Bluetooth and Zigbee are among the most popular PAN (Personal Area Network) technologies available for short-range wireless networking.
Zigbee was initially developed for home automation applications, but it is now increasingly being used for industrial applications. The purpose behind the development of Bluetooth was to enable wireless communication between digital devices.
Both Bluetooth and Zigbee continuously compete, especially in the smart home market. In this article, we will discuss the differences between these two protocols.
Zigbee vs. Bluetooth
For as long as technology has been around, Bluetooth and Zigbee protocols have been among the most widely used technologies in wireless communication. It is not an unknown fact that they play big roles in the home automation and IoT industries.
Zigbee Alliance is the organization responsible for creating Zigbee technology, which was launched all the way back in the early 90s. In 2003, the Zigbee protocol had been established as the industry’s standard, and in 2006, it went through revision. In May 2021, the Zigbee Alliance rebranded and renamed itself to Connectivity Standard Alliance. There has since been moves by this organization to establish a unified smart home protocol called Matter.
The idea behind Bluetooth was the development of short-link radio technology for wireless headsets. In 1997, a team of engineers from Ericsson came up with a short-link radio networking solution, and it was named “Bluetooth” shortly after. In May 1998, the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) was founded. Then, the Bluetooth specifications were officially announced on May 20, 1998. Today, there are two types of Bluetooth protocols available: Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth Low Energy.
Bluetooth operates between the range of 2.402 and 2.480 GHz. Zigbee, on the other hand, operates within a frequency range that is purely affected by your location. For instance, Zigbee's global frequency range is between 2400.0 and 2438.5 MHz. In the EU, its frequency range is between 868.0 to 868.5 MHz, and in North America, it is between 902 to 928 MHz.
Both Zigbee and Bluetooth require low bandwidths, but Zigbee takes more bandwidth than Bluetooth most of the time. In a standard Bluetooth network, each channel operates within a bandwidth of 1 MHz. At the same time, each channel in a Zigbee network uses 2 MHz of bandwidth. Moreover, Zigbee operates with 16 RF channels, and Bluetooth works with 79 RF channels.
Designed to support mesh, tree, and star topologies, Zigbee dominates Bluetooth in this department. Each Zigbee network can have over 65,000 nodes, making it easy to create point-to-point or point-to-multipoint networks.
It is possible to create a mesh network with the latest Bluetooth version. However, this perk is only limited to capable Bluetooth mesh devices. As of right now, we have limited Bluetooth (LE) compliant home automation products available. In a mesh configuration, one Bluetooth network can accommodate 32,767 nodes.
The primary function of both Bluetooth and Zigbee is to act as a medium that allows short-range communication over a secure, wireless network. For indoor applications, Zigbee offers a range between 75 to 100 meters.
In contrast, Bluetooth radio signal range cannot exceed 10 meters. So, Zigbee's range is approximately ten times the communication range of Bluetooth.
The average indoor range of Zigbee devices can reach up to 300 meters if deployed in a line of sight. Penetration is another crucial factor that influences the range of any wireless network. Signal strength can be depleted due to thick walls. In terms of penetration, Zigbee outperforms Bluetooth.
By adding routers to external Zigbee compliant antennas, you can enhance the range of your network. However, no such provision is available for Bluetooth networks. Constructing a Bluetooth mesh network with typical home automation products in complex applications doesn't seem viable. However, a Bluetooth mesh network will work fine in large halls without any restrictions between the devices.
In this department, Bluetooth outperforms Zigbee. Both types of Bluetooth offer a transmission rate between 1 Mb/s to 3 Mb/s. Bluetooth LE can operate with data rates within the range of 125 Kb/s to 2 Mb/s.
On the other hand, up to 250 Kb/s data transmission rate is achievable within a Zigbee network. Thus, Zigbee is slower than Bluetooth, but it covers a lot more distance.
Bluetooth uses GFSK modulation technology. In comparison, Zigbee uses UWB and BPSK modulation techniques. In most cases, we can consider the data rate of 250 Kb/s in the context of home automation applications adequate.
In Bluetooth LE, data transmission takes place in data bursts. Thus, devices can make faster connections and stay active while sending or receiving data.
Both Zigbee and Bluetooth operate at under 100 mW of power. These two protocols are well-optimized for wireless IoT applications where battery-operated devices are widely used.
For better power performance, Bluetooth LE offers a feature known as Short Burst Data Transmission. In a Bluetooth LE network, the devices remain in Sleep mode most of the time. A device only becomes active when it is needed to send or receive data.
The Zigbee networking protocol is known for its efficient meshing topology. In addition to various other advantages, one benefit of meshing is that it cuts down power consumption. In a mesh network, the transmission distance for nodes shortens.
Power consumption for Bluetooth LE and Zigbee is comparable. Moreover, the mesh mechanism used in Zigbee makes it a bit more power-efficient than its competitors.
Zigbee is a viable networking solution for low data rate applications. Zigbee networking has a broad range of applications, including material tracking, home automation, healthcare, and more.
Zigbee is considered a safe and efficient platform in home automation applications. From smart lights to smart switches, Zigbee compliant hardware is readily available on the market. The best thing about Zigbee is its scalability. Being a homeowner, you can start with a single smart bulb and add more devices when required.
Many vendors are offering Zigbee compliant motion sensors. These sensors are generally used for automatic controlling of lights. However, through an appropriate app, you can configure a motion sensor to notify you of any unexpected movement inside or outside your home. Moreover, you can also integrate an alarm system into your Zigbee home automation network.
A Zigbee smart switch can bring you the power of controlling your devices remotely. Zigbee smart switches come in different shapes and capacities. So, you can choose an appropriate switch for the load you are planning to connect. In addition to remote control, Zigbee smart switches can also be programmed to resume or restrict the power supply at a predefined time.
Bluetooth is a short-range, versatile wireless networking protocol. The current version of the Bluetooth specifications has a lot of exciting features. The following list shows different possible Bluetooth applications.
Common Bluetooth Applications
- In notebooks, laptops, and wireless PCs
- In mobile devices, smartwatches, and PDAs
- In printers for wireless printing
- In LANs (Local Area Networks) and PANs (Personal Area Networks)
- In wireless peripheral devices like keyboards and mouse
Bluetooth has emerged as an alternative for automation on domestic and industrial levels as of late. It has earned a prominent position in the healthcare industry as well, thanks to its reliability.
In 2020, research shows the healthcare industry received around 4.4 billion Bluetooth-enabled devices, and by 2024, this number is estimated to grow up to 6.2 billion. Better power management and low costs are the two key factors that made Bluetooth the communication protocol of choice in the healthcare industry.
Bluetooth Door Locks
Bluetooth has a fast transmission rate, and it is one of the most secure wireless networking protocols. Its reliability has made it a preferred communication protocol for sensitive devices such as smart locks. Bluetooth-enabled smart locks allow you to 1-tap lock or unlock the door through your smartphone.
In conclusion, both Zigbee and Bluetooth are excellent Personal Area Network protocols for IoT applications. Mesh networking is Zigbee’s most prominent feature and is available in newer Bluetooth versions.
Furthermore, Zigbee is way ahead of Bluetooth regarding compatible hardware availability, as hundreds of manufacturers are in the Zigbee hardware business.