It used to be the stuff of fantasy. Living room lights flickering on by recognizing your presence. Sensors knowing your desired temperature and taste in music.
These perks are more than modern marvels now— making their big debut in smart homes and apartments communities. Lights, HVAC systems—even blinds, vacuums, and ovens—are ‘smartening’ up and joining the automated revolution. The vast selection raises the question: how do all of these gadgets and connected devices communicate? The answer is protocols like Zigbee, a technology that specializes in connecting an automated smart apartment.
What is Zigbee?
Zigbee is one of the two primary languages (known as a “protocol”) spoken by smart homes. Connected devices like thermostats, door locks, light switches, and other sensors chatter amongst themselves in the wireless language of Zigbee. This helps cool down a sun-soaked apartment in the heat of the summer or illuminate the entryway when a tenant is expected home. It’s how you can link kitchen lights and dining room music to wake with the voice command “dinner time!”
Why is Zigbee a leading language of choice for smart apartments?
Zigbee is one of the preferred protocols because it is cost effective, energy efficient, and specializes in low data rate signals like those transmitted by smart devices. Owners of multifamily complexes turn to Zigbee to automate their units because:
- Device batteries can last years: Zigbee is a low-power, energy-efficient signal. It transmits very lightweight commands that switch a connected device between a short list of states. It tells a light switch to turn on or off, a thermostat to cool or warm a unit, or indicates a water leak.
- Flies under the radar of workhorse frequencies: Smart apartments are buzzing with high-priority signals like WiFi. WiFi screams at lightning speeds along the information superhighway to carry heavy-duty transmissions like video conferences and 4K holiday movies. Zigbee can run on various bands depending on radiofrequency regulations in your country. But it stays relatively clear of internet traffic by cruising at the lower end of the spectrum slice populated by WiFi.
Zigbee wields another superpower that gives it a leg up over other wireless protocols: the ability to create a mesh network.
What is a mesh network?
When you’re dealing with locks and thermostats, you need a consistent signal over a very large area. WiFi is the expert in blasting an area with heavy-duty transmissions, but as you move further away from the router, connectivity becomes more unreliable. Brick walls, concrete, and other materials can easily obstruct a WiFi signal. When dealing with a home automation system, dead zones mean residents can’t open their front door or control their home climate.
So how do you propagate a strong, dependable signal throughout the entire layout of an apartment? Shouldering the hefty responsibility of home automation is a mesh network.
You can think of a mesh network like a children’s game of parachute, blanketing connectivity over a very large area. Each device receives the ripples distributed by the other smart devices and carries the signal along to the next. Leveraging the power of a mesh network, Zigbee can easily coat an entire apartment with a powerful and reliable wireless communication signal.
How does the Zigbee Alliance benefit you?
Leading manufacturers want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to shop for Zigbee-enabled smart devices. That’s why they’ve come together to form the Zigbee Alliance, a consortium of smart home innovators working together, ensuring all Zigbee connected devices can easily communicate.
This is what makes it possible for you to create a mesh network using a thermostat from one company and light switches from a competing manufacturer. With over 3,500 certified products, the Zigbee Alliance makes it possible to build a cross-catalog smart apartment tailored to your ideal specifications.
Using Zigbee Alliance-certified products, you’ll also set up your smart apartment community for future success. All products within the alliance are backwards compatible. This means the latest and greatest designs of the future will slot seamlessly into your current system without a costly overhaul.
Zigbee specs simply explained
Now that you understand how Zigbee sets the foundation for your smart apartment network, you can dig deeper into the system specs.
Zigbee locks your system down with an ultra-secure encryption standard known as AES-128. Cracking the code on AES-128 is no simple task. In fact, security experts estimate it would take a hacker more years than the total age of the universe to gain access to a network defended by AES-128. So you can rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.
The range between two isolated Zigbee smart devices is about 70-100m. So it’s not the ideal protocol for a limited number of devices scattered across a large house. However, its short range is perfect for apartments, where lots of devices are clustered together in closer proximity.
The ‘language’ of Zigbee is an open-source protocol, meaning anybody can access the lexicon to code their own smart home device. While this makes it a very easy protocol for manufacturers to wield, it also allows companies to essentially invent their own dialects of Zigbee with their own Zigbee protocol. By shopping from brands fully certified by the Zigbee Alliance, you can have peace of mind that devices can communicate without issues .
Another benefit of a Zigbee network? They are self-repairing. If one device goes down, the network can reconfigure itself to skip the damaged link in the chain and quickly map a new route.
WiFi and Bluetooth transmit data at searing speeds, relegating the battery life of devices like laptops and wireless earbuds to a handful of hours. A Zigbee-enabled device can last years on a miniature battery by sending signals at 10 milliwatts—less than 1% of the power needed for a Bluetooth command.
Zigbee is not only a top protocol for automated systems in multi-family communities. A single Zigbee mesh network can support up a staggering 65,000 devices, making it a powerful choice for office buildings and industrial complexes.
Get started with Zigbee
Imagine how a traditional residential unit functions. You have to walk between each room to turn off the lights for the night. To view the status of alarms and water leak sensors, you have to physically move between a variety of panels, pushing different combinations of buttons depending on the manufacturer. In a smart home, the hub is the heart of the system, bringing together all of your Zigbee switches, buttons, and monitors into one centralized mission control:
- Smart Lights: Smart systems can fire up twinkling holiday light bulbs on a set schedule, or automatically raise kitchen and dining area lights come morning. As a property owner, you can remotely set the stage for an upcoming tour with full control of vacant unit lights.
- Plugs: Smart plugs can add a fresh influx of intelligence to traditional devices. By plugging a box fan, lamp, or other appliance into a smart plug, you can easily add it to your automated ecosystem.
- Thermostats: Why arrive home to a chilly unit on a winter night? Smart thermostats improve energy efficiency by allowing residents to set temperature schedules. Instead of running the heat all day long, residents set a program so the temperature gradually increases at just the right time.
- Locks: Consolidate a clunky keyring jingling with hundreds of keys down to a single gadget. Easily leasing agents or maintenance staff to access units without having to loan out physical keys.
Zigbee is the thread that connects in-demand smart devices. And with over 300 million devices in action around the globe, Zigbee is a proven protocol for your apartment automation project. Cost effective, easy-to-use, and energy efficient—with the ability to host over 65,000 devices on a single network—the only limit is your imagination.