ZigBee Technology : Architecture, and How it works

1. Introduction

In a world dominated by technology, the use efficient, reliable and cost-effective means of communication is increasing tremendously. In this scenario, Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) caught the attention of people on global level (Titus et al., 2005). Wireless sensor standards have been developed due to their low power mode like ISA100.11, Wireless HART, IEEE 802.15.3, Wibree and ZigBee. ZigBee based WSN was developed to meet the emerging issues regarding energy consumption. ZigBee is a standard wireless network which was authorized in December 2005 in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and supports higher layer protocol following the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. It may run in three different bands i.e. 2.4 GHz, 868 MHz and 928 MHz (Chhaya, Sharma, Bhagwatikar & Kumar, 2017). ZigBee based wireless sensor networks are designed under ZigBee Alliance, which is an alliance of different companies working together to develop global standards for designing energy-efficient wireless systems (Kaushal, Kaur & Kaur, 2014). Several wireless based monitoring applications have been introduced in industrial and domestic environment which require less energy usage, good battery life and low complexity. For such applications, ZigBee or IEEE 802.15.4 standard proved to be a best alternative than existing standards like ISA100.11, Wibree and Wireless HART. ZigBee is named due to the irregular pattern of bees moving zigzag around the flowers indicating a communication between mesh network and nodes. This ZigBee network comprising of its specific components is similar to the components of bees’ network like queen bee, worker bees and drones (Kaushal, Kaur & Kaur, 2014).

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2. Literature Review

Wireless Sensor Networks have been tremendously used having various industrial, agricultural, military, domestic and other commercial applications. WSNs can also be used in sports while observing the behavior of athletes during their training or competitions (Gharghan, Nordin & Ismail, 2014). Kamat, Patil and Bobade (n.d.) mentioned that moving from early research in military applications, ZigBee based WSNs have been widely used in home automation, flood monitoring, meter reading for utility purposes, judgment of rainfall and other healthcare perspectives. These WSNs are flexible for installation and functioning as compared to other conventional networks. These networks are specifically curative, adaptive and are designed in a manner so that they can overcome the harsh conditions or may endure hostile environmental variations. Baeg et al. (2007) designed a home project for frivolous service robots to get definitive services by using ZigBee based WSN. Liang, Huang, Jiang and Yao (2008) projected a wireless system having smart home sensor based on ZigBee network. Nadimi, Søgaard, Bak and Oudshoorn (2008) used ZigBee based Wireless Sensor Network to observe the presence and pasture time of cows in a field having new grass. The total pasture time was calculated by monitoring the pasture time in gateway area where gateway was directly be in touch with sensor nodes. Similarly, Suh and Ko (2008) proposed a new home control system based on WSN which was designed to assign several home tasks. Moreover, Zhou, Tian, Xue and Yin (2011) describe wireless sensor network based on multi-pattern information acquirement. Kaushal, Kaur and Kaur (2014) reviewed ZigBee based WSNs by describing the importance of this technology, characteristics, access method, topologies and its various applications. It is also used in smart watch.

A comparison of Zigbee with WiFi and Bluetooth is shown in figure below (Future Electronics, n.d.):

3. The Technology Environment

ZigBee WSNs comprise of basic components like one coordinator, few end devices as well as routers. The coordinator is responsible for the maintenance of whole personal area network of ZigBee. During initialization phase, scanning of existing radio signals to search more useful and reliable channels is conducted by coordinator. This program is already installed in coordinator. After the phase of initialization, ZigBee devices request the coordinator to connect with the network. At this time, end devices scan already existing channels to indicate the network renowned by identifier and then requests are sent to coordinator. There is an optional device in ZigBee WSN i.e. router which is responsible for routing when there has been covered a large area by personal area network (Song, Lu & Bai, 2012). It has been reported that there are two kinds of access methods i.e. non-Beacon enabled and Beacon enabled. In non-Beacon enabled access method, nodes present in the network can send the required data when channels are free, while in case of Beacon enabled access method, nodes can send or get only pre-agreed time gaps (Kaushal et al., 2014).

There are three different network topologies which are supported by ZigBee WSNs i.e. star, tree and mesh topology. Star topology is simple in which coordinator is enclosed in several end devices and routers. However, the drawback of this topology is that if coordinator is stopped, the network cannot function, because all messages have to travel through the centre of star to reach their destination. In tree topology, coordinator may connect with end devices or routers and it is possible that multiple nodes may connect with each router. Here the coordinator acts as the root of tree. All the messages may adopt only one pathway, hence it is not considered as a reliable topology. The most reliable and flexible topology is mesh topology, as messages can follow multiple pathways from their respective source to the target point. ZigBee has self-healing system and if any router falls, this mechanism allows the system to find another alternative pathway for signals (Kaushal et al., 2014).

The ZigBee architecture is composed of several components like physical layer, Medium Access Control (MAC layer), network layer and application layer. Physical layer is the nearest layer to the hardware. It can directly communicate with the radio transceiver. MAC layer lines between physical layer and network layer; it is not only responsible for connecting and disconnecting, but it also harmonizes devices to beacon channel in beacon enabled network. The network layer is an intermediate layer between MAC layer and application layer. It helps to form the network and routing system and it is also useful to enhance the battery life in devices having low power mode. Application layer holds the application objects and it is the upper most layer of ZigBee protocol stack (Song, Tian & Li, 2011). Transport layer, presentation layer and session layer are included in Application support sub layer and zigbee device objects (Ravi, 2017).


4. Advantages and Disadvantages:

There are several advantages of ZigBee based WSNs. It is a cost-effective, less-complex than general-purpose operating systems and energy-efficient technology which has been widely used in industrial applications. It holds up almost 65,000 devices on only one network. It helps in transmission options like broadcast. ZigBee can provide maximum 250 Kbps output due to its low data rate capability, hence can be used in several applications like home automation, patient’s fitness examining, forest fire monitoring, meter reading, health care, home based gym, air pollution detection, water quality measurements, residential utility system, substitution of cable, checking system for parking vacancies, greenhouse designing, indication of environmental disasters. ZigBee end devices have the ability to function for at least two years even on a single battery (Somani & Petal, 2012).

ZigBee based WSNs have some drawbacks also. It requires a lot of knowledge of the system regarding operational maintenance and working. It is less secure than WiFi system. When there is any fault in ZigBee based home-appliances, the replacement may carry a large cost. ZigBee based communication technology may have usage from unauthorized people similar to the other wireless communication system. ZigBee wireless sensor network devices can be used in indoor wireless applications widely due to some limitations (Chhaya, Sharma, Bhagwatikar & Kumar, 2017).

5. Conclusion

ZigBee based wireless sensor network require low power standards to improve and increase the lifetime of network system. It has importance due to its less complexity, accuracy, cost-effectiveness, reliability, low data rate and flexibility. It offers advanced security systems, less energy consumption and excellent mesh networking. It supports two types of access methods and three different network topologies. The technology has prominence to communicate between nearby devices with very low cost and power consumption. In future, we may work on different models for energy calculations and to enhance network lifetime by optimization of the system.

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