The Connected Cottage: Connecting the Connected Home (Part 3)

Welcome to the third post The Connected Cottage series, leading up to Maria’s panel chair at The CSI Converging Home Summit on the 8th of May, 2014.

So how are all these devices actually connecting? Well, there are several different ways and a variety of technologies:

  • Into the home from outside: This could be via broadband, satellite, mobile (3G/LTE) or even a regional wireless mesh.
  • Inside the home: This will usually be a central device that allows all the others to communicate through it. This could be a Wi-Fi, ZigBee or Z-Wave controller. These are often referred to as Smart Home Controllers (or gateways, hubs or bridges) which work with remote controllers and may end up being the Multimedia Home Gateway devices. This takes place within the Home Area Network (HAN).
  • Area networks: Within the Home Area Network (HAN) there are also Personal Area Networks (PANs) and Body Area Networks (BANs). A BAN is very close to the body and might use Near Field Communication (NFC). It could be a pendant used to summon healthcare assistance or an RFID key used to control a lock. A PAN’s field is a bit larger and could include connectivity to portable mobile devices.
  • Between devices: Your devices need to be added to your home network without adding all of your neighbour’s devices. There are two ways of adding (also known as “including” or “pairing”) devices to the home network. If you live somewhere without nearby neighbours you may be able to do “full power inclusion” – in this case you can leave your router in situ while pairing. If you live in a flat or apartment very close to other homes then “low power inclusion” is better – the wireless signal is sent at very low power so that only devices that are very close will get paired. One way of doing this is by making the router portable so it can be carried to the device it needs to be paired with. It’s worth remembering that some devices still may be connected via wired technology like coax or Powerline.

The list below is not exhaustive, but these are the ones I’ve come across most often.

TECHNOLOGY WHAT IT MEANS
Bluetooth Classic, Smart and Smart Ready Used for Personal Area Network (PAN) applications. Part of the Bluetooth v4.0 specification. “Classic Bluetooth” consists of the legacy Bluetooth protocols.   “Bluetooth Smart Ready” is for hosts and “Bluetooth Smart” is for sensors and both are part of the subset of Bluetooth v4.0 known as Bluetooth low energy (BLE). It operates at 2.4 GHz with a range of 10-150 metres and a data rate of 1Mb/s.
EnOcean EnOcean is an “energy harvesting” technology which means it gets its energy from an external source – solar, thermal, and kinetic (motion). EnOcean is mostly used in building automation. Typical examples are battery-free light switches and light, temperature and occupancy sensors. It operates 868.3MHz and 315MHz. Data packets are 14 bytes long and are transmitted at 125Kbit/s. Its range is 30-300 metres.
Power line communication (PLC) Power line communication is an evolution from X10 and uses the existing home electrical wiring to communicate between products and connect to the internet. Typical uses are whole-home access to broadband, audio, high definition (HD) video, gaming, smart grid or smart energy solutions and electric vehicle charging. HomePlug is an example of Power line communication and its AV2 technology transfers data at “gigabit-class” speeds.
KNX KNX is a global standard for all functions and applications in home and building control and is based on the preceding systems of EIB, EHS and BatiBUS. KNX allows communication between devices across different communication media including: twisted pair, powerline, radio frequency (RF), and IP/Ethernet. Twisted pair is at 9.6Kb/s. Powerline is at 1.2 Kb/s. RF transmits KNX telegrams at 868MHz at 25mW and 16.384Kb/s. KNX telegrams can also be encapsulated in IP telegrams.
INSTEON INSTEON is a dual-mesh (radio frequency (RF) and powerline) home management network technology. All INSTEON devices are peers which means any device can act as a controller (send messages), responder (receive messages) or a repeater (relay messages.) INSTEON applications include lighting, climate, timers, sensors, access control and energy measurement. RF frequency is 869.85-921MHz with a data rate of 38.4Kb/s. Powerline is 131.65KHz with a data rate ranging between 2.8Kb/s and 13.165Kb/s. As a note INSTEON can work with existing X10 devices without a bridging product. The theoretical limit to the number of nodes is 16.7M.
Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) MoCA is the standard for home entertainment networking and is in use by all three pay TV segments – cable, satellite and IPTV. This is a wired solution. MoCA is Ethernet over coax. MoCA can support multiple HD video streams and delivers up to 175Mb/s net throughputs.
Near Field Communication (NFC) Near Field Communication is a contactless form of communication between devices like smartphones or tablets.   This is an offshoot of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) but the devices must be held in close proximity to each other. Active devices use a small electromagnetic radio field to communicate with another NFC compatible device or NFC tag. Passive devices (like NFC tags in smart posters) just store information and communicate with the active device. Like RFID, NFC works at 13.6MHz and has a range of under 20cm.   Tags store between 96 and 512 bytes of data and transfer at data rates ranging from 106Kb/s to 848Kb/s.
Ultra-Low Energy (ULE) ULE (Ultra-Low Energy) is based on DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) which was primarily used for cordless phone systems. DECT now has a low power variant called DECT ULE which is used in assisted living, safety and security and energy and utilities. This operates at 1.9GHz and has a range of 100-300 metres and data rate of 1 Mb/s.
WiFi
(IEEE 802.11)
WiFi is a wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) that is based on the IEEE 802.11 standards. WiFi is usually 2.4GHz but some corporate instances of 802.11 use 5.8GHz. Depending on the 802.11 version data rates vary from 1Mb/s to 600Mb/s and have a range of 20 metres indoors to 250 metres outdoors.
Z-Wave Z-Wave is primarily used within home automation and energy and utilities. This can include entertainment, household appliances, lighting, and residential access control. It operates at about 900 MHz depending on territory and has low interference. It has a 30-100 metre range and it a data rate of 9.6Kb/s to 100Kb/s. Z-Wave can support up to 232 nodes per network.
ZigBee ZigBee is widely used within energy, utilities, safety, security and health. It operates at 2.4GHz so is perceived to have some interference issues but can reach data rates of 250Kb/s (16 channels). In the Americas it can also operate at 915MHz with a data rate of 40Kb/s (10 channels) and at 868MHz in Europe with a data rate of 20Kb/s (1 channel). It has a range of 10-100 metres. ZigBee can support networks of up to 64,000 nodes. ZigBee RF4CE (Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics) supports TVs and STBs.

Table: Smart home protocols and standards that are connecting within the home

>> Next in the series: Part 4 – The Connected Cottage: Making the Connected Home Smart …

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