Ethernet Inventor Discusses the Zigbee Standard For Wireless Networking of Embedded Systems |

Ethernet Inventor Discusses the Zigbee Standard For Wireless Networking of Embedded Systems

October 072004
Cambridge, UK, 6th October 2004 --- It's taken 30 years for Ethernet to reach the volume shipments we see today, but the new ZigBee standard for wireless networking of embedded systems has the potential to overtake it within a year, according to Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet. Speaking at the ZigBee Design Conference organised by Cambridge Consultants and Ember Corporation, Metcalfe noted that just 2% of the annual eight billion embedded microprocessor shipments a year are currently networked.

Such rapid growth is not achieved without interruptions, but the parallels and lessons of Ethernet, are all there for today's developers to see and exploit. In particular, the distributed nature and openness of Ethernet helped it triumph over many competitive technologies. Vendors who initially used Ethernet to improve their own product performance and costs found that the ability to interoperate with other vendors' equipment opened up much larger markets. The same kind of model will be true of the open ZigBee standard, thinks Metcalfe, but - potentially - on a much shorter timescale.

If a number of obstacles including the ability to buy a complete ZigBee radio, microcontroller and networking software on a single chip are quickly overcome (the technology is already being targeted by Ember with design assistance from Cambridge Consultants) the incredible shipment quantities projected by analysts are achievable, Metcalfe believes. He added that the attractiveness of ZigBee is such that that the growth figures could even be larger, as the value of a networked processor is so high that it will attract many product companies that currently do not use microprocessors at all.

He concluded with some thoughts on particular design challenges facing the networked embedded system developer, including the concept of a directional transmission capability that will simplify the user interface for the highly connected world. And, a warning that too much information from embedded devices - the tag on your dog's collar that tells you while you're driving
to work that he's strayed outside his permitted range, for example - could be the equivalent of today's internet spam.

Bob Metcalfe is a partner with the venture capital firm Polaris Ventures, one of Ember's financial backers. He has just been appointed chairman of Ember following its recent $25m funding round.

Earlier this year, Ember purchased a portfolio of wireless integrated circuit technology that Cambridge Consultants had been developing for the ZigBee market, and hired the development team. Cambridge Consultants is also providing ongoing design support to Ember, and has just become the
first European application software development partner to the corporation - allowing it to produce application-specific implementations of its chips.

Cambridge Consultants Inc., 451 D Street, Boston MA 02210, USA. Tel: +1-617-532-4700; Fax: +1 617 737 9889;

Cambridge Consultants Ltd, Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge, CB4 0DW, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1223 420024; Fax: +44 (0)1223 423373;

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