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Building Wireless Sensor Networks by Robert Faludi

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Introduction to ZigBee

Many people think that ZigBee and XBee are the same thing. That’s not true. ZigBee is a standard communications protocol for low-power, wireless mesh networking. XBee is a brand of radio that supports a variety of communication protocols, including ZigBee, 802.15.4, and WiFi, among others.

The ZigBee protocol is a standard the same way that Bluetooth is a standard. Any manufacturer’s device that fully supports the ZigBee standard can communicate with any other company’s ZigBee device. So just as your Motorola Bluetooth headset can communicate with your Apple iPhone, a CentralLite ZigBee light switch can communicate with a Black & Decker door lock. How does this work? Well, just like a great cake, robust network protocols are all about layers.

Most modern network protocols employ a concept of layers to separate different components and functions into independent modules that can be assembled in different ways. We’re not going to bother with a lot of network theory here, just enough for you to complete the tasks at hand.

Every network has a physical layer where signals are actually transmitted. For example, your computer may be connected via an Ethernet cable to the Internet. On the other hand, it may be going wireless with a WiFi connection, using radio signals to traverse the real world. That’s all happening in the physical layer, and doesn’t change a thing about, for example, what’s going on at the application layer, which is where your web browser lives. ...

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