New secure standard for smart solutions

Posted On 03 Feb 2015
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ULE-Chip_im_Größenvergleich_Quelle DSPG_klein2Many smart home solutions currently available are either difficult to install, not particularly secure, expensive or not compatible with devices from other manufacturers. To make life easier for the users as well as for the installers – and thereby boosting their sales -, vendors start turning to the new Ultra Low Energy standard (ULE). According to the ULE Alliance, which has just started a certification programme for ULE-based products, a wide range of solutions from motion detectors to smoke alarms to security cameras are about to be launched.

Some companies like Panasonic, Gigaset, AVM, Crow or VTech already offer ULE-based products such as door phones, window locks, motion and glass break detectors, smoke alarms and security cameras. However, judging by the huge interest ULE attracted at the global consumer technology tradeshow CES in Las Vegas, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The non-profit organisation ULE Alliance has just launched a certification programme for products that use the Ultra Low Energy standard, and René Kohlmann, chairman of the ULE Alliance, predicts that many more companies will soon release their products. These devices can then be easily combined with other smart home solutions like the heating system and air conditioning.

Certification programme ensures interoperability of devices across manufacturers

The certification programme assures carriers, retailers, and end users that the products conform to a set of standards. It also ensures the interoperability of devices across manufacturers around the world – one of the key features of ULE. Depending on the device, it may only take the push of a button to install and combine ULE-enabled products from different manufacturers.

The new wireless standard is based on DECT frequencies which previously had been used solely for cordless telephones. As ULE uses the protected frequency band from 1,890 to 1,900 MHz, which is exclusively reserved for DECT, interferences with other products – such as all kind of Wi-Fi devices or even microwaves – can be ruled out. With distances of up to 50 metres within buildings and up to 300 metres outdoors, ULE also has a superior range compared to other wireless standards like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave and ZigBee. In less than 50 milliseconds, the transport layer of ULE can setup a connection to the actuator, send a control signal and cut the connection again. The short latency ensures real-time communication between ULE products and a DECT base station.

ULE safest standard for smart homes

ULE uses AES-CCM for encryption and packet authentication (based on AES 128). The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for electronic data has been established by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. All communication is encrypted using AES-CCM and there is no mode or option to switch off the encryption like in other technologies. As a result, experts consider ULE as the safest standard for the smart home.

ULE – as the name already suggests – is more energy efficient than regular DECT. Battery-powered devices can be operated up to ten years on the same set of batteries. Just like DECT, ULE allows the transmission of data as well as of speech. The latter is particularly useful for manufacturers who are working on solutions which allow users to control their smart home with their voice. As hundreds of actuators and sensors can be combined to one network with ULE, being able to control the system with commands might come in handy.

Existing gateways can be upgraded with simple software update

Another advantage of the new standard is that users do not necessarily need a new gateway to setup a network. Often, the existing DECT gateway such as Gigaset devices and the FRITZ!Box routers from AVM can be upgraded to ​​ULE via a simple software update.

Today’s consumers who are used to connect their Smart TV or tablet with other consumer electronics will certainly appreciate the fact that they soon might be able to control their entire homes via a single network. So far, most solutions were either difficult to install, expensive or restricted to one manufacturer. Judging by its key features, ULE certainly has the potential to challenge existing standards.

For more information about the ULE Alliance click here