Summary:

Smart energy gear — from smart meters to intelligent plugs to routers that can connect with smart meters — represents the largest growth opportunity for chips and modules that use the wireless standard ZigBee (or in geek terms 802.15.4).

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Smart energy gear — from smart meters to intelligent plugs to routers that can connect with smart meters — represents the largest growth opportunity for chips and modules that use the wireless standard ZigBee (or in geek terms 802.15.4). According to researchers at In-Stat, ZigBee chip and module shipments will exceed three quarters of a billion units by 2014, thanks largely in part to the move to add digital intelligence to the power grid, including transparency into home energy consumption.

Til now ZigBee hasn’t really caught on as a wireless communication protocol for many other markets, points out In-Stat, though the second largest market opportunity for ZigBee is for industrial process control. But now, thanks to ZigBee’s early lead in the home energy market, the fact that the government is pushing smart grid standards over proprietary ones, and because ZigBee is relatively low cost compared to other competing wireless standards, ZigBee chips have become the clear wireless standard to be embedded in home energy gear.

As we wrote in this GigaOM Pro article ZigBee vs WiFi: The Race is (Still) On (subscription required), smart meter makers have thoroughly embraced ZigBee as the wireless communication of choice. Smart meters are generally being billed as the gateway to utility-connected smart energy data, and the Obama administration has called for 40 million smart meters to be deployed.

Consumer electronics companies that are playing in the smart energy space are also using WiFi as a wireless standard to connect to the Internet, as well as power line carrier communications. Wi-Fi’s penetration has been limited to wireless thermostats and other devices (TVs, energy dashboards, etc.), though the ubiquity of Wi-Fi in the home could push more energy-aware devices. And here’s 4 Reasons to Keep An Eye on Power Line Communications, GigaOM Pro, subscription required.

Developers of ZigBee chips and modules include Texas Instruments, Freescale, Ember, STMicroelectronics, and Accent.

For more research on the smart grid check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Image courtesy of rotorboard.

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