The ULE Alliance On Ultra Low Energy Home Automation

When the Ultra Low Energy Alliance got in touch with us we were intrigued. So we asked them to tell us more about this standard that uses DECT frequencies (1,880-1,900 MHz) for home automation…

Earlier this year, the ULE Alliance introduced a certification programme for products based on the new Ultra Low Energy standard (ULE). A wide range of companies have since submitted their products and devices. Certified ULE products offer many advantages. Users can combine their smart home components from different companies to one network. Often, all that is required to integrate smoke alarms or controls for the air conditioning into the network is the push of a button.

Once an ULE-based smart home system has been installed, it doesn’t only make life easier and more comfortable for the user, but also manages the blinds, window locks, security cameras and heating, thereby helping the user to save money and energy. The Ultra Low Energy standard is particularly environmental friendly. Batteries of ULE products last for up to ten years.

Avi BarelSmart home elements that are based on technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have to share the spectrum with other components and devices. This leads to far reaching implications: the more devices are being used in the area, including products in neighbouring houses and flats, the lower the data bandwidth and range. Whilst most current short range wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi and other smart home standards use the 2.4 GHz or 900 MHz frequency bands, ULE is based on DECT frequencies (1,880-1,900 MHz) which used to be exclusively reserved for cordless telephones. DECT phones can be found in more than 600 million households across the world. If a user already has a DECT gateway like certain routers, a software update is all that is needed to enable ULE. “ULE is using the same physical layer protocol as DECT,” explains Avi Barel, Director of Business Development at the not-for-profit organisation ULE Alliance. “Therefore, ULE is available in every country and region in which DECT has been enabled, including Europe, the US and Americas, Japan, Korea and South East Asia. In other countries such as India and China, the DECT spectrum is currently been negotiated,” says Avi Barel.

Perfect protection against un-authorised access

ule-chipA weak security layer is one of the biggest threats to smart homes as all components are connected and can be controlled remotely if the system gets hacked. ULE takes advantage of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for electronic data to protect the user and his home. The AES standard, established by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, ensures perfect protection against un-authorised access. The encryption cannot be disabled. With a range of up to 300 metres outdoors and approx. 50 metres within buildings, ULE also covers longer distances than other smart home standards. Up to 2,000 sensors and actors can be combined to a single network via one gateway. The restricted use of the frequency bands for DECT and ULE means that there are no interferences with other products in the house like microwaves, garage door openers, baby monitors, and Wi-Fi products. Being based on DECT, ULE also supports the transmission of voice and video, allowing manufacturers to include voice control as well as detailed real-time announcements via the smart home network such as warnings like “fire in the hallway”.

Certification programme leads to huge interest in ULE

Some chip manufacturers like DSP Group, Lantiq and Dialog as well as device manufacturers like Crow, VTech, Gigaset or AVM with their FRITZ!Box have been working on ULE solutions for some time now. Panasonic, Cisco and Huawei are also investing in the ULE standard. Since the certification programme is in place, the interest in the technology is growing rapidly amongst companies and end users. As the latter can extend their ULE-based smart homes with new purchases from other companies, ULE makes the smart home affordable for basically anyone for the first time.

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