World's first ZigBee phone unveiled

ZigBee could bring wireless connectivity to billions of electronics devices, but some in the industry believe that the world isn't ready for a ZigBee handset just yet

South Korean mobile partnership Pantech&Curitel claims to have made history this week by launching the first handset to support ZigBee.

ZigBee is an emerging low-power networking standard which could allow any device containing a microprocessor to be given a wireless network connection -- letting it be remotely controlled or act as a sensor.

Experts, such as Ethernet creator Bob Metcalfe, believe ZigBee could be massive within a few years. At present, though, it awaits ratification as a standard.

Despite this, Pantech&Curitel has come out with its P1 ZigBee-enabled phone, which they are demonstrating at the ZigBee Alliance Festival in Seoul. Pantech&Curitel claims that the P1 could be used to control domestic electrical appliances and monitor temperature and humididy.

If the home also had a ZigBee-compatible alarm system then the phone could be alerted about possible break-ins, Pantech&Curiteln said in a statement.

"The worldwide IT industry is progressing toward environments where wireless is ubiquitous. Mobile phones, which are becoming more like commodities, are likely to be the hub of this new era," said Mi-Hyang Han of Pantech&Curitel, suggesting that handsets could be used to access a wide array of wireless applications.

But according to Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR), a UK wireless chip manufacturer, ZigBee is still too young for work.

"The standard's not been ratified, so it's hard to see how there can be a phone out there that is ZigBee-ratified," said Eric Jansen, CRS' vice-president for North America. "My first question is 'what will it connect to?'"

The products section of the ZigBee Alliance's Web site just contains a logo saying "COMING SOON".

Jansen acknowledged that the first examples of any network technology have trouble finding things to connect to.

"This particular product is a bit before its time, but good on them for pulling it off," Jansen added.