While the arguments between advocates of ISA 100.11a and WirelessHART rumble on, the home automation wireless market looks set to explode. According to ABI Research, home automation system shipments will approach 2.8 million in 2011, with standards-based mainstream systems and home automation as a service set to expand rapidly in 2010.
The ABI report says standards-based wireless technologies such as ZigBee are driving down the price of mainstream home automation installations while the growing availability of peripheral components provides a further spur to growth. "ZigBee Home Automation is generating new opportunities for companies and consumers to create smart homes," claimed ZigBee Alliance chairman Bob Heile. "With this newest group of certifications, it's clear that our members and the marketplace see ZigBee as a key driver in making home automation systems reliable and more accessible for consumers everywhere."
Publication of the report coincided with the announcement from the Alliance of the certification of 11 devices from five different companies using ZigBee Home Automation, bringing the total number of certified products to 28. Certified devices carry the ZigBee Certified logo and display the ZigBee Home Automation icon on product packaging and advertisements.
Among the newly certified devices are a combined light on/off actuator and light switch sensor, a wall mounted on/off switch with submetering capability offering control of equipment remotely via ZigBee, a combined interface device serving as a GSM gateway and data concentrator for meters with the ability to configure and control other ZigBee Home Automation devices, a combined USB dongle and software package allowing control and monitoring of ZigBee Home Automation devices from a PC or through the Internet and a dual-relay load controller capable of "smartening" high-current appliances such as air conditioners, water heaters and pool pumps.
Surely destined to become the most ubiquitous implementation of all, however, is the ZigBee Remote Control global standard, the first public application profile designed specifically for use with the ZigBee RF4CE specification announced last year. Devices based on the new standard will supersede the 30-year-old infrared technology currently used in TVs, audio equipment and set-top boxes, removing the need to point remotes at devices and eliminating pointing confusion and other associated problems. Among the advantages claimed for the new generation of remotes to be based on the new standard are improved battery life, elimination of the need for multiple remotes, control of equipment located behind wood or glass doors and in other rooms and, most important of all, the ability the locate a lost or misplaced remote, presumably even when it's down the back of the sofa.
With what are in industrial terms undreamt of economies of scale in the home automation market, how long before ZigBee follows the tried and trusted COTS route and challenges for a major share of the industrial and even process automation market?