Wireless technology is dominating a huge portion of our daily activities. Even the moment you’re reading this through your phone or laptop you’re using wireless communication.
Phones use a wireless medium to communicate with their operators’ cell towers and that’s what makes them mobile. You can take the phone anywhere yet it still be connected, no wire is needed, that’s the magic of wireless.
Today Wireless communication became the go-to medium for communication. Many devices and systems such as IoT rely heavily on a range of different wireless technologies like Zigbee, Bluetooth, or Wifi.
Today we’re going to shed some light on these wireless technologies to help you determine which one works the best for your setup.
Most of the time IoT devices stay idle yet maintain communication with other devices, which means they need to be extremely power efficient. It can consume a lot of power and make the electricity bills hit the roof.
On the other hand, the devices have to have the power to send and make the signals reach the preferred destinations. For instance, if a device is inside a concrete wall then it will need more penetrating power to reach other devices in the same household.
So, the wireless technology you’re choosing needs to be both powerful while being energy efficient at the same time. IoT devices usually use more or less three wireless technology, Zigbee, Bluetooth, and WiFi. Each one has its’ own strength and vulnerabilities.
A detailed discussion below will help you find out more about their specialties.
Zonal Intercommunication Global-standard (Zigbee) is a wireless communication technology developed to meet the low-cost, low-power wireless IoT device communication medium.
Zigbee is mainly developed for IoT devices that use a very small amount of data to communicate with each other, hence Zigbee offers an incredibly low bandwidth data transfer rate.
The IEEE 802.15.4 physical board radio specification underpins the Zigbee connection standard, which runs in unlicensed radio frequencies such as 2.4 GHz, 900 MHz, and 868 MHz.
Zigbee is more popular when it comes to smart home devices as it can stay in sleep mode until a signal is received. This makes Zigbee so energy efficient that it can run an entire year with just a single AA battery (it also depends on the device you’re using and the power it consumes).
Where Zigbee lags in range it overcomes this with mesh networking. Mesh networking is daisy chaining multiple devices to carry a signal here each device works as a wireless range extender so the initial device can reach the end of the house.
To visualize the process think of this process like this, ‘A’ wants to send a message to ‘F’ but ‘A’ cant reach ‘F’ cause they are far apart. But ‘B’ is near ‘A’ so ‘A’ sends the message to ‘B’ and ‘B’ forwards it to ‘F’. This way with a short range, ‘A’ and ‘F” can communicate using nearby devices as bridges.
To determine whether Zigbee is the right pick, it’s imperative to learn what more Zigbee has to offer.
Having multiple options in something is always a plus fun and but incompatibility remains a big issue still.
To resolve this, Connectivity Standard Alliance (CSA) standardized this connectivity protocol.
As a result, numerous IoT device manufacturing companies adapted this connection protocol making Zigbee a standard communication protocol in IoT devices in the process.
High Gain with Little Effort
As mentioned earlier, IoT devices are meant to be sold in bulk like a smart switch, smart light, or smart security system, if the consumer has to buy each IoT device at a premium price then it would not be as appealing as it is now.
So, the Manufacturer has to become creative in order to reduce the manufacturing expense while providing a dependable service.
Zigbee checks all lists when it comes to the cost-effective, energy-efficient yet solid communication protocol.
Since most IoT devices are used within the house of the consumer or the consumer carries the device personally they contain large amounts of personal data.
With the rapid development of internet technology, it has also become evident that it enables us to lead a smart, convenient lifestyle. However, it also brings numerous cyber security challenges. Since IoT device is associated with our daily life they naturally became the prime target of cybercrime.
So we need a reliable secure communication system is needed that will protect your personal data from these attackers. As you have guessed Zigbee provides secure communication among IoT devices. It encrypts the communication data using over-the-air AES-128-CCM encryption so you can rest assured that your personal data is secure.
Blutetooth was first invented in 1999 by Ericsson CTU Nils Rydbeck. Being implemented in mobile phones, it gained popularity and exposure rapidly.
Although at first Bluetooth was not that energy efficient but with the release of newer versions, it is becoming more energy effective and more capable.
Bluetooth has two variations one is Bluetooth classic and another one is Bluetooth low energy which is used in IoT devices for obvious reasons.
Despite having this special low-energy variant Zigbee is still superior when comes to energy consumption.
Bluetooth low energy achieve this power-saving feature by reducing the overall bandwidth compared to Bluetooth classic. Bluetooth Low energy also saves energy by being the sleepy head. It goes to sleep between data transmissions and saves a lot of energy this way.
Though Bluetooth has been around for a long time it doesn't provide as secure communication as wifi. Probably because it is used mostly in such functions where security is not the main concern.
Bluetooth uses 128-bit encryption while Zigbee provides over-the-air AES-128-CCM encryption which makes Zigbee as secure as wifi compared to Bluetooth.
Range and Penetration
Bluetooth uses a Personal Area Network (PAN) which explains that the range of Bluetooth is very low. The theoretical range of Bluetooth is 77 meters whereas Zigbeees’ is 291 meters.
The maximum transmitting power of Bluetooth is 10mw which means it has low wall penetration power and Zigbee has 10 times of transmit power than Bluetooth. When it comes to Zigbee vs Bluetooth range, Zigbee is the clear winner.
Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) is the most common radio frequency when it comes to home networking. It has the same recognition as Bluetooth. Those who have an internet connection at home most probably also use a WiFi router to turn their hard-wired internet to wireless.
WiFi frequency is the go-to choice for its high wall penetration, range, low latency, and bandwidth capacity. When it comes to wireless networking it is at the top of the list.
WiFi has an even older history than Bluetooth. In 1985 Federal Communications Commission released the 900 Mhz, 2.4 GHz, and 5.8 GHz unlicensed to everyone.
Being this old and used almost in all households it is the favorite wireless communication protocol. As WiFi is this common it makes sense to make IoT devices around this technology but as always it has its own downsides.
Being old and used in network connection it is imperative that wifi needs to be as secure as possible. Wi-Fi security methods employ encryption technology to safeguard networks and protect their customers' data.
As wireless networks are frequently less secure than wired networks, wireless security methods are essential for keeping you safe online. WEP, WPA, and WPA2 are the most widely used Wi-Fi security methods today.
Unfortunately for WiFi power consumption is its’ biggest drawback. When it comes to power consumption Zigbee is the winner over WiFi. Wifi is designed to run directly from wall power hence power efficiency is not the first priority of WiFi.
Comparing the three major aspects, compatibility, power consumption, and security Zigbee proved to be the superior one among these three.
It has better power consumption than the other so it’s the best pick for IoT devices that use batteries to operate. IoT devices such as Evvr In-Wall Relay Switch which uses Zigbee will give you basically the same level of security as WiFi while keeping the power consumption minimum.
If you’re ready to get yourself some smart home devices but not sure which devices use Zigbee technology you can leave us a message. We’d be more than happy to educate you about these technologies so you can choose the best IoT device for your home.