Bluetooth has a higher data rate and lower latency for applications like voice and compressed video. The higher data rate allows you to move media between devices and peripherals. The future focus of Bluetooth is higher data rates at lower powers over a personal area (10 meters).
Zigbee has a higher latency and lower data rate. It can be meshed with other devices to create a wider coverage area. It is not the best for voice, but it is good for command and control. As mentioned, low power applications where the battery will outlive the device ….10+ years on a TV remote control. It is also a good application for home automation control and retrofitting automation control without wires and tearing through walls: HVAC, lighting, alarm control, etc.
Peripherals like mice and keyboard might be interesting applications, but if your keyboard has a high-speed USB connector on it … you are likely to need Bluetooth, not Zigbee to move that data.
As wireless technology becomes ubiquitous year after year, there is room for each of these technologies to fit the many conveniences of daily life. It would be very interesting to see what wireless technologies are used for different applications at the next CES show. I bet we even see a lot of really high speed wireless video applications in the 60GHz IEEE 802.11 space (WiGig) start to emerge.
New wireless standards in unlicensed bands continue to emerge to meet consumer demand. Over the last 20 years, for the most part, the uses wireless technology has far exceeded the wildest of expectations. As new wireless technology is introduced, new applications of that technology are developed.
In 1991, who had a cell phone. In 2011, who can live without one.
In 1991, remote key FOB’s where for high-end cars. In 2011, I can start my car from my phone through the wireless network.
In 1991, handheld GPS devices were just becoming commercial. In 2011, I got an app for that!
Darren McCarthy, RF Test at Tektronix
I dunno. My thinking is that this is just another example of similar protocols that do similar jobs, and either one could be developed to take over the other's applications completely.
Sort of like Tornado vs FireWire vs USB. The one that is technically superior today is not necessarily the one that wins long term, either.
I had to check to see which one had the IEEE blessing. Zigbee. But Bluetooth is specified to a much higher speed - 2.1 Mb/s vs 250 Kb/s. Both are essentially link layer protocols, and in principle you can layer networking on top of that just as easily with one as the other. Zigbee is spread spectrum, direct sequence, and Bluetooth is also spread spectrum, but frequency hopping.
Seems to me, people benefit financially from creating all of these redundant schemes, and that's why we have so many.
This is a very simplistic view of the landscape.
RF4CE is being very slow to mature, mostly because of the huge installed base of IR.
Zigbee is not a very power efficient protocol. Back in the 90's maybe, but advances in silicon have far outstripped the abilities of Zigbee and there are much more power efficient protocols out there.
Mean-while, 802.11 (WiFi) implementations have been steadily whittling down their power requirements to the point it is becoming power competitive with both Bluetooth and Zigbee. Especially when the comparison includes the vastly superior capabilities and ubiquity of WiFi.
Given that ubiquitous deployment of Wifi and the vastly superior protocol characteristics, WiFi is becoming more and more attractive in home control automation - particularly where a two tier control paradigm is envisioned (WiFi for user interaction, 'other', including HomePNA or perhaps proprietary protocols for sensing).
This game is not over and is far more nuanced that the author would have us believe...