ZigBee smart energy devices to pass 219 million units by 2020

In the last few years, devices based on ZigBee, the wireless communications technology, have gained momentum in the energy sector.

Some U.S. utilities have deployed ZigBee-enabled smart meters, and have encouraged customers to purchase home area network (HAN) devices that can connect to such smart meters for improved energy management.

ZigBee smart meter deployments are taking hold in other countries, such as Australia and the U.K. as well. According to a new report from Navigant Research, the worldwide installed base of ZigBee-enabled smart energy devices will grow from 39.5 million at the end of 2012 to 219.2 million devices by 2020.

“The forthcoming version of ZigBee, the Smart Energy Profile 2.0 software, is the first version to be Internet Protocol (IP)-based, allowing ZigBee devices to communicate with non-ZigBee devices, such as those using Wi-Fi or HomePlug,” says Neil Strother, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “While this opens up a new world for ZigBee, it poses risks as other home networking technologies contend for relevance in energy management.”

In fact, most North American utilities that have deployed ZigBee radios in smart meters in recent years have yet to actually enable those radios. One reason is that few homes have HANs set up for the purposes of energy management and control, which the ZigBee energy software was designed to facilitate.

Another reason, according to the report, is that utilities remain hesitant to become more active in providing products and services on the customer side of the meter. Consequently, the market for ZigBee-enabled energy products is at a crossroads.

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