ZigBee: Certification Formalized, Platforms Blessed, Develoopment Done

The ZigBee Alliance (www.zigbee.org), an association of companies working to enable wirelessly networked monitoring and control based on an open global standard, has formalized its certification process. The Alliance's testing approach is designed to ensure that products based on ZigBee-compliant platforms from different vendors will be able to form a single, cohesive ZigBee network capable of passing data for all applications on the network. The Alliance expects to begin certification testing of end-user products based on these platforms and ZigBee application profiles in the coming months.

As part of this announcement, the association also welcomed the industry's first four ZigBee-compliant platforms, from Chipcon (www.chipcon.com), CompXs (www.compxs.com), Ember (www.ember.com), and Freescale Semiconductor (www.freescale.com/zigbee). Using testing services provided by the Alliance's official test houses—National Technical Systems, Inc., and TUV Rheinland—and leveraging analysis tools from Daintree Networks, the Alliance conducted extensive testing on these platforms to ensure complete interoperability.

For at least the first year, the ZigBee Alliance will require members to test their devices at one of the two test houses and then participate in an Alliance-sponsored interoperability testing event to confirm interoperability with other like products in a ZigBee network. Once a device has successfully completed both steps, the test house will issue a certificate declaring the product ZigBee certified, which the company can then submit to the Alliance for logo issuance and licensing.

With SeaSolve Software's (www.seasolve.com) wireless communications test software, based on National Instruments' LabVIEW for PXI, those developing or incorporating ZigBee (and 802.11 a/b/g) communications can now perform pre-certification compliance tests prior to submitting for ZigBee interoperability testing.

From Development to Deployment

Tendril (www.tendrilinc.com), a software firm developing middleware for ZigBee-based wireless sensor networks (WSNs), says that WSN is transitioning from a "bleeding edge" market pioneered by vendors to a "deployable solution" market fueled by a wider array of developers, systems integrators, OEMs, and application developers. And, it says, its attraction of a new round of funding (involving Appian Venture Partners) is evidence of this.

According to Appian principal Chris Onan, "These sensor networks are going to be in everything: outdoor industrial environments like rail yards and shipping docks, and perimeter security fences, for example. But today, WSN deployment is limited to only extremely experienced integrators and developers. Ninety percent of the adopting WSN marketplace cannot afford to spend the time and expense necessary to create a working WSN system. There has to be a simpler, cheaper way to go about deploying these networks." Tendril promises to reduce time to market and time to production for enterprise developers, systems integrators, and OEMs.

"Before now, no one has had the pieces needed to add the benefits of ZigBee technology easily to an existing network," says Tim Cutler, vice president of sales and marketing for Cirronet (www.cirronet.com).

Cirronet recently demonstrated its ZigBee ModBus Gateway and ZigBee Sensor Modem for industrial automation. The products allow PLCs from multiple vendors to communicate with remote sensors and actuators over a ZigBee network using standard ModBus addresses and commands. Since the ZigBee ModBus gateway communicates with the PLC using the ModBus protocol, existing monitoring programs can still be used to report on ZigBee-connected devices.