices of a vendor I don't buy their products. Whenever possible, I boycott them (tell other people not to buy them, neither).

What the market needs now is to build critical mass in an interoperable standard. The standard that would solve that problem exists and is called Zigbee HA Public Application Profile. The standard was announced as completed by the ZigBee Alliance in November of 2007. Control4 participated with the alliance since 2006. If almost two complete years later Control4 does not have interoperable products following the standard is not lack of capacity, but lack of will. They don't want to be interoperable. The same applies to the rest. As Dan said in the past, it is not in their interest to enter into the open competition with other vendors. Actually, vendor lock-in is one of the Dirty Vendor Tricks. This is what is keeping Home Automation as niche market - and the high prices. This is what is hurting the adoption of Home Automation.

I don't have anything against proprietary solutions. My problem is with playing with the terms to give the impression that you are interoperable when you are really not. Only very discerning customers will ask the questions to know the catch. While not exactly the same, this is very similar to the issue of MS Office 2007 ODF Add-in. Vendors find loopholes in the standards (a crater, by design, in the case of Zigbee) to argue compliance, and their marketing departments will make a party announcing compliance with the standard when in fact, there is no true interoperability.

There is a Zigbee HA Public Application Profile developed by the Zigbee Alliance. And they, members of the Alliance are boycotting it. So, what should I do in return to let them know that I do not agree with their business model?

What I tell to my friends and customers now is to wait if in any way possible. If they can't wait, then consider UPB or Z-Wave (or hardwired, if possible) - as these are in my opinion, some of the best multi-vendor, interoperable solutions (you see, nothing against proprietary solutions). Actually, software compatibility with Z-Wave is very good lately. I tell them that Zigbee is not ready yet, that is has not matured enough, and above everything, it has not reached their promise. And they believe me, because they know that I always protect their interests.
 

Steve

Senior Member
I know that my answer to your question might not resonate in other people here, but I'm very principle based. When I don't agree with the business practices of a vendor I don't buy their products. Whenever possible, I boycott them.

I don't disagree with that either. In fact there is a popular HA software package whos company is not doing as good as it could because of at least 'perceived' business practices. And perception is reality.

What the market needs now is to build critical mass in an interoperable standard. The standard that would solve that problem exists and is called Zigbee HA Public Application Profile. The standard was announced as completed by the ZigBee Alliance in November of 2007. Control4 participated with the alliance since 2006. If almost two complete years later Control4 does not have interoperable products following the standard is not lack of capacity, but lack of will. They don't want to be interoperable. The same applies to the rest. As Dan said in the past, it is not in their interest to enter into the open competition with other vendors. Actually, vendor lock-in is one of the Dirty Vendor Tricks. This is what is keeping Home Automation as niche market and the high prices. This is what is hurting the adoption of Home Automation.

My understanding is the HA Profile was just announced and C4 already has products that are compatible. In fact, I think it was primarily C4 that pushed for the standard. They could have stayed 100% proprietary but they felt their business could be impacted positively by being standard. Since there was no standard until just now, companies had no choice but to build a proprietary control stack on top of Zigbee. I don't look at that as companies being greedy or trying to bump prices up or anything. In that regard, look at the market and prices. Take Centralite Jetstream as an example. Their 800W switch is $65 which is actually LESS expensive than an 800W Zwave switch or a PCS UPB switch.[So I'm not quite sure about your theory that leading edge Zigbee companies are boosting prices or overbuilding. Who knows, maybe it does cost less to manufacture a Jetstream switch, but there is also their overhead in the control protocol design, software, etc. The bottom line, at least for me, is that the product is very competitively priced.

So, what I tell to my friends and customers now is to wait if in any way possible. If they can't wait, then consider UPB or Z-Wave (or hardwired, if possible). Actually, software compatibility with Z-Wave is very good lately. I tell them that Zigbee is not ready yet. That is has not matured enough, and above everything, it has not reached their promise. And they believe me, because they know that I always protect their interests.

Here again, I don't disagree that Zigbee, especially the recently adopted profiles are mature and if somebody can afford to wait, then they will have more choice. Further, if they will not have any main controller (either HW or SW) and they will depend purely on a node to node Zigbee system, then yes, its not ready quite yet. However, if somebody likes how Zigbee works and they will have a controller of some sort in the mix and they need to do something now, I would have no qualms about suggesting a Zigbee system such as Jetstream. I currently have both UPB and Jetstream. I have buttons on a Jetstream switches controlling UPB devices via CQC and Elk and it works great. There are many nice things about Zigbee TODAY and no doubt it will get even better. Centralite has acknowledged a new line of switches that will be HA Profile compatible and even if they are less expensive, I will stick with Jetstream if nothing else but the extra features and programming software. I would go with proprietary Jetstream over interoperable ZWave right now in a heartbeat. And there is no reason that HA Profile compatible devices come out from any vendor that they will not interoperate via the controller the same way that UPB and Zigbee does right now.
 

elcano

Active Member
Very good points. I admit that I do not know the current Zigbee prices as I said, I'm not looking at them now. But check at this quote from a report in 2006:

ZigBee chipsets registered unit shipment of nearly 2.5 million in 2005 and revenues of around $11.2 million. This market is also expected to grow exponentially at a CAGR of 190 percent to reach approximately $800.0 million in 2009. Although this market is likely to initially register exceptional growth, the prices of ZigBee chipsets are likely to decline gradually following the commoditization of the market. However, this is likely to be compensated by an equal increase in unit shipment, thereby sustaining revenue growth.

Hey, I barely knew about the existence of Zigbee in 2005 and they were selling 2.5 million units already! These numbers (11.2/2.5) show a price of about $4.48 per chipset, but I bet that current prices should be closer to $2 per unit and their sales should be 10 times the 2005 numbers. Can Z-Wave or UPB match those economies of scales? Impossible. I cannot compare Zigbee prices with Z-wave or UPB prices. A better comparison would be Bluetooth devices, as they are also open standards solutions selling chipsets in the order of several millions.

The Zigbee promise was they were going to become like 'smart dust'. Achieved by a combination of technology, standards and low pricesdriven by economies of scales. I cannot demand Z-Wave to sell a PIR sensor for $20 - they do not have the economies of scales. But that was the mission of Zigbee - commoditizing the market even better than what X10 did several years ago.

Why is that I can buy an Universal Remote Control for $15, or two FRS two-way radios with charging base for $25? Commoditized technology. The current state is not sustainable, so Zigbee will commoditize like bluetooth did and the prices will go down to X10 prices or even lower, sooner or later.

And, about the HA Public Application Profile standard, you can download it from here:
http://www.zigbee.org/Products/DownloadTec...65/Default.aspx
It has been there, unchanged, since 2007.

These two articles, from the same author, share my concerns:
http://www.electronichouse.com/article/wha...hould_you_care/
http://www.cepro.com/article/has_home_auto...trol4_as_an/D1/

But the second is better because it address vendor's reluctance to interoperability - including Control4's original position.
 

AnthonyZ

Active Member
I find it a bit awkward when one speaks as if some sort of interoperable standard is a "must" or is somehow deserved. Elcano, you stated that what "the market needs now is to build critical mass in an interoperable standard". Why? Why now? HA has existed, roughly, since the early to mid seventies with virtually little interaction between vendors. It comes across as if vendors some how "owe" the consumer interoperability. They don't. The fact is, as Steve made clear, virtually all of the gear is indeed interoperable with a third party controller (which most of us use anyways) acting as an intermediary.

Hell, look at IR. It's been around for how long? Is there true interoperability? No. Not even close. There's variance even in IR when it comes to freq's, carrier, non-carrier, etc. No one complains about that, do they?

I view part of this issue arising from the mistaken concept that I often see espoused on various blogs, etc. whereby some seem to believe that a lighting control system is the definition of home automation. Or that remote controls used exclusively for AV components/rigs that include programmed macros qualify as an automation system. Neither is, IMO, valid. Because of the fact that a typical home automation rig runs, watches or reacts to so many different, disparate systems (as well as the oft misunderstood difference between 'control' and 'automation'), we need not be overly concerned with the potentially limiting concept of out of the box interoperability.

Zigbee has an immense amount of support and is, once again IMO, leading the way to a standards based architecture. Are they there yet? No. Will it happen in the near future. To some degree, yes. The fact that there are a number of different manufacturers who focus just on the chip set makes the technology more reliable than, say, Z-Wave (who are clearly having their ass handed to 'em on a sheer numbers basis). If the numbers don't add up and the one and only Z-wave chip maker splits the market, where will the largely DIY crowd that implements it turn?

The fact that energy monitoring/management, media and home health care will undoubtedly be THE home automation market drivers over the next ten years puts Zigbee well ahead of any competition. Will Zigbee be universally picked up by ESP's for wide area networks of the so called "Smart Grid". Probably not. ESP's know powerline and are clearly leaning in that direction but, the powerline will REQUIRE wireless bridges at the HAN and that's where Zigbee beats the pants off of Z-Wave.
 

signal15

Senior Member
I'm waiting for an interoperable standard such as the Zigbee HA Profile before I invest any money in HA switches. Vendor lock in sucks, and if I invest a bunch of money in something like Jetstream and the company goes under, then I'm screwed going forward. When Control4 comes out with HA Profile compatible switches, I'll be among the first purchasers provided the price isn't something insane like $150 a switch. Of course, I suspect that the first company to have something like this out there is going to jack the price until they have some competition.

Price isn't what's directly making me wait, but it is a significant enough of an investment to think about not putting all your eggs in one basket with a single vendor. I know Zwave and UPB compatible equipment exists from multiple vendors, and I might buy one or two switches to temporarily control a couple of things. But there's no way I'm doing a full-scale rollout of this. The trend is that everything is going IP, I already have a Zigbee router to translate from IP to my Zigbee network, and I have the tools and knowledge to be able to debug any communications problems with these two technologies.

I even ran Cat-6 to ALL sensor locations if ethernet or some other standard becomes the norm down the road.

The point is, these companies all want to sell you on their products only once, and once you start buying you're locked in. An open standard allows consumers to buy additional equipment elsewhere if they choose, promotes competitive (reasonable) pricing, and protects against a company going under and having to replace everything. At first glance, this sounds like a bad deal for the vendor. In reality, they have a potential customer base of *everyone* who bought compatible equipment from competing companies, and not just the people that were originally locked in to their proprietary protocols.
 

Steve

Senior Member
Again I am going to talk about a world where we have a central controller....

So, lets say ABC and DEF companies come out with Zigbee based switches that support the HA Profile. How is that better or less dangerous or whatever than buying Jetstream switches? If Centralite goes away, my Jetstream switches still work. And I can still buy any other switch I want and most likely will still interoperate with my controller. I can buy ABC company switches, DEF company switches or whatever. So again I think a ton is being made out about vendor lock in that really does not matter in a controller based environment. If you are thinking look and feel or design of the switches? Well, if you invested in ABC company switches, they can easily go under. Sure, they will still work, just like my Jetstream switches will but guess what, if you now have to go to DEF company, the switch hardware will likely be different.

I definitely see the argument for standalone systems but nobody has convinced me so far that there is any benefit to a interoperable standard in a controller based system. The only situation would be if the controller went bad and the current vendor (or any controller vendor) stopped supporting it. But then there will still always be software controllers where you simply need a driver so in theory you would never have to worry about losing your investment int he proprietary hardware. PLUS, if most manufacturers do it the same way as Centralite, the HA Profile switches will be simple devices. What about all the extra features that may not be in the HA Profile?
 
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