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
Producing high-quality end-production metal parts with additive manufacturing for applications like aerospace and medical requires very tightly controlled processes and materials. New standards and guidelines for machines and processes, materials, and printed parts are underway from bodies such as ASTM International.
Engineers at the University of San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering have designed biobatteries on commercial tattoo paper, with an anode and cathode screen-printed on and modified to harvest energy from lactate in a person’s sweat.
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