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CTIA: Zigbee takes telecom services off the network

Zigbee-enabled SIM cards will let operators offer value-added services that don’t tax their networks.

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The Zigbee Alliance, an active player in energy management, health care and home automation, is tackling the wireless industry more directly today, promising to relieve network congestion and let mobile operators focus on the real revenue opportunities. At CTIA, the consortium introduced Zigbee Telecom Services, a new public application profile standard for defining value-added services for operators, businesses and governments.

CTIA Blog Live 2010

Developed in conjunction with several European-based wireless operators and equipment manufacturers, the standard is designed to offer low data-rate services to mobile subscribers that run over Zigbee’s wireless mesh network rather than a carrier’s 3G or 4G network. Telecom Italia will be among the first to deploy services using Zigbee.

The Zigbee Alliance has been busy stepping up its focus in Europe where the widespread use of GSM makes starting the initiative here a no-brainer, according to chairman Bob Heile. Using the GSM standard means that the technology can be included in the SIM card; it doesn’t hinge on being embedded by the handset manufacturers. Consumers only have to substitute their standard SIM card for a compact, lightweight Zigbee-enabled one, he said. For CDMA phones in the U.S. that don’t have a SIM card, a micro-SD card with embedded Zigbee would be the alternative. Heile said that an Asian company is already starting to market this option as well.

“It’s easy to use smartphones as a remote control device with the touch-screen and color display, but at the end of the day what the carriers want is a way to make money,” Heile said. “Or a way to get you much more engaged so if you even thought about moving to a different carrier, the carrier is so involved in so much, you don’t want to do it. They want to reduce churn and make money.”

This desire has led the carriers to seek a host of value-added services, which is where the major base station equipment manufacturers come in, Heile said. Vendors like Huawei have the ability to quickly and relatively simply outfit public places like shopping malls with Zigbee-based access points and base station equipment that can provide push and interactive services while leaving the higher-value activities to the 3G and 4G networks. There’s no installation cost and the devices automatically network with one another.

Services that Zigbee suggested operators run over its mesh network instead include:

  • Multiplayer mobile phone-based games.
  • Information delivery of subscription feeds, such as weather, public safety or traffic information.
  • Location-based services geared towards users’ interests.
  • Secure mobile payment through authentication.
  • Push-to-talk communication between ZigBee-equipped devices.
  • Peer-to-peer data sharing of small files between ZigBee devices.
  • Mobile device office management and control.

The profile application ties in nicely with Zigbee’s recently announced retail services suite of capabilities. For example, Heile said that using the Zigbee network, a merchant could see if a shopper has a shopping list app fired up when she enters the store. If an item on the list is something the merchant sells, he could push a coupon or deal to that user. Since it’s a low-data feature, it wouldn’t need to run over the 3G network. All the retailer needs to know is location down to the meter.

“Adding additional 3G/4G equipment is not cheap,” Heile said. “It’s very high value and being consumed more and more. You have to put megabucks into building out the infrastructure, or if you can be clever and add some sidebar networking technology to it and leverage what you already have, it’s just a fraction of the capital investment. This is really good business.”

ZigBee Telecom Services joins an expanding list of public application profiles available today from the Alliance, including smart energy, home automation, remote control, health care and the newest additions, retail services and building automation.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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