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ZigBee: Short-Range Wireless Technology

ZigBee chips eventually will be embedded in everything from light switches to appliances to home-security systems, according to market research firm West Technology Research Solutions. Annual shipments of ZigBee chipsets could reach hundreds of millions, the researcher estimates. For that to happen, though, the price of the chips must drop and standards for it must solidify, neither of which is a sure bet. Today's ZigBee chips cost about $3 each when produced in volume. That price is projected to fall by 50 percent in the next four years.

Although ZigBee has been generating market buzz, it's a stretch to assume it will dominate M2M (machine-to-machine) communication. Likewise, using emerging cellular data systems for wide area M2M applications also is a challenge, requiring new service models by the companies that operate those networks. But one way or the other, wireless will make the transition from a cool LAN technology for checking e-mail to something that touches every part of our lives.

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