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With 2016 being touted as the Year of IoT, when connectivity technology will take a major step towards what seems an inevitable future where all manner of “things” will be connected. However, if we are to take significant steps forward with the Internet of Things, the continuing debate on IoT standards needs to advance.

A significant development in this debate came with last month’s announcement of a partnership between the ZigBee Alliance and the EnOcean Alliance. The two organisations intend to cooperate on combining the benefits of EnOcean energy harvesting wireless solutions with ZigBee 3.0 for worldwide applications.

Wireless Technology

The cooperation connects the two alliances’ advantages, synergies and track record of standards advancements to create an open, global specification that will extend energy harvesting wireless communication to a broader range of self-powered IoT sensor solutions. These solutions use the surrounding environment as their energy source, making battery-less connected devices a reality.

“We are very excited that the EnOcean Alliance is bringing its energy harvesting expertise and widely deployed device profiles into the ZigBee 3.0 ecosystem”, said Tobin Richardson, President and CEO of the ZigBee Alliance. “Our goal with ZigBee 3.0 is to provide a unifying IoT standard that simplifies product development while reducing industry fragmentation and unlocking new market growth opportunities.

This agreement with the EnOcean Alliance is a first important step down that path. A jointly developed specification for the ZigBee 3.0 ecosystem will bring the promise of interoperable self-powered IoT solutions to more markets and applications, meeting growing demand for plug-and-play solutions that can deliver seamless, ultra-low-power battery-less communication”.

These are strong predictions, but ZigBee 3.0 is the first single unified, open and complete wireless IoT product development solution of its kind. It extends all the way from the physical to application layer, and includes certification and branding for improved interoperability across a growing range of market segments. Based on proven ZigBee PRO Mesh networking and now with Green Power support for advanced energy-harvesting devices, ZigBee 3.0 has the power to disrupt the IoT standards debate.

ZigBee 3.0 unifies all previous application-specific ZigBee device descriptions, behaviours and profiles into a common applications layer that supports all IoT product development needs for smart homes, buildings and neighbourhood area networks. The product supports the transformation of BAS into the Building Internet of Things (BIoT), as discussed in detail in a recent Memoori Report.

EnOcean see this as the “major next step on the way to an interoperable IoT, from two industry-leading organizations combining their expertise and influence to help make this vision a reality”, according to Graham Martin, Chairman of the EnOcean Alliance. “The globally available 2.4 GHz frequency is the key to the consumer market. We look forward to working with the ZigBee Alliance, one of the most experienced organisations in this field, to define the technical specifications for worldwide energy harvesting wireless solutions based on this worldwide standard”.

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This technical cooperation agreement will build on the EnOcean Alliance’s already strong position with more than 1,500 interoperable products available for home and commercial building automation. It also expands it by bringing energy harvesting wireless communication to many more applications in the IoT and consumer arenas.

A technical task force will be built of ZigBee Alliance and EnOcean Alliance representatives to define the technical specifications required to combine standardised EnOcean Equipment Profiles (EEPs) with the ZigBee 3.0 solution, which operates in the worldwide IEEE 802.15.4 2.4 GHz standard. The alliances plan to complete definition of this technical specification and share details of associated collaborative marketing and business activities in the second quarter of 2016.

Hundreds of members of the ZigBee Alliance, a non-profit association of companies creating open, global standards that define the IoT for use in consumer, commercial and industrial applications, will be showcasing products at CES 2016 to start what should be a landmark year for the IoT.