Your browser is not supported. Please update it.

6 January 2017

ZigBee unveils dotdot universal language in consolidation lunge

The ZigBee Alliance has unveiled a new attempt to consolidate the fragmented state of the IoT market, to extend IoT interoperability beyond its familiar haunt of ZigBee. Called dotdot, the new specification is looking to better enable existing ZigBee developers to get their claws into ecosystems that opt to support dotdot, and hopefully unite the disparate IoT protocols under a common banner.

dotdot is being positioned as a universal language for the IoT, which could be used by many other physical layers than just ZigBee – such as direct mesh networking rivals like Z-Wave and the 802.15.4 brother that is Thread, but also other low-power PHYs that are less well-known, or even future evolutions of things like WiFi and Bluetooth. To this end, CES will be showcasing demos of Thread devices running dotdot over IP networks.

So the Alliance is pushing dotdot, a.k.a. the ZigBee application layer and ZigBee Cluster Library (ZCL, also sometimes called the ZigBee Universal Language), as an open option for developers (although you’re still going to have to be a member to certify your ZigBee devices for using the logo). Do note, this isn’t a new programming language in any way shape or form, despite the Universal Language moniker.

With over 400 member companies and some 100m devices out in the wild, the Alliance is hoping its established reputation is enough to push dotdot into the market – although other methods may well be used to further this ambition.

We think a merger with the Thread Group is on the cards, given the two industry bodies’ overlapping objectives, memberships, and efforts. Essentially, Thread needs an application layer, and has been using ZigBee to this end. With both groups looking to expand more fully into business applications, e.g. both signing deals with the Fairhair Alliance, it seems likely that we’ll see another IoT wrap-up akin to the AllSeen Alliance and Open Connectivity Foundation merging their AllJoyn and IoTivity frameworks.

The dotdot name (also shortened to :||, which we quite like, unlike the marketing decision to rebrand the ZigBee Alliance in lowercase), refers to the ZCL but is also going to be the brand moving forward. Current users of the ZCL are already effectively using dotdot, but the Alliance is now going to start prescribing the manner in which developers add device types to the dotdot library, so that they will work across the other transport layers supported by dotdot.

The Alliance has said that it will be releasing a lot more information about dotdot in the coming months, including specifications, certification, and a logo program for the all-important marketing. Notably, the dotdot website says that “zigbee is part of the dotdot family,” which (with the aid of a small tinfoil hat) might indicate that a new alliance might be on the cards, to sit above both the Thread Group and the ZigBee Alliance.

The upcoming Bluetooth 5 release is a looming presence for the likes of ZigBee, Thread, and Z-Wave, especially if the Bluetooth SIG can get its mesh variant out into the market soon. Given Bluetooth’s incredible penetration in smartphones and its brand-familiarity with consumers, the protocol does have a notable leg-up on the trio of consumer-leaning rivals.

The ZigBee Alliance’s CEO, Tobin Richardson, said “dotdot represents the next chapter in the zigbee alliance’s continued commitment to create and evolve open standards for the smart networks in our homes, businesses and neighborhoods. The application layer that is the core language of zigbee devices has driven significant growth in the IoT. Recognizing the opportunity to multiply that growth for members and the industry, market leaders within the alliance have come together to transform it into a universal language for the IoT, making it available to everyone, everywhere, across their network of choice.”