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Bluetooth Vs. ZigBee

Bluetooth Vs. ZigBee

In this article we will explain the differences between Bluetooth and ZigBee for a layman. Both these technologies are used for the purpose of connecting two devices together wirelessly, and they both have their own applications and advantages as well.
Rahul Thadani
Most people are well aware about Bluetooth technology and how it works between two devices that are synced with each other. But ZigBee is another such technology that is also used to communicate and transmit data between two or more devices, and it is a technology that is complementary to Bluetooth and the way it works. Both these connections are known as WPAN (Wireless Personal Area Networks) and they both run on the 802.15 standards set by the IEEE. Moreover, Bluetooth and Zigbee both work on the 2.4 GHz frequency band, and are used when the synced devices are in close proximity with each other.
The most common uses of Bluetooth are found in mobile phones (for transferring files between two devices and for syncing the phone with a Bluetooth headset for hands-free talking) and video game consoles (for the wireless controllers and other accessories). But there are plenty of other areas where Bluetooth technology comes into play as well, and the difference between them is an area that has created confusion amongst many people.
About ZigBee 802.15.4
ZigBee is widely used today in areas where low power consumption and low cost are absolutely necessary. The primary purpose for which it is used is the automation and the control of certain devices, in areas where using Bluetooth would have proven costlier and consumed greater power as well. As a result of this, while Bluetooth is commercially used in homes by individual parties, ZigBee has found a niche in industries and manufacturing plants. In homes, something as simple as controlling an air conditioner with a remote incorporates the use of ZigBee, because installing Bluetooth for this purpose would prove to be highly unfeasible.
ZigBee also uses a type of sensor protocol that enables it to allow automation and remote access with considerable ease. It is widely speculated that in the near future ZigBee will also be able to eliminate the necessity of cables and wires for the light switches that are commonly found in residential homes and industrial plants as well. There are many more differences between the two technologies that eventually imply that the applications that these two technologies are applied towards, are vastly different from each other.
About Bluetooth 802.15.1
For the layman, Bluetooth simply implies a technology that enables two devices to interact with each other wirelessly. Consumer electronics that are found in our homes make use of this technology to the maximum, and this enables us to control printers, scanners, mobile phones, headsets and other peripherals without even touching them.
The newer standards of Bluetooth enable faster speeds and instant recognition of synced products, and this has undoubtedly made our lives simpler. The differing applications of Bluetooth and ZigBee means that both these technologies provoke very different reactions in our minds, and are subsequently made use of in contrasting situations.
Technical Differences Between Bluetooth and ZigBee
Attribute Bluetooth ZigBee
Range of Synced Devices or Personal Operating Space (POS) 10 meters 10-100 meters
Speed of Data Transfer and Network Latency 1 MB per second (as fast as it gets) 20-250 KB per second (relatively slower and time-consuming)
Frequency of Battery Recharge (Power Consumption) A few days at the most A few months at least
Operating Frequency Band 2.4 GHz 2.4 GHz
Maximum Number of Devices 8 2 - 65,000
Complexity and Cost of Setting Up Complex and expensive Simple and economical
Primary Focus Enables user mobility and eliminates the need for cables and wires More applicable for large-scale remote controls and for large-scale automation purposes
Suitability for Ad-Hoc Connections Extremely suitable for transfer of heavy files and data Completely unsuitable for ad-hoc due to slow-speed and network topology

Fundamental differences between the two technologies makes it impossible to use both for the same purposes. While Bluetooth has its own uses and advantages, so does ZigBee and the industries where this technology is used, has benefited greatly due to it. ZigBee is still only around 5 years old so there is tremendous scope for improvements in speed in the future, but its underlying characteristic is one that will never change.