March 15, 2023 - What is Zigbee? That's one of several questions we've been hearing a lot since introducing shades with built-in Zigbee motors from Somfy.
Below we answer some of those Frequently Asked Questions and share some links where you can find more detailed technical information.
What is Zigbee?
Here's what Wikipedia has to say: Zigbee is a "low-power, low data rate, and close proximity (i.e., personal area) wireless ad hoc network … designed for small scale projects which need wireless connection." In other words, it's a specification for a type of radio control technology.
The name comes from the so-called "waggle dance" of honeybees. Bees share information about where to find food, water, and even new nesting sites by performing this "dance." As more bees receive the information, they, too, begin the dance to share with other bees. The significance of this will become apparent as you read on.
Is it new?
No. The concept of these ad-hoc radio networks first came up in the 1990s, and the first Zigbee specification came out in 2004. It has been updated since then.
How is Zigbee different from other radio control protocols?
There are several differences. For one thing, it uses very little power because it is designed to cover a relatively small area. The standard also requires battery-powered devices to have a battery life of at least two years. Unlike other approaches to Radio Frequency control, this wireless technology operates on a self-healing mesh network.
What's a mesh network?
Typical RF networks depend on a single, centralized receiver hub. But in a mesh network, data and communications are routed to every device, so that each one is a wireless receiver for the network. Just like those dancing bees, the devices are all sharing information with one another.
This means wireless control range can be expanded because you don't have to be near a central receiver, only within range of the furthest shade or other network device. Range can be further expanded through "Smart Plugs" that are plugged in to a standard home electrical outlet.
OK, but what is a "self-healing" network?
If a device on the network stops functioning, it doesn't shut the network down. Network devices will seek other pathways to communicate with one another.
Somfy motor with built-in Zigbee.
Do Zigbee motors look or function differently?
No. A Somfy motor with built-in Zigbee technology and one with RTS look and work exactly the same. The difference is in the network communication.
Will Draper Zigbee shades interfere with Bluetooth or other RF devices?
No. This protocol operates across a range of 16 different channels. Several of these channels do not overlap with those used by U.S. and European Wi-Fi.
Can my Draper Zigbee shade network be hacked?
This is highly unlikely. The standard includes high levels of encryption, so it is a very safe network. To quote the Zigbee Alliance website:
"Zigbee is secure by design, utilizing a variety of security mechanisms including over-the-air AES-128-CCM encryption."
By Terry Coffey