Developers Partner on ZigBee Products and Services

While the ZigBee specification has been ratified, the product certification process is yet being developed. Still, vendors continue to fill the pipeline with products that are "ZigBee ready"—i.e., conform to the IEEE's 802.15.4 standard—and to make other announcements that will position them as leaders in this space.

For instance, Helicomm (www.helicomm.com), provider of wireless networking solutions, and Silicon Laboratories Inc. (www.silabs.com), developer of analog-intensive, mixed-signal ICs, have demonstrated a jointly developed ZigBee mesh networking system. The partners say that the combination of Silicon Laboratories' CMOS IC expertise and global presence with Helicomm's networking software and FCC-certified modules provides the broadest range of easy-to-use, standards-based wireless networking solutions available.

Helicomm offers a collection of ZigBee-ready development tools and wireless products, including an IC and product design verification tool (ZigBee-ready signal generator), an integrated embedded ZigBee networking development kit (EZ-Net DevKit), and a 2.4 GHz embedded wireless module (IP-Link 1200).

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Two other companies, the fast-growing Ember Corp. (www.ember.com) and the Taiwanese Mototech (www.mototech.com.tw), have joined forces to provide design and manufacturing services to those wanting to create wireless control and monitoring products. Mototech has expertise in integrating Ember's 802.15.4 wireless semiconductor systems into a range of electronics for home and building automation, entertainment, and other low-power network applications.

"With the ZigBee market set to explode, it's all about fast time to market. But achieving high-volume production quickly with high quality is beyond the reach of many companies," says Venkat Bahl, Ember's VP of marketing.

Another Ember partnership, this one with Arcom (www.arcom.com), supplier of embedded computer and communications technology to industry, promises ZigBee–based wireless sensor and control networks that link factories, supply chains, and field operations to IBM enterprise systems. Arcom has integrated Ember's wireless semiconductors and software into its XScale-based industrial network gateways. The combined solution creates an end-to-end telemetry communications gateway that pumps ZigBee network data from remote devices to IBM's publish-and-subscribe information broker, WebSphere MQ Integrator.

According to Arcom President Arlen Nipper, the Arcom/Ember partnership solves one of the thorniest issues impeding the adoption of new wireless mesh technology in industrial applications: making the data from remote sensors and controllers easy to integrate and useful to business applications.

Wellspring International Inc. (www.wellspringwireless.com), provider of wireless, point-of-use utility submeters for all building types, says it is the first submetering company to adopt ZigBee technology. The company has released a 2.4 GHz ZigBee-ready prototype design of its Aqura submetering system. The system wirelessly monitors, records, and displays consumption data within any multifamily residential unit—regardless of age, type, or plumbing configuration. Consumption readings and leak diagnostics are collected via a radio network and delivered to Wellspring's data and billing center several times a day. Consumption and diagnostic information is made available on the Internet to both property manager and resident. ZigBee's interoperability will allow Wellspring to use its current system as a foundation for other wireless applications. "By integrating our submetering communication with other ZigBee-related products, we have the potential to dramatically expand our own offering in the apartment industry," says Wade Smith, Wellspring CEO.

Finally, OnEarth Solutions Corp. (www.onearthsolutions.com) offers its OES-ZUSB-1000 development platform ($2950), geared to manufacturers, system integrators, and engineering firms. The kit promises cost-effective design and development of scalable wireless sensor networks, and ease in adding wireless capabilities to existing products. Designed for PC and/or embedded hardware use, it contains a USB-based 802.15.4 radio transceiver, five battery-operated input nodes that can be configured as radio repeater/router units, selected sensors, software API, and development utilities.

The company also offers services to help design projects from scratch or add wireless capabilities to existing products and systems. OnEarth boasts expertise in ZigBee and integration with diverse wireless technologies (including GPS, 802.11b, Bluetooth, GSM, CDMA, and satellite), as well as with smart sensors.

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