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IEEE 802.15.4 / ZigBee and other Mesh Stacks

IEEE 802.15.4 is a specification for low-power radio ideally used for low power and wireless personal area networks (WPANs) using the 2.4 GHz ISM band. More and more devices supporting 868 MHz and 915 MHz with this dedicated hardware interface are supplied to the market.

ZigBee is a specification for a suite of high level communication protocols using this 802.15.4 hardware for special multi node mesh networks for the personal area. ZigBee is targeted at RF applications that require a low data rate, long battery life, and secure networking. The current list of application profiles either published or under specification are e.g.:

  • ZigBee Home Automation
  • ZigBee Smart Energy
  • ZigBee Remote Control
  • ZigBee Health Profile

Therefore it is classified as a low-power, wireless mesh networking standard. The low cost allows the technology to be widely deployed in wireless control and monitoring applications, the low power-usage allows longer life with smaller batteries, and the mesh networking provides high reliability and larger range.

Mesh topology is a type of network in which each node applies as an independent router, regardless of whether it is connected to another network or not. It allows for continuous connections and reconfiguration around broken or blocked paths by "hopping" from node to node until the destination is reached.

Also software stacks like 6loWPAN, Synapse SNAP or MiWi from Microchip are supporting mesh networking using the 802.15.4 interface.

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