Philips pioneer in networking technology

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Friday, November 1, 2002

AMSTERDAM - Philips Semiconductor is among a host of technology heavyweights involved in the development of a new low-cost wireless networking protocol that is intended to become the industry standard for networking automation devices in the home.

Branded Zigbee, the protocol is a low data rate, low power consumption wireless technology that eventually could be used in everything from wireless home security systems, remote lighting and thermostat controls, call buttons for the elderly and disabled and wireless smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Members of the Zigbee Alliance, a non-profit industry organization that is developing, testing and marketing the technology, also include Honeywell, Invensys, Mitsubishi and Motorola as well as more than 20 other active member companies.

Although the technology will be first applied to the industrial and building controls, devices in the home are expected to become the largest market for the Zigbee protocol, with an estimated total available market of more then 400 million units in 2006, or around 50 Zigbee devices in every home. Such penetration is possible because the technology will be available to all and not proprietary to a company or specific group of companies, said Venkat Bahl, Zigbee marketing manager for Philips Semiconductor.

"If you look at this market, it is so proprietary and fragmented, so this is one of the reasons we saw many problems with (product) interoperability," Bahl said. "We are happy if people adopt it, since that's how we build critical mass."

Gaining that consumer acceptance will come after manufacturers and service providers begin to deliver devices equipped with Zigbee into the home, Bahl said. For example, a utility company looking to provide bundled services, such as telecom and home automation controls to the home, might install a Zigbee-enabled, Zigbee-branded controller in the home.

"Then you go to Radio Shack and see something else with the Zigbee logo on it," Bahl said. "That's our marketing job - you already have this in your home and you know that this is what it can do for you already."

The alliance plans to first target the OEM market, which will be where the user interfaces for the technology will be developed. Products are expected to be available in the middle of 2003.