It could be that the ZigBee wireless networking spec is just the ticket for those who want to use technology to simplify every aspect of their lives. The 150-plus members of the ZigBee Alliance tout all sorts of applications for IEEE 802.15.4, which was finalized last year. There's been an onslaught of chip unveilings since then. Some predict those chips will see their first usage in industrial applications, while many predict that consumer products from lamps to refrigerators will be the first big market.
Alliance Chairman Bob Heile is in the latter group, feeling that consumer volumes will help give industrial users the assurance that the technology is reliable. Among his many predictions for new products, he thinks the trends toward exotic footwear and health awareness will prompt the creation of ZigBee shoes that send information to an exercise monitor. They will factor in distance and the terrain being traversed to give serious runners instant input on heart rates and calorie counts. ZigBee could even provide an incentive for completing the workout. "The shoe could send a message to the refrigerator when you return home, locking the door if you haven't completed your workout," Heile jokes. www.zigbee.org
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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