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The lowdown on DECT wireless standard

15 Nov 2013  | Rene Kohlmann

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With DECT ULE, a typical sensor application with a 10 events per hour will run for more than 10 years on a single AAA battery pack, for actuator devices with latencies below 2 sec the autonomy is two years.

Zigbee, Bluetooth and DECT all have similar hardware and software requirements. For example, the Zigbee software stack is around 100 KB, while DECT stacks range from 60-80 KB depending on functionality – so memory costs are similar for both technologies. This means that the maturity of the technology and the volume of manufacturing are the main price differentiators. The 300 million DECT chips sold each year represent a healthy multi-vendor market guaranteeing low component pricing and wide availability.

Today's single-chip DECT SoCs are priced well below the ZigBee SoCs, and often feature a wide range of HW & SW resources such as voice coding and data converters to differentiate applications. Overall sharing the DECT functionality can reduce system costs for the consumer further, this includes existing IADs too.

Voice and security
Although voice applications are not directly linked to HAECS segment, there are several security and home-care applications where voice links are paramount. DECT was originally designed for cordless telephony, so naturally offers high-quality voice links both inside and outside the home. DECT nowadays supports AES-128 encrypted links, including authentication algorithms and has a proven track record with respect to its link integrity.

ULE maintains that same high voice quality as well as the security mechanisms for voice transmissions used in the millions of installed DECT systems, offering HAECS networks that are as robust against eavesdropping as today's cordless phones.

Ease of installation, configuration and maintenance
ULE is as easy to install, configure and run as its ancestor the cordless phone. Automatic frequency planning based on a distributed algorithm (dynamic channel allocation) executed by all devices, allows all sensors/actuators to access the complete DECT spectrum, simplifying the configuration compared to other solutions. Furthermore, updating firmware over the air (via the ETSI DECT standard Software Upgrade Over The Air (SUOTA)) makes ULE networks future proof and gives service providers further leverage to deploy new products within existing configurations.

Developing DECT ULE solutions
Smart home solutions can be developed quickly and easily using the DECT ULE protocol software stack which provides all high-level networking functionality, enabling designers to focus on their application. The module hardware and software can be easily configured directly through the Application Programming Interface (API). The wireless module development kit includes a base-station, portable part, development board (featuring a module, various interfaces, battery and power connector). Demonstration software, application examples and the Athena IDE are also included to enable the rapid creation of applications. The Athena integrated development environment (IDE) is an easy-to-use, open-source toolset for creating new application software. It features an Eclipse-based IDE, a GNU C/C++ compiler and linker, and a code download and verification tool – all preconfigured and tested to work straight out of the box.

Meanwhile, the DECT IP base station reference kit offers easy prototyping of internet-enabled DECT ULE systems. The kit features a DECT IP basestation that combines a basestation node communication and Dialog's energy-efficient VoIP processor, giving hassle-free internet connectivity. It comes complete with example sensor and actuator nodes, based on the wireless sensor module, plus aµClinux-based VoIP software development platform.

With the proven capabilities of the DECT ULE technology and easy-to-use development kit, ODMs can speed up the time-to-market for a wide range of solutions, including smart energy meters, healthcare alarms for the elderly, fire and intrusion alarms and climate and lighting control systems.

About the author
René Kohlmann is Senior Director Advanced Technology at Dialog Semiconductor. René was previously Chief Technology Officer and one of the founders of SiTel Semiconductor BV, which was acquired by Dialog in 2011. He holds a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering from the Technical University of Twente (Enschede, the Netherlands). He is Chairman of the ULE Alliance, an international association, which promotes the worldwide allocation and market adoption of the ULE technology, the leading control network ecosystem for home and building use.

To download the PDF version of this article, click here.

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