New Part Day: An ESP With ZigBee

It seems that the folks at Espressif are doing their best to produce chips to fit every possible niche in the microcontroller-with-radio market, because here comes news of their latest chip bearing the ESP32 name: a single-core 96MHz RISC-V part with built-in IEEE 802.15.4 to support ZigBee 3.x and Thread 1.x. The ESP32-H2 is not the most powerful of the Espressif line-up, but it will find its place in home automation products and projects.

The ESP32-H2 joins a multitude of other IEEE 802.15.4 devices from manufacturers such as Microchip, ST, NXP, and Nordic in an increasingly crowded marketplace, so what can if offer that the others can’t? If previous ESP chips are anything to go by we’d expect it to compete on price as well as the obvious attraction for developers used to working with other Espressif products. We look forward as always to seeing what you do with it.

26 thoughts on “New Part Day: An ESP With ZigBee

  1. Probably more interesting from home automation enthusiasts is Thread support, if someone develops a Material library you’d have a off the shelf extremely low cost way to link devices using Apple HomePod mini into HomeKit for the first time as well as Google Home and I presume Amazon?

    1. No doubt there will be. Espressif wisely brought excellent software support, well-cared software platform, and that is strategically paying off. They could have stay a typical Chinese chip company, with half-assed documentation translated by machines and stay in the darkness.
      I wish some others (chinese) companies who follow that path, because there is really good and cheap hardware around but for most the documentation and support totally sucks. Even big names.

  2. If Thread gets a standardized application layer so everything Just Works like Zigbee 3.0 tries to do, this could be *the* way to do IoT once it gets an Arduino. I was just blown away the first time I tried ZigBee and everything just connected right away.

    I wonder if Thread will keep that same easy pairing or if you’ll have to use an app and a cloud service or something. I’m a bit suspicious of how flexible it is, it seems like being IP based invites a lot of “creativity” instead of compatibility.

    1. They make clear devices will be onboarded using Bluetooth but that’s about it.

      My theory:
      After the gateway device is onboarded using an app I suspect additional devices will be onboarded by pushing a pairing button. Then you will tell the gateway to scan for the device in one of several ways.

      * An app like the Google home or Alexa app.
      * By asking a smart device like Google Home or Alexa to scan for devices
      * By pushing a button

    2. >”once it gets an Arduino”
      God no! Why even buy them ever if they are just Atmel/Microchip? I love the imported cheap ones, and especially the blackpill STM32 and ESP32. Sure if you want to be a minimalist Attiny13 and likes are awesome. But why do I need to gate myself behind a brand that merely resells them?

  3. I have IKEA Tradfri. It will be nice to have something that will fit in with my existing hardware (and me not having to harvest the control board from dead light bulbs).

    1. I’ve recently got into Tradfri via Home Assistant. Get yourself a Conbee 2 and never look back.

      it also connects to other zigbee stuff like Xiaomi Hue and Tuya. For sensors and lights and whatnot it’s great, for switches you need to listen for events which is marginally more faf. I’ve previously done a lot via the Xiaomi app(s), and I can tell you, a whole new world opens up when you can just combine whatever with whatever and you can forget about all the hubs, gateways, proprietary apps, weird update behavior, range problems and whatnot.

      a side note is to be made however, Xiaomi/Aqara/Mija and whatever sub brands can have very sticky routing, and some Ikea bulbs have trouble in working as routers (although mine have worked flawlessly)

  4. Is it me, or every new iteration of the ESP32 seems less powerful than the previous one? First, two cores, next only one, and from 240 MHz to 96?

    Why, Espressif, why…?

    1. It’s all about the market they are cornering, in home automation applications a single core with 96 MHz speed is way enough and will help keep power consumption to a minimum (the whole idea behind Zigbee and other low power radios compared to WIFI). When the complete specs out, we will see if battery powered devices will be achievable with this new ESP32 chip!

    2. Well you can’t push video data via Zigbee anyway, so not that important to have super high speed on the CPU.

      Sleeping performance and low power operations with some peak performance is much more important.

      Zigbee is more about turning stuff off/on do small calculations or do some PWM for a dimmer / motor.

      There’s not an application I can think of which needs 96 MHz.

  5. If the main application/market of this new core is home automation…the first features that should be well implemented are power saving modes.
    One core with 96MHz should be more than enough to handle some IOs or sensor signals, but only if you have good designed hardware peripheral and no bloatware.
    We will see….

  6. I’m curious, why do products use Zigbee and ZWave etc protocols? I can understand the use cases for protocols with explicit advantages (for example LoRa for range, or BLE for low power and compatibility) but I am unable to find any unique features that might set most of the protocols apart

    1. It’s just comeout before 802.11af/ah and suppose to be low power but nowadays make no sense, manufactures just can’t allow standard general purpose wireless mesh network in OEM firmware because it’s will kill ISP, so even if it support Zeroconf for sure not for 802.11s or have B.A.T.M.A.N., Babel with serverless “DHCP”.
      I sure seen HaLow device but with ZeroConf or “auto dhcp” not really sure…
      TL;DR It’s just dirty simple moneygrab for consumer “smart” devices.

    2. Also zigbee/zwave are non-routable and are meant to be managed locally. I trust an cheap ailiexpress zigbee device infinity more then a cheap aliexpress cloud based wifi device.

    3. With WiFi I have to program my SSID and secret into each light switch, but Zigbee just works. Every time I set up a new switch or dimmer I think about what will happen when I sell my house in 2 years and every wall switch has to be reprogrammed.

      Maybe I will be able to remove the ESP8266s and solder in ESP32-H2s. Well, it’s a hobby, doesn’t have to make sense.

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