ZigBee RF4CE (Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics) provides a multivendor interoperable solution for consumer electronics featuring a simple, robust and low-cost communication network for two-way wireless connectivity.
ZigBee RF4CE is a full member of the ZigBee family and is based on the IEEE 802.15.4 specification – see Figure 3. Developed for consumer electronics devices, it was designed for simple, two-way device-to-device control applications that do not require full-featured mesh networking capabilities. RF4CE has already found its way into TVs, set-top boxes and remote controls. ZigBee RF4CE offers ease of installation, a high level of reliability over a longer range, a very long battery life, and it includes special features to avoid Wi-Fi interference rejection (amongst others channel agility). ZigBee RF4CE offers low memory size requirements thereby enabling low cost implementations.
Figure 3: ZigBee today offers three main network layers – RF4CE, Pro and ZigBee IP
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A practical benefit is that the two-way communications capability of RF4CE can support new applications. For example, one very interesting application is a “Find Me” button on a TV or set-top box that, once pressed, would cause the remote device to make a sound so the viewer could easily locate it (probably under the couch, where your children left it). A variety of sophisticated applications that offer interactive, two-way viewer participation could also be built into the remote control such as televoting and gaming, personal messages and reminders, real-time sports results, stock information and residential sensor network monitoring. This two-way communications enables operators to create new opportunities for advertising revenues via server initiated commercial push messages on the consumers’ remote control. The interoperability offered by the ZigBee industry standard allows a remote control to work with more systems in a house and can be used as the basis for home automation. Although the main applications of RF4CE are consumer electronics based, there are no technical restrictions to also control other devices such as lighting, heating/air-conditioning and some of these implementations are already in the market today. Leveraging the open ZigBee RF4CE standard, the remote will eventually become the dashboard for the home.
The ZigBee Pro network layer supports Home Automation, Smart Energy and Light Link application profiles. IEEE 802.15.4 compliant, it offers excellent range and can cover a complete home with multiple floors. It handles dead-spots or Wi-Fi interference via mesh networking: the capability where one node can find its way to the Home Control Box via other nodes and is even capable of doing this dynamically. If one route is blocked it will automatically and instantaneously find another route (if that exists) without any user interaction required. The ZigBee Pro feature set is currently probably the most popular choice for most ZigBee developed applications. It maximizes all the capabilities of standard ZigBee, plus facilitates easeof- use and advanced support for larger networks comprised of thousands of devices which also makes it suitable for industrial applications and building automation. The wide range of application profiles that ZigBee Pro supports in the home space makes it a very complete standard. These applications also include the so-called Green Power applications. For example, battery-less light switches, where the energy for the data communications is generated by energy harvesting techniques from flipping the switch itself, offers a new generation of self-powered, battery-free and therefore green and maintenance-free ZigBee products. Green Power will become an option of the ZigBee Pro standard soon. As there is no need to run and install power cables, this also makes it easy for the consumer to position and move light switches, without needing the services of an electrician.