- by Cees Links, CEO and Founder of GreenPeak Technologies and Marketing Chair for RF4CE of the ZigBee Alliance
Are you ready to say hello to the next generation of remote controls? ZigBee RF4CE powered remotes are hitting the market this year as well as the RF connected set-top boxes and TV sets that will enable end users to leverage the power of RF.
This means an end to the cure of Infrared. No more having to point an IR connected remote at a TV or other electronic gadgets. By using RF, end users can access and manage their entertainment systems from almost anywhere in the home. In addition, the new RF powered remotes provide interactivity and a slew of new features including the innovative "Find Me" button. Is your remote control lost, hiding in the kid`s room or underneath the sofa? Just press the "Find me" button on the TV or set-top box and remote will start buzzing and blinking, making it easy to find.
Remote Control 2.0 is also green. By using the new ZigBee RF4CE technology with its ultra low power wireless networking capability, it is now possible for consumer electronics manufacturers to design remotes that never have to have their batteries replaced or recharged. Currently, a remote control`s battery may last two years at most with minimal use. In comparison, with a ZigBee RF4CE remote, a single watch cell type battery can last ten years of more. As fewer batteries need to be made, this greatly reduces the CO2 footprint for the energy used in the mining, refinement and manufacturing and battery disposal or recycling process.
The ZigBee Basics
Similar to 802.11 and Bluetooth, ZigBee operates in the same 2.4GHz band. Based on the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless standard, ZigBee is a Local Area Network radio technology developed for low power and low data rate applications. Currently there are three flavors of ZigBee: ZigBee Green Power, ZigBee SE 2.0 and ZigBee RF4CE.
ZigBee SE 2.0 is targeted for industrial, commercial, telecommunication and residential uses - especially for those applications where power is not a critical factor. This includes the areas of in home power management and monitoring, and the so-called "internet of things" where each of the home`s appliances have their own IP address and be addressed via the web. (Hence the need for IPv6 with its nearly unlimited supply of IP addresses.)
On the other end of the spectrum is ZigBee GreenPower, targeting extremely low data rate devices with minimal power requirements. This includes devices like light switches that are powered solely by the movement of the switch itself, as well as energy harvesting applications in the home which could be powered by sunlight, vibration, sound, etc.
For home entertainment, the most exciting ZigBee flavor is ZigBee RF4CE. Originally developed by four of the major consumer electronics companies ? Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and Sony and known simply as RF4CE (Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics), RF4CE was adopted by the ZigBee Alliance and has now become known as ZigBee RF4CE.
ZigBee RF4CE was developed to link together the entire household ? entertainment systems as well as the home`s sensors, monitors and controls ? all connecting to each other ? and to the outside world, via the set-top box and the cloud. Among the major players that are pushing the adoption of ZigBee RF4CE are the service providers who believe this new networking technology will enable them to expand the set-top box`s household penetrations to include a wide range of new services and applications in addition to just entertainment and Internet access.
The Three ZigBee RF4CE Profiles
Currently there are three ZigBee RF4CE Profiles targeting different in home and networking applications.
1. ZID ? ZigBee Input Devices ? for pointing devices, replacing Bluetooth and IR 2. Z3D ? ZigBee 3DSync ? for 3D glasses and TV sets 3. ZRC ? ZigBee Remote Control ? for a wide range of home sensors, entertainment systems, TVs sets, etc. ? all connected to a remote control and/or a set-top box.
ZID was developed for Internet TV, for touch pads, mice, keyboards, wands, etc., for use with a variety of laptops, computers, TV sets, set-top boxes and other electronic devices. Much better than the current crop of IR devices used for these applications, the ZID profile allows consumers to use their devices from greater distances or even from another room because operation is not limited to line of sight. The ZID energy-efficient design helps devices run longer on batteries, when compared to infrared technology, and will greatly reduce the total number of batteries used - and disposed of ? during the device`s lifetime.
The ZigBee Alliance developed ZigBee 3D Sync as a global standard that would make 3D video viewing more convenient, flexible and enjoyable. By using RF instead of IR, when wearing 3D glasses, users can move around more without disrupting the 3D view. Instead of having to sit in a small sweet spot to get the 3D effect, they can take up the entire couch. In addition, by using ZigBee 3D Sync, simply moving your head will no longer disrupt the 3D experience.
ZigBee 3D Sync also provides a standard for shutter management and will support variable display frame rates to ensure that the standard can be used with both existing and future display technologies.
Finally, ZRC or ZigBee Remote Control, is designed to connect consumer electronics gear like TVs, home theater equipment, DVD and video players, set-top boxes, and audio equipment. ZRC provides a global standard for advanced and easy-to-use RF remotes that removes line-of-sight restrictions while also delivering two-way communication, longer range of use and extended battery life.
ZigBee Remote Control also supports interactivity which means that ZRC could support the use of display screens on the remote to show volume, what stations are being tuned, and even be used to set up the recording of TV shows on a DVR. Of special interest to the cable companies and service providers is the capability to support interactive shopping and polling.
One of the most appealing capability of ZRC is its ultra low power consumption. ZRC remote controls can be designed to last for 10 years without ever having to recharge or replace the batteries.