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The ZigBee standard has arrived. Just as ABI Research forecast earlier this year, the ZigBee standard was ratified recently. ABI Research has based its ZigBee shipments and ASP forecasts on the assumption that the ZigBee ratification would take place at the end of 2004. The recent ratification by the ZigBee Alliance confirm ABI Research’s continuing in-depth understanding of the ZigBee technology and markets. The ZigBee business race can now begin in earnest. Companies such as Figure 8 Wireless, Freescale, CompXs, Eaton and Atmel have achieved a head start over the competition due to their heavy involvement in the ZigBee Alliance that wrote the specifications. These companies, along with several others, already have ZigBee products, because they were aware of the major details that would be included in the final ratification. In a worse case scenario, these companies will require only minimal changes to a small number of products in order to be fully compliant with the ZigBee standard. This head start in the ZigBee business race will be essential in earning consumer trust and it will afford the leaders significant market share. Companies not involved in the process had to wait for the full ratification of the standard. That time has now come and all 100-plus companies active in the field can begin offering ZigBee-compliant products on the market. The reason the ZigBee Alliance postponed the release of the standard several times was to insure that the final product would be complete and fool proof. This is important to ZigBee’s success in the market place because most consumers will simply return any ZigBee product that does not easily work with multiple vendors. ZigBee has successfully completed a multiple node and multiple vendor network, illustrating that the ZigBee standard works and is ready for the wider world. The ratification of the standard now allows any company in the world to implement ZigBee technology in their respective applications. The specification will be available for both Alliance members and for non-members. Non-members will have to join the Adaptor Class of the ZigBee Alliance. This Adaptor Class has been created for those companies that are interested in developing a ZigBee application before it becomes publicly available. This Adaptor Class has a smaller membership fee than a full membership but does not allow the class members to participate in any members-only meetings, nor does it allow these companies to input their ideas for further enhancements of the standard. The standard will not be open source, and will be read-only. At this time developers must still become Alliance members at some level, whether it is at the Adaptor Class level or the full membership level. This does allow developers to read the standard and start brainstorming new product ideas without the initial membership fees; once a product is ready for development, they can obtain the required membership. Some proprietary solutions such as Zensys’s Z-wave are open source technologies available for all developers to use. This will definitely give ZigBee the competition needed to keep end product costs low. Since the beginning, the ZigBee Alliance has intended to make the specification publicly available. Pubic availability — whether it is open source or not — allows developers to use their creativity to the fullest. One main characteristic of low power/low data rate wireless networks such as Z-wave and ZigBee is that they have the potential to function in a whole variety of applications that are only limited by one’s imagination. Publicly available standards promote creativity from developers and will ultimately promote the growth of the entire low power/low data rate wireless networks market.
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