Wi-Fi vs ZigBee
The smart devices communicate with each other using different communication protocols to send, receive and analyze the data allowing the smart devices to do their necessary tasks. This Communication process is done through the internet using variety of communication protocols such as Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-wave and Bluetooth. All these protocols have...
The smart devices communicate with each other using different communication protocols to send, receive and analyze the data allowing the smart devices to do their necessary tasks. This Communication process is done through the internet using variety of communication protocols such as Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-wave and Bluetooth. All these protocols have pros and cons, which make it hard to select one of them for your place. If you want to build your smart home, you will probably get confused about the communication protocol selection. This blog focuses on the most popular communication protocols that have been used lately in smart home automation. Therefore, it will compare Wi-Fi Protocol with ZigBee Protocol focusing in various technological aspects.
Wi-Fi vs ZigBee : Definition.
Wi-Fi is a network protocol used commonly in our modern world. Almost every device around us has Wi-Fi technology to connect the devices to the internet and enable them to communicate with each other. To use this technology, all what you need is a router that is connected to the internet and a smart device.
Wi-Fi uses IEEE802.11 standard which is created and maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. This standard uses wireless local area networking (WLAN) to allow most of home automation and office devices such as: Laptops, Smartphones, printers, Smart TVs and others to communicate with each other and access the internet without connecting wires.
ZigBee is a wireless technology developed as an open global standard to address the unique needs of low-cost, low-power wireless IoT networks.
It uses IEEE802.15.4, this standard allows creating a wireless personal network (WPAN) which is designed to be used especially in offices and houses. ZigBee is an open standard that became standardized in 2004. The latest version is ZigBee PRO which is released in 2015.
ZigBee is a network protocol used to link smart devices together with special features. ZigBee networks supports three types of devices: coordinator, router, and end device.
- Coordinator: the main device in the network which is responsible for creating the ZigBee network. In addition, the coordinator sends, receive, and collect the data. i.e.: ZigBee Hub or ZigBee Gateway.
- Router: used to routes the massages which means it passes the data between the coordinator and another router or end device. Routers should remain ON all the time to transfer the signals at any time. The router is used in tree and mesh networks. ex.: Smart switch, Smart Bulb, Smart Plug… etc.
- End device: communicate with the network through their parents or routers which means that receiving or sending the data is done only through their parents’ devices. End devices can fall into sleep to save the battery power. i.e.: All types of Sensors.
Wi-Fi vs ZigBee : (Hub)
Wi-Fi technology does not need a hub or a getaway to form the network. Only the router that is connected to the internet allows the smart devices to communicate with each other. In case the internet goes down for whatever reason, the smart devices cannot send or receive signals and you cannot control any device on the network remotely. ZigBee technology needs a hub and it cannot work without it. The hub is necessary to create local network to link the smart devices together
Wi-Fi vs ZigBee : Power Consumption
Wi-Fi end devices (sensors) consume high power because Wi-Fi signals requires high bandwidth to achieve fast data rate. On the other hand, ZigBee devices designed to send low bandwidth signals and thus, these types of devices doesn’t consume much energy.
Wi-Fi vs ZigBee : Size of the end devices (Sensors)
As Wi-Fi devices consume more power compared to ZigBee devices, Wi-Fi end devices require more power input. Consequently, Wi-Fi sensors are larger in size due to electrical capacity needs. Moreover, Wi-Fi sensors batteries have shorter charging/changing frequency period, unlike ZigBee which have higher recharging and replacement frequency periods due to its low power consumption.
Wi-Fi vs ZigBee : Interference (point of failure)
Both Wi-Fi and ZigBee technologies use 2.45GHz frequency which allows communication interference. When many devices try to communicate on the exact same frequency, the data may interfere with each other and get canceled. This is like trying to have a conversation in a crowded place. You may ask that, how the signals interfere with each other when using same frequency but different channels? This event has very a low probability of occurrence, but still there is a chance even with different channels, using too many devices constantly sending data through the network can lead to failed and dropped massages.
Wi-Fi vs ZigBee : Effect on the internet
Most of Wi-Fi devices including hubs like Eco Dot, Sensors and smart switches in idle conditions won’t demand any significant bandwidth. But if your smart house has heavy bandwidth hungry devices like cameras, video doorbells, smart fridges that uses video communication which requires big data transfer. Therefore, lags will occur. There are some factors to be considered to know if the smart devices will affect the internet or not, such as: What smart devices are you using in your network? How many smart devices will be connected on the router? Is your Wi-Fi network shared with other devices?
One of biggest Zigbee protocol advantages is that the smart devices won’t be connected directly to the internet network as the Zigbee Hub is solely connected to the internet network and the other smart devices are connected to ZigBee Hub via a personal network (WPAN). Unlike Wi-Fi connected devices, this will avoid loading the local internet network.
Wi-Fi- vs ZigBee : Networking
Wi-Fi technology uses star network which means that the signals move from one point to another (point to point), and the smart devices can’t send and receive data directly with each other. In this network the router works as access point between the devices and sends signals directly to the end devices.
On the other hand, Zigbee technology uses three types of networks depending on your smart device set and organization. ZigBee networking methods are as follows:
((Star Network): The data transfer from one point to another, which means that, the smart devices can’t communicate directly with each other.
(Tree Network): The signals transfers from the coordinator to the routers to the end device, the routers can’t communicate directly with each other’s.
(Mesh Network): Mesh Network is where powered devices such as: Smart bulb, Smart switch and smart plugs work as router allowing you to expand the range of the network. The routers can be connected to each other. When one router falls, the signals will select another path to transfer the data.
ZigBee network has a great advantage in smart home due to the mesh networking which allows the signals to reach larger area in the house. In addition, ZigBee network has the ability to be self-heal and self-form.
Wi-Fi vs ZigBee : Internet Coverage
In Wi-Fi protocol for the smart devices, the internet signals must be able to cover the entire house or each place you want to put a smart device. However, ZigBee technology creates a mesh networks which helps to increase the range of the network by adding smart powered device. For better understanding, assume that there is point 1 close to point 2, and point 3 near to point 2, but far away from point 1 and there is no internet in point 3. If these smart devices use Wi-Fi technology mean that the data can’t reach there and you should buy a Wi-Fi extender to cover point 3. Unlike ZigBee which allows point 2 to work as a router in the network and communicate with point 3.
Wi-Fi vs ZigBee : Interoperability
Any Wi-Fi device can be connected directly to the router and created the star network without any issues even if they are from different manufactures. However, ZigBee mesh network doesn’t have the same interoperability features. As ZigBee is an open standard, not every device can be linked to the central hub. Also, not every ZigBee device can communicate or send signals to another ZigBee device especially if they were from different manufactures.
Wi-Fi vs ZigBee : Reliability and latency
As you increase the number of smart devices on the network, they will take more time to response. ZigBee data’s travel speed is lower than Wi-Fi, the maximum speed for ZigBee devices is just 250kbps which is much lower than Wi-Fi devices. As a result, Wi-Fi device tend to response faster than ZigBee devices by one tenth of a second.
Wi-Fi vs ZigBee : Cost
Zigbee devices tend to be 10-25% more expensive than Wi-Fi devices with the same functions. Since ZigBee’s chips and processors are harder and cost more compared to Wi-Fi, this difference will probably last forever.
Summary: Is it Wi-Fi ? ZigBee?
Based on the information above. The answer to this question depends on different factors such as Purpose – Size – Distance between devices – Speed and reliability – Budget. So, answering the following questions will help us determine the best Communication protocol to use. What are your IoT needs? How big is your house? How far away are your devices? What kind of speed and reliability do you require? What is your budget?
Next are general rules to select the suitable technology to install for you.
We recommend selecting Wi-Fi when :-
You want to use smaller number of smart devices in your house.
Your internet covers the rooms or the places that you want to put smart devices into. Otherwise, you must buy a Wi-Fi extender (Wireless repeater) to expand your coverage.
You think the sensors size is not a problem and you are willing to change sensors’ batteries or recharge them every while.
You are looking for lower cost devices compared to ZigBee devices.
We recommend selecting ZigBee when :-
You want to make all your house smart and the internet signal does not cover all the places in the house.
You don’t want to affect the internet by putting the smart device directly connected to the router.
If you have many sensors (end devices) or care about their size, and you do not want to change or recharge the battery continuously every short time.
You are willing to pay more since the smart ZigBee products cost relatively higher than Wi-Fi.