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Interoperating for More Energy Efficiency
Mar 16, 2012 – Jim O'Callaghan, President, EnOcean, Inc.
Seamless integration of energy harvesting wireless technology in legacy communication networks creates new possibilities of building automatio.
In building automation you already find numerous open and proprietary standards or communication protocols. Most of the standards were developed independently of one another and for different purposes. LON and BACnet, for example, are often used to control heating and air-conditioning, while the DALI bus features in specific lighting industry applications. However, all of these communication standards have one thing in common: they are easily combined with EnOcean's energy harvesting wireless technology. This means that the energy-autonomous technology can be added to legacy networks in building automation to deliver significant user advantages, including, enhanced flexibility, comfort and convenience coupled with less power consumption.
Energy from round about
EnOcean's wireless technology harvests its energy from the surrounding environment – from motion, light and differences in temperature – to enable entirely self-powered and maintenance-free solutions in building automation. Whether in homes, offices, schools or other buildings, the batteryless wireless sensors produce the precise amount of data needed to regulate heating, air-conditioning or climatization, and optimally match it to demand. In doing so, the sensors pave the way to energy-efficient systems and intelligent, green buildings. The wireless modules can enable a whole variety of products, ranging from switches and remote controls through to room thermostats and intelligent window handles.
All products enabled by EnOcean technology are interoperable meaning units and systems from different manufacturers can easily work together, regardless of whether they communicate over LON, KNX, BACnet, TCP/IP or Ethernet. This interoperability is facilitated by the EnOcean equipment profiles (EEPs) of the open specification for energy harvesting wireless sensors developed by the EnOcean Alliance. Globally operating companies from the electronics and building sectors joined the Alliance with the aim of promoting and establishing innovative automation solutions for sustainable building projects, and so to make buildings more energy-efficient, more flexible and lower in cost. The published specification currently contains EEPs describing different switching functions, remote controls, sensors and combinations of sensors for temperature, brightness, motion and humidity. In addition, EEPs are also defined for actuators such as switching actuators and dimmers. Sustainable energy management concepts are thus implemented with very little effort or outlay. The different kinds of equipment link to other networks through gateways that use software and tables to translate communication profiles. In this way EnOcean-enabled products can integrate seamlessly in networks working with open standards.
Wireless signals below 1 GHz
EnOcean wireless signals use the 868 MHz and 315 MHz frequency bands, meaning they can fit into solutions worldwide. These lower frequencies (i.e. less than 1 GHz) distinguish EnOcean technology from other wireless systems operating at frequencies in the 2.4 GHz band. The signals exhibit substantially less dispersion loss through walls and their range is almost doubled for the same transmitting power. Telegrams are just one millisecond in duration, which is about one hundred times shorter than the signal of a conventional wireless switch. A telegram is randomly repeated twice in the space of about 40 milliseconds to prevent transmission errors. Transmitting data packets at random intervals makes the probability of collision extremely small. Installation and parallel operation of hundreds of wireless switches and sensors in a restricted space consequently cause no issues. Each EnOcean module comes with a unique 32-bit identification number to exclude any possibility of overlap with other wireless switches. The range is 300 meters in the open and up to 30 meters inside buildings.
When it comes to transmitting data over long distances inside a building – for example, between sensors and automation installations on a number of floors – the commonest solution is a cabled bus. Energy harvesting wireless technology is a far more flexible and cost-effective solution for data transfer on a single floor or within a perimeter of 30 meters. Batteryless and service-free units are ideal for transmitting measured data or commands. The data packets can be forwarded from central switch points to the main control of a building, or delivered cross-facility to other units on cable networks.
In a network in which the controlling intelligence is distributed over legacy standard protocols, EnOcean technology is the optimal addition for a non-cable connection over the last meters to the user. The self-powered technology also dispenses with the need for battery replacement, which consumes both time and resources. Eliminating cabling also allows greater flexibility in planning and room configuration because any changes made later on will not require new cable laying. Additionally, products can be placed or attached exactly where they are of most benefit, even on glass or furniture. If any renovations are carried out in the future, removing and relocating them is speedy and straightforward. Energy efficiency, comfort and convenience can consequently be created in older properties without any substantial conversion or rebuilding. Little effort and outlay are needed to refit an existing office building with batteryless actuators and sensors for heating, air-conditioning or lighting. Such a solution allows central monitoring and control of all rooms and their power demand.
With the introduction of its new Dolphin platform, EnOcean is offering energy-autonomous plug & play modules that communicate bi-directionally for the first time, permitting sensors and actuators to transmit as well as receive. Major components of the bidirectional Dolphin system architecture are the STM 300, TCM 300 and TCM 320 wireless modules. At the core of these three modules is the Dolphin chip, integrating both RF technology and flexibly programmable digital electronics on an extremely miniature scale. Bidirectional communication enables implementation of sensors or remote controls that not only send signals or measured data to a smart control centre but can also receive information from it by a standard protocol. So a sensor, for example, will then be able to transmit the figures it has measured and at the same time indicate an open window on a display. Reversely, manufacturers can use the new modules to produce actuators that report faults – the failure of a lamp for instance – to a control centre, or simultaneously receive status queries from it and send the answer back.
Buildings controlled from a cell
In addition to legacy communication standards in building automation, EnOcean technology can link to mobile phones. The basic requirement for this is a computer to serve as a central control unit. This will have two interfaces: one linking to GSM, Mac OS or Google Android-based units for example, the other to EnOcean-enabled sensors and actuators. Once the parameters have been set on a mobile phone, a download of the appropriate application is needed so that a building administrator can receive alarm signals from the building network direct to their mobile. BSC Computer is a company that supplies EnOcean-enabled hardware and software for building automation. With BSC BoSeMobile, a client for mobile phones, all control functions can be made mobile by BlackBerry or an iPhone. Software installation is automatic and only takes a matter of minutes. In other words, the BoSeMobile software only needs to be installed once, centrally by the administrator, and then distributed to the different users.
IP cameras can also be connected to the BoSe system so that single shots are transmitted as well as complete live video streams by UMTS/GPRS. Access to the system is guarded by key authorization. This makes a mobile phone a universal remote control for office or home.
Optimally combined for building automation
Already in place in over 200,000 buildings worldwide, EnOcean wireless technology is well-established in building automation and can be combined with legacy systems such as LON, BACnet, TCP/IP or KNX to produce diverse user benefits. Integration of batteryless wireless technology that extends to long distances allows use of existing networks for added comfort and convenience plus substantial savings in the power and operating costs of buildings. The cableless functionality of energy harvesting modules imposes virtually no limits to their flexible possibilities of application.
About the Author
Jim O'Callaghan is President of EnOcean, Inc. He has spent his career building brands, customers and value for a host of innovative technology companies, both public and private. He spent the first dozen years primarily in finance and accounting positions, culminating as CFO participating in two successful IPOs. For the last decade and a half, Jim has worked almost exclusively in sales, marketing and management roles, both with technology and with RF ventures. He is best known as co-founder of Cirque Corporation, the originator of touchpad pointing devices now common on virtually all notebook computers. In 2005 Jim joined EnOcean to establish a North American presence. Jim has a BBA in accounting and a MBA.
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