Zigbee playtime

16Jul09

Zigbee has been promising much for years, so it was time to take it for spin and get some hands on learning using the ‘tweet a watt’ kit.  This kit intercepts current and voltage signals inside the killawatt plug and transmit the readings to a computer, internet, google chart.

Zigbee is a PAN (Personal Area Network) device and by design can enter a deep deep sleep to save energy then wake up occasionally and therefore run for years on tiny batteries, so no wires required.

The tweet-a-watt kit is good old fashioned hobbyish electronics, where someone has a neat idea, does the design for you then sells a bag of bits to allow you to create the illusion that it is all your work.  Let’s not knock it, because it is a very effective way to learn up on zigbee, gets some hands on experience and end up with something useful.

Education Factor *****
Cost is about $90 for the kit and say $30 for the base kill-a-watt so we have $120 to find !
The Xbee stuff is a remarkable little chap, very interesting indeed.

Device Details
Here the link to the man with all the details which are very clear and comprehensive indeed.
http://www.ladyada.net/make/tweetawatt/

Impression
It was fun.  Got it going, although had to work changing values for the UK 50 Hz.

Not so happy about
The kit and the experience was fine.  One thing that disappointed is how various zigbee systems don’t interact, very proprietory and locked in.  So if you buy different zigbee systems don’t expect them to talk or even share infrastructure.  This seems to be the norm in the home or building automation, boooo.

The base kill-a-watt is a greedy lad, apparently 20w quite a lot for such a device.  Also the unit is quite bulky so it may not fit behind some appliances.

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