New international standard stimulates market for wireless systems

Published:  06 August, 2012

EnOcean, wireless sensors, controls, BMS, BEMS
Opening up new markets — Laurent Giai-Miniet

A new international standards promises to accelerate the development of energy-optimised wireless sensors and sensor networks. Laurent Giai-Miniet of EnOcean has the details.

Wireless systems offer huge flexibility and convenience in home and building automation. However, choosing the right wireless radio system is a challenge in a competitive market which offers a variety of different products based on diverse wireless protocols from a wide range of manufacturers.

With ISO/IEC 14543-3-10, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has recently ratified a new international wireless standard that will accelerate the development and implementation of energy-optimised wireless sensors and wireless sensor networks.

Today, energy-autonomous wireless systems are found in all kinds of buildings, in residential homes, industrial plants and many other sectors such as logistics and transportation. Energy-harvesting wireless modules gather the power they need to operate from the environment around them — from motion, light or changes in temperature — and, in doing so, make electronic control systems independent of an external power supply.

Established energy harvesting

A key market for energy harvesting wireless technology is building or home automation. Applications such as air-conditioning control, occupancy sensing and CO2 detection require a wireless protocol that operates on relatively low power. EnOcean is a leader in this field with its energy-harvesting wireless modules.

Demand for interoperability

A major requirement of reliable and cost-efficient systems is interoperability between the products of different manufacturers. Interoperability provides installers with the flexibility to specify the ideal energy-harvesting wireless device for their application. Examples include switches to control lighting and shading, occupancy sensors to adjust temperature and turn off lights when a room is not in use and wireless room temperature sensors to minimise energy consumption with maximum comfort. For this reason a de facto wireless standard has been established by EnOcean and deployed through the EnOcean Alliance — a consortium of companies working to further develop and promote self-powered wireless monitoring and control systems for sustainable buildings by formalising standardised application profiles.

Standard for low power

Now, these principles have been enshrined in the new standard, ISO/IEC 14543-3-10, which provides a ‘Wireless Short-Packet (WSP) protocol optimised for energy harvesting — Architecture and lower layer protocols’.

The protocol is efficient enough to support energy harvested products for sensors and switches that do not require wires and batteries. It is the only standard specifically designed to keep the energy consumption of such sensors and switches extremely low, an order of magnitude lower than alternative standards. It achieves this by transmitting multiple, very short transmissions; and by selecting radio frequency bands with excellent signal propagation and minimal interference. The result is reliable, wireless communication that is energy efficient but long range, allowing the use of small, cost-effective, maintenance-free energy harvesters that can compete with similar battery-powered devices.

Wireless sensors and other devices that comply with a new international standard open up new opportunities for controlling and managing buildings and their services.

Less crowded frequency

The standard utilises the less crowded 868 and 315 MHz frequency bands, making it suitable for use worldwide. This provides a safeguard against other wireless transmitters, whilst offering fast system response and elimination of data collisions. In addition, 868 MHz radio waves have a long range and highly effective penetration through walls and furniture. Telegrams are just 0.7ms in duration and are transmitted at a data rate of 125 kilobit/s over up to 300 m in an open field and up to 30 m inside buildings.

The structure of ISO/IEC 14543-3-10 is almost identical to most wireless standards where upper layers of the protocol (creating interoperable products) are governed by technology alliances and sit on top of the radio — physical and data link layer defined by an open international standard. This is the case with Bluetooth and IEEE 802.15.1, Wireless HART/ZigBee/RF4CE and IEEE 802.15.4, or WiFi and IEEE 802.11.

Where other wireless standards integrate physical and data link layers and the network layer is integrated in the protocol stacks, in the case of ISO/IEC 14543-3-10, the standard offers physical and data link layer as well as the network layer, with the EnOcean Alliance offering the application level. These application profiles sit on top of ISO/IEC 14543-3-10 and are defined to achieve interoperability between products from different vendors. These application-level protocols are referred to as EEPs (EnOcean Equipment Profiles).

Potentials of the new standard

Based on the open standard, any manufacturer can now develop and build EnOcean-compatible products that combine unparalleled flexibility at the lowest investment and operational cost. There are already over 850 products developed by the members of the EnOcean Alliance according to the standardised technology.

An example is WeberHaus, a German-based eco-construction company that uses self-powered wireless sensor technology in sustainable homes throughout the UK and Ireland. WeberHaus offers four home-automation models that can be combined to match individual self-build specifications and requirements. These include single-room and central control of lighting, underfloor heating, blinds and window monitoring, door entry security and central monitoring.

The new wireless ISO/IEC standard will open up new markets and areas of application for energy harvesting solutions and thereby innovative technical solutions for more energy efficiency. In addition to the already established markets for home and building technology, there will be further uses of wireless energy harvesting including smart home, smart metering and the smart grid.

Laurent Giai-Miniet is CEO of EnOcean.



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