About a dozen years ago, Cees Links led a team of Dutch engineers (from AT&T & Lucent) to develop and create the first wireless networking technology - Wi-Fi. The technology worked, but the industry was slow to see the benefits of wireless networking - that is until Apple's Steve Jobs came to them and said that wireless internet was what he needed to make the Mac laptop special.
Once Steve Jobs put Wi-Fi in the laptop, all the other computer makers and gadget developers followed suit. Wi-Fi is now everywhere.
Now, Cees Links and many of the same Dutch engineers are developing the next generation wireless home network - ZigBee. Similar to Wi-Fi, it is designed to connect together all the various HVAC, energy, security, home health, etc. devices in the home and let the homeowner monitor and control them over the web and even through their devices. Where Wi-Fi is all about moving a lot of data, using a lot of power, ZigBee is all about moving just a few bits and bytes, saving power. In fact, because it requires so little power to transmit, you will never have to re-charge or change the batteries in your device. "You can press a button on your car's key fob and the doors lock and unlock, the engine can start by remote control. One button makes all the windows go up or down. Why are our cars so smart and our houses so stupid? " asks Cees Link, CEO of GreenPeak and RF4CE Marketing Chair for the ZigBee Alliance. "The technology to automate our homes has existed for a decade but there was no way to make them all talk together. There was a remote for this, a remote for that. However, now that ZigBee is being rolled out by the world's cable companies and service providers, there is finally a standardized way to for all these devices to talk together and to be managed over the web by using tablet and SmartPhone apps."
It has the potential of creating a revolution, as people reconsider their expectations when it comes to technologically controlling and managing their homes. The so-called Smart, Connected Home - is in progress as many of the leading cable TV and service providers are now including ZigBee in their new set top box.
At a minimum, over 2 million ZigBee enabled set top boxes are going out into homes every month.
The first generation set top boxes use ZigBee to replace the now old fashioned IR remote controls. You know these - you need to aim them at your set top box and hope that it will change the station. However, with the new technology, just like with Wi-Fi, the signal transmits throughout your home and through walls and floors. You no longer need to get close and aim the remote to change the station.
In the second generation boxes, the cable companies are now providing a variety of home management and control services. For a few dollars added to your bill every month, they will install and manage these Smart Home services. However, once the network is in place, the homeowner can then do it themselves, adding new gadgets and devices to the network.
Currently, on average, most people have about five Wi-Fi devices in their home - laptops, router, tablet, etc. In a few years however, Cees Links believes there will be about 100 ZigBee devices in every home, controlling temperature, opening and closing windows, managing energy and monitoring the residents health and well-being. The entire house will be connected, and you will be able to manage it from anywhere, using an app on your mobile web device.
Maybe your automated home won't be able to drive you across town to go shopping, but it will be as smart as your car and may find itself as connected as your home.
Kevin Price is Publisher and Editor in Chief of US Daily Review and Host of the Price of Business on 1110 AM KTEK in Houston, Texas. He is the author of Empowerment to the People and has twice received the George Washington Honor Medal in Communications from the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge. His column is nationally syndicated and he is a frequent guest on major media around the country, being found on Fox News, Fox Business, and other networks. For more see at http://KevinPriceCentral.