Oki tests ZigBee network in Japan

Oki tests ZigBee network in Japan

Oki Electric has begun an experimental ZigBee-based sensor network in Japan's western port city of Kobe.

The company installed a network of five solar battery powered wireless terminals on streetlights and 15 terminals in the ceiling of a shopping mall in the city to test the networking capabilities of ZigBee technology, an Oki spokesperson said.

ZigBee is a wireless system based on the 802.15.4 standard approved by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It is designed to carry data at up to 250Kbps and use very little power so that equipment can run for years on standard household batteries.

The experiment, which will run for five days, has been designed to test whether a ZigBee network could successfully transmit data in real-life settings: in this case, a mall crowded with shoppers or in the open with cars and pedestrians passing by, the spokesperson said.

ZigBee is supposed to be able to transmit data up to a range of 30 metres. The outdoor nodes were powered by solar cells that would also charge batteries to be used to provide power at night, she said.

In the trials, a tester walks up and down the street and through the mall and sends and receives test data with the network using a handheld communicator supplied by a Japanese government-affiliated research institute called the Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory.

The communicator is an experimental PDA designed to connect to a variety of networks including ZigBee, wireless LAN and Bluetooth. It also features a smart tag reader and is capable of IP telephony, according to specifications released by the laboratory.

Oki is one of about 10 major Japanese companies that are members of the ZigBee Alliance, a consortium of around 100 companies supporting the technology. Other companies from Japan include Mitsubishi Electric and Renesas Technology. Non-Japanese companies include Freescale Semiconductor, Royal Philips Electronics and Samsung Electronic.

The consortium finalised the specification for the technology last December. Member companies are planning to release products for monitoring, sensing and control applications during 2005, according to the alliance.

Last May, Oki developed a ZigBee compliant chip, and the company would start shipping samples before the end of February, the spokesperson said.

If the experiment in Kobe is successful, Oki hopes the trials can be broadened.

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