Network-compatible solutions for smart homes and buildings – including advanced heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems – are in high demand. However, most products are either difficult to install, limited to individual manufacturers or simply too expensive.
The new ultra-low energy (ULE) standard, based on secure and eco-friendly Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT)-frequencies, could prove to be a game changer.
Experts predict that millions of ULE products will be sold from next year onwards.
The wireless standard is based on DECT frequencies, which until now have exclusively been used for cordless telephones. ULE is more energy efficient than regular DECT, however, and allows the transmission of data as well as speech – for example, to control certain smart home features.
With ULE, hundreds of actuators and sensors could be combined into one network, and battery-powered devices could operate for up to 10 years on the same set of batteries.
According to ULE Alliance chairman Rene Kohlmann, ULE is perfectly suited for smart homes, building automation, security technology and climate control. The new standard has the potential to challenge existing ones that are often limited, especially when it comes to energy efficiency, multi-vendor networking and operating range.
ULE-based devices and sensors from different manufacturers could potentially be connected to one network with the push of a button. With distances of up to 50m within buildings and up to 300m outdoors, the range is superior to other wireless standards for home automation. As ULE uses the protected frequency band between 1,890MHz and 1,900MHz, exclusively reserved for DECT, interferences with other products such as Wi-Fi devices, baby monitors and microwaves can be ruled out.
ULE uses the Advanced Encryption Standard for electronic data, which was been established by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The transport layer of ULE can set up a connection to the actuator, send a control signal and cut the connection again in less than 50 milliseconds.
This short latency allows real-time communication between a DECT base station and ULE products. Depending on the device, users may only have to push a button to install and combine ULE-enabled products.
Another advantage of ULE is that users do not necessarily need a new gateway to set up a ULE network – existing DECT gateways can be upgraded to ULE via a simple software update. Even without considering these millions of DECT gateways like selected Gigaset devices and FRITZ!Box routers from AVM, analysts such as IHS Research predict that 50 million ULE products will be sold in 2015.
Similar to smart TVs, tablets, game consoles and other consumer electronics, end users are starting to demand that all their home automation equipment, including sensors for heating and air conditioning, can be controlled via a single network.
Until now, most solutions were either not affordable for the majority of users, difficult to install or restricted to one manufacturer. It will be interesting to see if ULE will fulfil its potential and change the market.
Tillmann Braun is company director at Braun Europe