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ZigBee: Unified Home Standard, Open Market Approach
By Weili Lin 2015-01-22
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ZigBee Alliance Director of Strategic Marketing Ryan Maley spoke to SMAhome editorial team about the benefits brought by the new ZigBee 3.0 standard, and also provided his vivid observations of the US smart home.

Q: How do you see the global smart home market? What are the applications that fuel growth?

A: The US has been the early leader in this regard. There are more sales generated in the US, with Europe and Asia trailing behind. The growth of the US market has been the fastest, driven by service providers. I believe 2015 and 2016 will be the years of the smart home because all these products are now available to consumers. The price points are low enough and people understand the value. Furthermore, consumer awareness has been increasing.

We believe connected lighting will pose the largest growth. The second is what we call smart home application that covers home monitoring, security, or home automation products like switches and window shades. The third area is energy efficiency devices, such as smart meters and thermostats.

Based on industry reports, there will be about 223 million bulbs sold each year by 2017, of which around 70% of those connected bulbs will be ZigBee based. If you look at what market leaders are doing, such as Philips, OSRAM and GE, they account for over 60 percent of lighting sales in Europe, and they have all chosen ZigBee. The market is driven by those big companies who have chosen ZigBee as the basis for their connected lighting. That doesn’t mean there won’t be other technologies, but the market leaders have chosen ZigBee. Also, leading service providers like Comcast, Swisscom and Deutsche Telecom all have ZigBee solutions today.

The number of connected devices will grow, and you can have new interesting applications and innovative ways to connect all these different kinds of devices. For instance, we never knew people would want to connect a light bulb to a stove five years ago. If I put something in the oven, after stepping out of the kitchen I wouldn’t be able to hear when it’s done. But, I would know from the light flashes when standing in vicinity. Otherwise, chances are that it may burn down the kitchen, or even catch fire.

Q: As home security is the top reason for buying smart home devices, what are your perspectives on the market?

A: People often talk about home automation as security monitoring like open/close door or burglar intrusion, but I think personal safety is what matters to people the most. A burglar is not likely to intrude my home, but I’m always worried about gas or water leak. Therefore, you can say security and home monitoring are kind of related. Nevertheless, I look upon home monitoring as protecting the people and the home itself. ZigBee focuses on home safety and keeping the home value. We can see smoke detector, CO2 detector, water and leak detector supporting ZigBee standard.

We believe more and more device types will adopt ZigBee, including some sensors for food safety and other kinds of things to make everything safer. But we think the biggest story is that more devices will be interoperable.

Q: Please describe to us the new ZigBee 3.0 standard, such as its enhancement over the previous version.

A: ZigBee 3.0 is a unification of our international standards into a single standard for Internet of Things (IoT) for home automation, lighting, energy management, smart appliance, security, sensors, and health care monitoring products. That means current ZigBee Certified products based on ZigBee Home Automation and ZigBee Light Link are interoperable with ZigBee 3.0. It supports both easy-to-use DIY installations as well as professionally installed systems. So if you’re a product developer, you will not have to choose which market to go after. Your product can go into a home, a hotel, a commercial building, anything like that. Developers will no longer need to choose.

Green Power is an important new feature. There are some other technologies that can perform energy harvesting, but only ZigBee does it in a mesh, and available around the world.

There will be dozens of devices, and they’re going to need to be small, low power, easy to install and easy to configure. That’s what ZigBee was designed for. ZigBee uses 2.4 GHz to make it ready to use anywhere in the world. So if you build one product here from the U.S., it could be sold anywhere, like Philips Hue bulbs that are actually sold over 120 countries.

Q: What are your views of the DIY and professionally installed markets in the US?

A: The DIY market is very easy to understand because the price points are coming down, and more people make a focus on that. Users can buy a home kit or hub like Lowe’s Iris and set it up by DIY. For more complicated things like security and monitored service, you might still need a professional installer. So if I install my light bulbs, I will take care of it. But if I install a security system, I might want someone to watch it for me. That’s why people buy security services from ADT, or even from cable operators like Comcast. Consequently, we see a lot of growth from cable companies in the US, such as Comcast, Rogers, Time Warner Cable, and telecom operators like Swisscom and Deutsche Telekom in Europe. They offer managed service because it is a source of business. Previously, they sell you Internet, and now they can also sell you monitoring service. We think that drives the professional installer market.

Q: Is the home appliance market promising?

A: We have not seen growth in ZigBee in home appliances. It takes about 10 or 15 years to change appliances like a refrigerator or stove, much longer than a light bulb or a smartphone that you change every 2 years or even every 6 months. But not everyone is changing their refrigerator all the time or their stove. So I think growth is much slower.


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