Understanding Wireless Home Control
UNDERSTANDING WIRELESS HOME CONTROL
Infra Red, Bluetooth, and even wireless internet are well known among gadget lovers and even the technically shy people in the world. Our mobiles, kindles, and ipads rely on these forms of connection and have become very much part of our everyday lives.
Wireless communication is developing all the time, and is no longer restricted, as a method of communicating with others, but now, it can help you communicate with your home. This may sound a bizarre concept, but through introducing wireless control at home, you can end up with cheaper energy bills and high end home security.
WHY GO WIRELESS?
Traditionally, electrical systems for the home, are hard wired, and planned during the early construction stages of a house build. Z-Wave technology, in particular, can be installed into a home at any time, without ripping up the carpets or drilling the walls, making it a very easy system to introduce to your home.
Particularly with systems such as Z-Wave technology, you have flexibility to design a wireless system, with minimum fuss. It can be as small or as sophisticated as you like. Z-Wave has capabilities of managing your electrical components in the house, such as lighting, the radio, the TV, or even the window blinds. On top of this, it can notify you if someone has broken into your home whilst you are at work. It is like managing a whole home with a remote control.
But, of course, you have to be consider which wireless system you choose. It’s very easy to be distracted by price, and therefore end up dissatisfied with your purchase.
On the market there are various wireless technologies; here are a few…
WHAT’S ON & WHAT TO AVOID ON THE MARKET
*Analogue Control using 27 MHz or 433 MHz frequency band
Analogue wireless systems are available from no-name vendors at a remarkably low price. Unfortunately, you tend to get what you pay for, resulting in low manufacturing quality and very poor security.
This frequency is shared with CB transceivers and probably the local Indian takeaway, therefore the behaviour of this equipment becomes unpredictable. This is not a recommended system if you want total control for your home.
*Proprietary Protocols of different Vendors
Multiple manufacturers have developed their own proprietary solution for wireless control. Some names are Intertechno, Free Control (Kopp), Homeeasy, FS 20, Homematic (both ELV) or Xcomfort (Eaton).
Most of these protocols use the frequency of 868 MHz and communicate digitally. Some protocols have implemented a two-way communication.
The by far biggest disadvantage of these solutions is the limitation of available components in the long term, let alone the stability of the protocol. Several vendors have already proven their willingness to change protocols and make the former products obsolete. This can cause problems should you wish to add to your system at a later date.
The so-called power line communication uses the 230 V mains lines as its method of communication. This is not a wireless technology but it competes with wireless automation technologies.
The first and still the most important technology for power line communication is the X10. It carries control signals over the domestic mains power wiring, which can replace ordinary light switches, mains outlets and pendant lamp holders.
X10 was introduced almost 20 years ago in the US and still has plenty of users both in US and Europe. Unfortunately, X10 has reached the end of its life since the bandwidth is very limited and the protocol has problems with the modern switched power supplies.
There is always a risk that houses in the same neighbourhood share a connection to the power distribution system, therefore signals can ‘bleed’ from one to another, which can be troublesome within a domestic set up.
There have been reports of PCs injecting a great deal of electrical noise in the power network. Luckily, today’s modern power line communication technology uses digital signal coding and is more robust against noise. Unfortunately, multiple different “standards” exist, which are not compatible with each other.
Another initiative based on power line is called Digitalstrom. This is a development from the University of Zurich but as of today, the technology hasn’t proven its stability in real environments beyond prototype installations.
‘ ZigBee’ is quite a new player on the block, with the first products on the market in the beginning of 2005.
‘ ZigBee’ is an open wireless networking protocol which works similarly, but better than Bluetooth. Whereas Bluetooth will pair up with a mere seven devices, ‘ZigBee’ can pair with many hundred!
A part of the functionality is based on the IEEE specification IEEE 802.15.4, which enables to connect household appliances, sensors, etc. on short distances (10 to 100 metres).
The downside is ZigBee devices from different manufacturers are not compatible with each other because Zigbee standardises only the lower protocol layers (radio layer), whereas different manufacturers have defined their own higher software layers.
EnOcean GmbH is a spin-off company from the German company, Siemens AG, founded in 2001. EnOcean actors and sensors work without battery using energy harvesting techniques.
In the meantime, EnOcean is adopted by more than 100 manufacturers, primarily from Europe. Pricewise Enocean tries to align with the higher pricing level of KNX.
Z-Wave technology is the key to having complete control over your home security and energy solutions, with the minimum of fuss. With a Z-Wave home automation system, you can program all major electrical elements of the home, such as light, heating, cooking, cooling and even your home security.
The benefits don’t end there, although it’s a sophisticated system, it is simple to use, and works out to be an energy efficient and cost effective option.
The system works via a remote control, and uses low-powered radio waves. Its mesh network covers all areas of the home, as the radio waves travel easily through walls, floors and furniture, making connectivity 100% reliable.
This freedom of connectivity means that you can easily start with a basic package, and build it up over time with additional components, personalising your home energy and security system, unique to your home and at your convenience.
Each Z-Wave module can act as an RF repeater and commands can route through a maximum of four devices. This gives the system a maximum range of 400 ft nad routing is managed automatically.
Components include sockets, switches, remote controls, and the Z-Wave Internet Gateway VERA where you can create scenes, events and timer settings to personalise your electrical appliances as you would your home.
In terms of pricing Z-Wave products ranges above proprietary solutions of some manufacturers but are clearly lower than comparable solutions by Zigbee or Enocean.
WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR A WIRELESS HOME CONTROL SYSTEM?
Important functions such as operating window blinds or even home security installations are to be controlled via wireless signal. Hence it is essential that all messages reach its destination and is confirmed by the receiver. Not all wireless protocols comply with this requirement.
Secure Communication :
It must be guaranteed that an unauthorised third party cannot – on purpose or accidently – intercept or interfere with the communication of the wireless system. Typically this is ensured by encoding technologies and handshake mechanisms.
Low Radio Emission :
Wireless technology for home automation is used in living rooms; hence issues like electromagnetic emission need to be taken into account.
Simple Usage :
Home automation shall make the life of the user easier and not more complicated.
Protection of Investment :
Home automation solutions are typically installed during the construction of new buildings or renovation and need to comply with typical product life cycles of home installation equipment. However, it’s important that the user can replace devices or extend their systems several years after installation and not have trouble with compatibility issues.
Home automation functions such as heating, lighting or window control are implemented with products of different vendors with expertise in their respective area. The wireless technology has to work with several manufacturers of products, freely and without restriction.
HOW DOES WIRELESS COMMUNICATION WORK?
Wireless systems are complex and consist of a huge number of functions. As you have already read, there are numerous routes to choose from, but importantly, whatever you choose, has to be compatible with the products you are using.
To help manage the huge number of functions, it’s useful to split them into different layers.
The lowest layer is always used for communication media. In the case of a wireless protocol, this is the air. The highest layer is always the user, in this case, a human being.
In the case of the versatile option, Z-Wave, a three layer structure works well.
- Radio Layer: This layer defines the way a signal is exchanged between a transmitter and a receiver. This includes issues like frequency, encoding, hardware access, etc.
- Network Layer: This layer defines how real control data are exchanged between two communication partners. This includes issues like addressing, network organization, routing, etc.
- Application Layer: This layer defines which messages need to be exchanged to specific applications such as switching a light or increasing the temperature of a heating device.
STARTING YOUR OWN WIRELESS COMMUNICATION SYSTEM
As you have read, there are many different systems available, but when making your choice, many considerations have to be made.
We recommend you consider choosing a system that has value for money, but also has longevity. A system you can personalise, and make your own over the next few months or years, knowing that you can still buy compatible components.
A successful system is achieved through planning and working out which devices are needed and what you want them to do. From there, you can build your very own system and have complete control over your energy bills and security system.
Start your Wireless Home Communication System today.
Copyright 2012 Vesternet Ltd.