Thursday, October 11, 2007

Plugging into Zigbee

In this week's announcement of a new Command and Control spec under the HomePlug Alliance, I missed the bigger picture that the HomePlug group is taking on Zigbee in a pretty big way. A lot of the technology behind the new spec comes from Israeli startup Yitran which has a new 180nm chip in the works for the technology set to sample next year.

Avner Matmor, Yitran's chief executive, told me over lunch yesterday that he sees the two technologies as complementary, but clearly they have similar applications, costs and data rates. Yitran's 2008 module will have a bill of materials of about $3 initially and handle up to 7 Kbits/s over powerline, aimed at white goods, lights and alarms for a mix of OEMs and utilities. Matmor said he hopes in the future there will be a common protocol for Zigbee and the powerline technology, enabling hybrid wired/wireless home control nets.

In a way, powerline is coming full circle, back to its roots in X-10 home automation. But Matmor notes the difference is the new technology supports full networking capabilities and will handle Internet connections.

There's a protocol spec for the HomePlug C&C spec that won't be complete until the end of the year. Meanwhile, the rival Universal Powerline Association says it will complete a similar spec based on its technology sometime in 2008.

Look out Zigbee fans. The competition is powering up.

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