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Zigbee and 20 IEE Computing & Control Engineering | April/May 2005

ZigBee and Bluetooth are different by design and are optimised for different applications. Real industrial wireless networks will inevitably be hybrids including both in complementary roles.

ZigBee and Bluetooth


Strengths and Weaknesses for Industrial applications
By Nick Baker

Most industry analysts are fore- specification. In mid-1999 the SIG approached the IEEE and casting explosive growth in the use of asked them to formally adopt the Bluetooth specifications. wireless data network technologies in The 802.15.1 standard was published in 2002. Thousands of industrial applications in the next few Promoter, Associate, and Adopter companies have since years. joined the SIG which develops, publishes and promotes Figure 1 depicts the wireless spectrum Bluetooth and runs a qualification program to foster device in terms of two key performance characteristics wireless interoperability . radio range and data transmission rate. Other performance ZigBees origins date only from 1998 when Motorola characteristics will be discussed later but in terms of these started work on this type of low power mesh networking. two parameters it is important to recognise that the two The IEEE 802.15.4 standard was based on Motorolas midIEEE standards that underpin ZigBee (802.15.4) and 2001 proposal and was ratified in May 2003. Phillips, Bluetooth (802.15.1) are intended to differentiate them from Motorola, Invensys, Honeywell, and Mitsubishi each other. The IEEE defines only the Physical (PHY) Text or Composite Data Files Compressed Multi-channel and Medium Access Control (MAC) layers in Sample Data and Audio Video Video its standards. For both ZigBee and Bluetooth separate alliances of companies worked to develop specifications covering the network/ 802.15.3a UWB link, security and application profile layers so 802.11b that the commercial potential of the standards 802.11a/HL2 & 802.11g 802.15.4 could be realised. ZigBee 802.15.1 Bluetooth 2 Bluetooth originated in 1994 when Ericsson 802.15.1 began to examine alternatives to cables that Bluetooth 1 linked mobile phone accessories. In 1998 Ericsson was joined by IBM, Nokia, Intel, and Data Rate Toshiba to form the Bluetooth Special Interest Fig 1: The wireless landscape Group (SIG) which defined the initial




IEE Computing & Control Engineering | April/May 2005


joined together and formed the ZigBee Alliance in mid-2002 to develop and promote this technology and leverage the standard. Ember, Freescale and Samsung joined as promoters later. They worked together on defining the network, security and application layers of the ZigBee specification, which was ratified in December 2004. There are now well over 100 affiliate members of the ZigBee Alliance representing semiconductor manufacturers, technology development companies, OEMs, end user companies and systems integrators.

of end nodes within the network and, by virtue of their multi-hop capability can cover large areas, will have a very , wide range of applications from industrial sensing and control to building automation and security, home automation and even in interactive toys.


Lets focus our attention on industrial wireless data networks and their desirable characteristics. Range: At least 50m in cluttered industrial RF environments where there is often a lot of metal in equipment and building structure and increasing amounts of radio interference. Data rate: In industrial sensing and control applications required data rates vary widely by application but are often low and/or intermittent. Network latency [or how long the data takes to get from origin to destination]: This varies widely by application. It should ideally be possible to tune the network availability or response to the application requirement at the end-node to optimise performance. A second consideration is how long new devices take to join the network. Power profile: Ideally under all circumstances devices would be battery-operated to avoid both power and data wiring costs and increase flexibility . Security: At the lowest level: How sure can I be that the data did get from origin to end point accurately and completely? This is critical in sensing and control applications where humans do not normally validate data at the operating time interval. At the highest level: How sure can I be that my network and its data cannot be hacked and the data misappropriated or meddled with? Am I able to control which devices join my network? Operating Frequency: The main requirement here is operation in one of the unlicensed bands for operating cost and regulatory reasons. Globally the 2.4GHz ISM band is emerging as the preferred band, which brings increased risk of interference from other devices. Much of the overhead of wireless network protocols involves strategies to avoid interference degradation of network integrity . Engineering and design complexity: More complexity will drive up cost for product developers, implementers and end-users. The technology should ideally be relatively simple to understand and engineer into products, have low overheads in terms of system operation and design, and be

So what are the objectives behind the two technologies? Looking in a little more detail we can see some clear differences and some similarities. Firstly looking at Bluetooth, the SIG mission statement defines an objective targeting short range and mobile

Direct Connection
Wire replacement Point to point

One central routing and control point Single-hop-point to multi-point All data flows through central point Examples are WifI, Bluetooth, GSM

Multiple data paths Mulit-hop Self configuring, self healing Examples are ZigBee, EmberNet, SensiNet

Fig 2: Wireless network topologies

products and this is echoed by the IEEE in defining a Personal Operating Space (POS) of 10m radius and allowing for mobility The use of the word personal links . this technology at its core to provision of ad-hoc connections between devices used by humans. The types of device interoperability profiles that have been developed for Bluetooth [cordless telephony headset, , LAN access, fax, printing, hands-free, etc.] and the types of application areas in which products have been developed are very much in line with the intent of the SIG and the standard. Looking at ZigBee the key additions or differences in terms of the alliance mission statement are low power, networked [as opposed to connected], and open standard. The 802.15.4 standard also speaks of a POS and 10m range but recognises the possibility for greater range at lower data rates. These mesh self-healing networks, which allow mobility


IEE Computing & Control Engineering | April/May 2005

ZigBee and Bluetooth

simple to implement and support. Network topology: Increasing the number of possible communication paths through the network increases the likelihood that the message will be received at its destination, even if after multiple hops. This makes network traffic more complex but will increase the network resilience and reliability Ideally the full range of topologies . [Figure 2] should be supported. Number of devices: The number of required measurement points is increasing significantly often in a , retrofit manner, to more completely measure industrial environments and processes for better control and for compliance and audit purposes. In most real industrial applications many tens, hundreds and possibly thousands of devices could be required in a network. Scalability/Extendability: Industrial environments constantly change growing or shrinking in size and the number and nature of measurement points. Sometimes this is short term for example, intensifying measurement during commissioning stages of a new plant. The wireless network must be capable of accommodating these changes without significant support overhead to the enterprise. Flexibility: The networking technology should be flexible in terms of the uses to which it might be put. It should be agnostic to the type of sensors or output devices attached and able to be implemented for different device types without a lot of device-specific requirements within the network or the protocol stack. Resilience and reliability: It must have the real world

Bluetooth is always on and must be recharged frequently; ZigBee sleeps most of the time and has years of battery life

performance capability to deal with transient interference and obstacles. It must be able to manage and adjust the network configuration, ideally automatically and know or , be alerted when the network encounters a situation that it cannot resolve. During the network implementation it should be possible to design out unnecessary single points of failure.


We turn now to a comparison of the two technologies in terms of the desirable features above and reference Fig 3. Range: As designed and without special equipment it is clear that ZigBee has the potential to operate over a greater range especially in low clutter-radio environments. The upper range limit has really only been possible with proprietary mesh networking protocols, such as SensiNet, running over 802.15.4 radios. Data rate: Where higher data rates are important Bluetooth clearly has the advantage and can support a wider range of traffic types than ZigBee.

Range As designed Special kit or outdoors Data rate Network Latency (typical) New slave enumeration Sleeping slave changing to active Active slave channel access Power profile Security Operating Frequency Complexity Network Topology Number of devices per network Scalability/Extendability Flexibility Resilience and reliability

10-100 metres up to 400 metres 20-250 Kbps

10 metres 100+ metres dep. on radio 1 Mbps

30ms 15ms 15ms Years Optimizes slave power requirements 128 bit AES and application layer user definable 868 Mhz, 902-928 MHz, 2.4 GHz ISM Simple Adhoc, star, mesh hybrid 2 to 65,000 Very High/Yes Very High Very High

20s 3s 2ms Days Maximises adhoc functionality 64 bit, 128 bit 2.4 GHz ISM Complex Adhoc piconets 8 Low/No Medium, profile dependent Medium

Fig 3: Comparison of desirable characteristics

IEE Computing & Control Engineering | April/May 2005


Focus on remote sensing and control

Warehouses, Fleet management, Factory, Supermarkets, Office complexes Gas/Water/Electric meter, HVAC Smoke, CO, H2O detector Refrigeration case or appliance Equipment management services & Preventative maintenance Security services Lighting control Assembly line and work flow, Inventory Materials processing systems (heat, gas flow, cooling, chemical)

Energy, diagnostics, e-Business services

Gateway or Field Service links to sensors & equipment Monitored to suggest PM, product updates, status changes Nodes link to PC for database storage PC Modem calls retailer, Service Provider, or Corp headquarters Corp headquarters remotely monitors assets, billing, energy management

Field Service or mobile worker

2004 The ZigBee Alliance, Inc

Temp sensor Database Gateway Mfg Flow Security Sensor Telephone Cable line Back End Server

Materials handling


Service Provider

Corp Office Retailer

Fig 4: ZigBee industrial applications

Network latency: To be able to sleep for extended periods to conserve power and achieve acceptable network latency ZigBee end devices need to wake up very quickly transmit , and/or receive and go back to sleep. The multi-hop nature of mesh networks also increases latency. Bluetooth is clearly designed for single hop device-to-device where the nodes do not sleep for much of the time and as a result network access is fast. Power profile: Bluetooth devices are constantly alert for available networks for them to join. To do that they have to be awake. The power profile is always on to maximise this ad hoc networking functionality with days of battery life and regular recharging required. ZigBee has been developed specifically to permit low power consumption and years of battery life. Security: Both protocols have security built in. 802.15.4 specifies use of the 128 bit Advanced Encryption Standard 24

High speed Bluetooth embodies device profiles for equipment interoperability whereas ZigBee is intended to be an open global standard

and the ZigBee specification defines how to handle encryption key change and multi-hop transmission security. Security is also user definable within the application layer for ZigBee networks. Beyond encryption each ZigBee node receives a unique short address from the network coordinator and each ZigBee network has a unique ID. In addition ZigBee networks can also be open or locked to new devices. Bluetooth uses 64 or 128-bit encryption based on the SAFER+ algorithm for authentication and key generation. Operating frequency: ZigBee supports most of the widely used unlicensed ISM bands in Europe, NA, and around the world whereas Bluetooth operates solely on the 2.4GHz band. Although the 2.4 GHz band is becoming a de facto global standard (many companies in North America now prefer it to 915 MHz) support for other bands can be important to industry for legacy reasons. Complexity: We have mentioned the relative complexity of the Bluetooth protocol stack compared to ZigBee and the fact that Bluetooth embodies device profiles for equipment interoperability whereas ZigBee is intended to be an open global standard a ZigBee compliant device from any manufacturer should interoperate with any other. Deployment complexity and operational support of pure ZigBee networks are as yet untested in the real world but makers of proprietary 802.15.4-based mesh networking technology such as Sensicast have found that implementation and support with networks of several hundred nodes is relatively simple. Bluetooth complexity is, in practice, limited by the small number of devices allowed in each network.

IEE Computing & Control Engineering | April/May 2005

ZigBee and Bluetooth

Network topology and number of devices: The increased range of options in terms of topology and the significantly larger number of devices per network would suggest that ZigBee will have much greater capability to address the spectrum of industrial situations. Scalability/Extendability: ZigBee has a significant advantage here in terms of the ease of network growth to quite large scale implementations and the ability to use the flexible topologies to accommodate real-world situations. Flexibility: In theory both protocols are flexible and can carry any type of data. In practice the profile dependency of Bluetooth carries some built in inflexibility In some . ways this category could be seen as a qualitative amalgamation of all the preceding categories which suggest that ZigBee is the more flexible approach for industrial applications except where there is a need for higher data rates. Resilience and Reliability: From the purely technical perspective ZigBee wins here in terms of the range of industrial situations that are likely to be encountered, due to its data packet acknowledgement, CSMA-CA approach, encryption, mesh multi-path transmission redundancy and ability to physically work around the built environment due to the hybrid network configuration options. Within its constraints Bluetooth is resilient it works very well for certain application types.

Looking at Bluetooth there is clearly an intended focus on short-range cable replacement for medium bandwidth device to device connections. Beyond this, Bluetooth access points can extend LANs and corporate networks to Bluetooth devices. In the industrial world the most likely uses for Bluetooth are for machine to machine communication and for ad hoc connectivity between mobile computing devices and fixed equipment. This could be for diagnostics, data transfer or configuration, especially in cases where use of temporarily connected cables would be difficult such as in certain types of hazardous environments. Examples of current uses largely follow this trend because Bluetooth has been established as a useful standard for at least two years longer than ZigBee. It has reached an early level of maturity but is still being promoted into new usage areas and extended in capability and refined. In summary it seems clear that ZigBee and Bluetooth are different by design and are optimised for different

Figure 4 shows the wide variety of foreseen applications for ZigBee and other 802.15.4-based proprietary technologies. There is a focus on remote sensing and control, reflecting the ZigBee mission statement, and the possibilities are virtually limitless. Many of these applications apparently require the adoption of ZigBee by OEMs on a large scale. Before that happens there is a huge opportunity to retrofit enhanced sensing and control into existing built environments using ZigBee/802.15.4 technology through off-the-shelf production-ready mesh networking elements linked to any of the wide range of existing sensor types and actuators. Clear advantages over classical wired installations are speed, low cost, flexibility and long-term re-usability all of which can help increase enterprise productivity . ZigBee is not yet field-tested for these applications. Many organisations are developing ZigBee products but this is still in the early stages because the initial specification was only ratified a few months ago, in December 2004. Since 802.15.4 was published many companies have been developing 802.15.4-based mesh networks. All the existing products in this sector use proprietary non-ZigBee network protocols on top of 802.15.4 although many are designed to support the ZigBee protocol stack on the same hardware. Examples are EmberNet, SensiNet and Millennial Net.

In industry Bluetooth will most likely be used for machine-to-machine communication and for ad hoc connectivity between mobile computing devices and fixed equipment

applications. Real industrial wireless networks will inevitably be hybrids including ZigBee/802.15.4 and Bluetooth in complementary roles that suit the characteristics of each. The key to success will be in deploying the right wireless technologies for the requirements of the application and avoiding the temptation of trying to make one technology meet all needs. However, considering the wide range of typical industrial opportunities for wireless network use it seems clear that ZigBee and 802.15.4-based proprietary protocols can meet a wider variety of real needs than Bluetooth. The key reasons are the intrinsic value to the industrial enterprise of long-term unattended battery operation, greater useful range, flexibility in a number of dimensions that were highlighted earlier and finally the inherent resilience and reliability of the mesh networking architecture. I
The author, Nick Baker, is the managing director of Adaptive Wireless Solutions. He many be reached at

IEE Computing & Control Engineering | April/May 2005