Report: ZigBee wireless set to swarm

The wireless automation technology will see explosive growth over the next few years, a new study predicts.

ZigBee, an emerging wireless networking technology, will see strong growth over the next few years, according to a new study from ABI Research.

About one million devices with ZigBee will be shipped worldwide in 2005, the market research firm forecast in a report released on Tuesday. This total is likely to zoom to 80 million units by the end of the following year, it said. The industrial sector will pick up on the technology before home networking manufacturers, the study predicted.

ZigBee is a wireless specification, also known as 802.15.4b, that is tailored to building and home automation. With ZigBee, homeowners could set up a wireless network that would give them remote control of lighting fixtures, home security systems and other systems, for example.

ABI Research analyst Chris Lopez said 2006 will prove a turning point for ZigBee, because it will likely become a standard by then.

"First, 802.15.4b will be approved," Lopez said. "This extension of the basic standard will simplify and improve interoperability worldwide. Secondly, ZigBee vendors who, today, mainly target European and American manufacturers, will be ready to turn their attention to the huge markets of Asia."

Members of the ZigBee Alliance, which includes Mitsubishi Electric and Motorola, have been working on the specification for the low-power, short-range wireless technology for a couple of years. Once the standard is ratified, sales of noncompliant ZigBee-like devices will start to fall, ABI Research predicted, noting that some manufacturers are already producing ZigBee devices.

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