The Smart Home Is Here

Want thelights to dim and the blinds to close when you press "play" on your DVD player?Want to receive an alert on your TV when the mailman opens your mailbox? Noproblem. ZigBee, an emerging wireless home-networking standard expected to be widelyavailable next year, is about to open up the lines of intergadget chatter. Itdoesn't involve wiring, and setup takes just a few minutes.

ZigBee-enableddevices transmit and receive small packets of information, such as temperaturereadings and on/off commands. The ad-hoc network they create recognizes newcompatible products and adjusts communication accordingly. For example, you canadd wireless light switches to the network by simply sticking them to the wall.Because ZigBee powers only the command and control, it offers a decade ofbattery life while maintaining up to 328 feet of range (or more, using onegadget to hop to the next). Look for these devices next year.


        Meet and Greet

Get within a few feet of your home, and a ZigBee-enabled keyfob wirelessly unlocks the door. The door lock sends a signal to the lighting,air-conditioning and entertainment systems. The lights and temperature areautomatically set to your pre-programmed liking. Your oven can even startcooking your dinner.

        Sensible Sensors

We interrupt "Shark Week" for this important message:There's a leak in your basement. Wall sensors monitor structural stability, andmoisture sensors keep tabs on basement flooding. They feed alerts to your TV ore-mail them to you if you're at the office.

        Climate Control

The kids are hot, but you're cold? No problem. You canadjust the thermostat [6] to customize the temperature in multiple rooms. Tweakthe thermostat manually or automatically based on readings from wirelesssensors placed around the house. Send a text message to turn on the A/C whenyou're on your way home.

        Safer Space

Smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors instantly reportproblems to a central monitoring station in your home or to an off-sitesecurity service. If the smoke alarm goes off at night, the central hub willtrigger selected lights to illuminate the safest exit route.

        No-hassle Light

Because ZigBee devices are wireless, controlling a networkedlight is as easy as sticking a switch to the wall. No messing around withwiring, which typically costs $20 a foot. ZigBee chips that transmitinformation "sleep" when not in use, so a light switch that controls anoverhead fixture could work for decades.

        Smart Sprinkler

Timer-based sprinkler systems have one fundamental flaw:They'll activate even when torrential rain rolls through. The ZigBee-enabled sprinkler,on the other hand, will respond to soil sensors that monitor moisture and turnon only when necessary.

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