The ZigBee Alliance, a global group of companies working to create wireless solutions for use in energy management, commercial and consumer applications, said it is proposing the use of the ZigBee Smart Energy public application profile to the International Electrotechnical Commission as a basis for an IEC standard that will be used by the electrical and electronic industries.

Such an approval could globalize ZigBee technology for smart-metering applications. The technology is being deployed in some 30 million smart meters in North America, according to the trade group. ZigBee is a low-power wireless protocol that is similar to Bluetooth and is part of the 802.15.4 personal area network standard. Some 300 ZigBee Alliance companies are building solutions for smart-metering, home automation, health care, building automation and consumer electronics.

"We're all about the openness and developing the value chain," said Bob Heile, chairman of the ZigBee Alliance. "Our focus is aimed at wireless sensors and controls because that space was not addressed from a global standards perspective. Companies wanted to be in the game on a broadly competitive basis. … We've come up with a really solid set of solutions that are being broadly supported."

Multiple vendors have developed ZigBee-compliant platforms that form networks capable of passing data, such as real-time energy consumption and load control. Heile said the MGM Mirage's CityCenter, an $11 billion-plus, 68-acre project under construction on the Las Vegas strip will include 70,000 ZigBee radios. The ultra-modern hotel, dubbed an urban environment, will be a mini-city of sorts with its own fire station and an on-site power plant.

The ZigBee Alliance says working with the IEC on an even broader global standardization will benefit the energy sector and public by placing more emphasis on energy management and smart-grid development.

"The ZigBee Alliance is doing heavy lifting in the industry, offering new possibilities for seamlessly integrating the HAN (home area network) with the electric system to deliver long-awaited value and functionality as part of a larger smart grid," said Richard Schomberg, convener of the IEC Smart Grid Strategic Group.

Schomberg added that basing the ZigBee Smart Energy profile on the IEC's common information model would "improve data fidelity and minimize overall life cycle costs for exchanging information among home area networks, metering systems and utility back office systems."