Ultra Low Energy (ULE) is a new wireless network solution looks set to accelerate the transformation of homes and workplaces to smart buildings.
The secure wireless solution is based on Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) frequencies, those used only for cordless phones and the specification of the ULE standard (TS 102 939-01) was released less than two years ago.
ULE is proven to be more energy efficient than standard DECT and can allow a much greater combination of sensors and actuators on a single network with devices operating on one set of batteries for a decade or more.
The new standard also supports data and voice transmission to extend the types of controls available in a smart building.
One big issue with short range wireless technologies currently in use is that they share the spectrum with other network technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Sharing the 2.4GHz or the 900 MHz frequencies in this way means lower bandwidth and range, which in turn currently increases network installation costs as the number of repeaters is greater, while interference is also a problem.
ULE resolves these issues as it uses dedicated 1880-1900 MHz frequency bands in Europe, which means no interference and at the same time these frequencies can cover distances within buildings of up to 50 metres, extending this to 300 metres outside.
Removing the need for repeaters both lowers network installation costs, maintenance challenges and reliability. Adding devices to a network is very simple as well and up to 2,000 actuators and sensors can share a network.
ULE could provide the base for much more widespread adoption of in-demand solutions like smart controls for HVAC systems as it can reduce both acquisition and solution lifetime costs.
ULE uses the Advanced Encryption Standard for electronic data established by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology and its transport layer has a short latency, able to connect to an actuator, send a control signal and cut the connection again in less than 50 milliseconds.
This facilitates real-time communication between a DECT base station and ULE products while simplifying the device installation processes. Costs can be further constrained as existing DECT gateways can be upgraded with a simple software update.
IHS Research predicts that 50 million ULE products will be sold in this year – including things like motion detectors, remote controls, door locks and smoke detectors.
A ULE network operates through star-network topology with the main base device connected to other nodes – devices with particular functions like sensors, smart meters and so on.
The ULE Alliance, a non-profit organisation based in Bern, Switzerland is the main promoter of the nascent technology. A ULE certification programme enables ULE Alliance members to submit their devices for compliance testing.