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New Growth of Emerging Wireless Sensor Networks

According to the latest market study by ABI research, the wireless sensor network market, led by the ZigBee standard, grew ten-fold from 2007 to 2010 and exceeded 45 million annual shipments in 2011.

"Strong growth is expected for 2012 and beyond as ZigBee pervades the home automation and home entertainment markets, while Smart Meters continue to be rolled out across the globe,” said Peter Cooney, wireless connectivity practice director at ABI Research.

Smart metering is the largest market for ZigBee in 2012 and will continue to be the major market growth driver as global roll outs of smart meters continue apace.

ZigBee/RF4CE use in the home environment will also be a major growth driver. Home automation and home entertainment together are forecast to grow to over $300 million per annum by 2017.

Until quite recently ZigBee/RF4CE has been the lead choice for interoperable low power wireless connectivity in the home automation and home entertainment markets and one look at the ZigBee Alliance’s website shows the breadth of equipment suppliers that have developed products using the technology.

However the introduction of Bluetooth Smart is set to disrupt what could have been an almost monopoly in the low power connectivity space. Proprietary wireless technology is expected to continue to dominate many markets for at least the next five years, however the market is changing.

The move from IR to RF remote controls and the increasing need for interoperability between hub devices and sensor nodes are two main factors driving growth for standards based low power connectivity such as ZigBee/RF4CE and Bluetooth Smart.

There will be a battle over the coming years with each technology finding its own niches. In the longer term low-power Wi-Fi could also be a major competitor.

Competition from other technologies will have a major effect on ZigBee/RF4CE growth in the coming years, however the ability to have almost unlimited node counts within a ZigBee system will help drive growth where other technologies compete (e.g. large building automation systems).

In summary, while previously robust industry forecasts might not be met, Zigbee/RF4CE still has a lot of room to grow.

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