In late February, Orange dumped Z-Wave in favor of ULE to enable the connected home. The announcement came only weeks after Bill Scheffler, one of Z-Wave’s biggest advocates, left Silicon Labs to join the Silicon Valley division of DSP Group, a provider of ULE chips along with Dialog Semiconductor.
ULE (an acronym for ultra-low energy) is a low-power wireless interface for the smart home. It is an extension of the DECT cordless phone standard, offering a Mbit/second low-power wireless interface for voice and data.
The standard’s physical layer (PHY) uses dedicated spectrum at 1.9 GHz to minimize interference and has a range of up to 600 feet (line of sight). It has a link budget of 116 dB, and it supports up to 32,000 devices per system.
ULE uses a star topology, so there’s no complex, power-hungry, mesh algorithm. It runs the Home Area Network Functional protocol, and for security it implements AES-128.
The standard is used in about 580 million homes worldwide if you include cordless phones. About 50 million units are in Europe, including gateways and VoIP boxes, according to Brad Russell, a market research director at Parks Associates.
ULE is emerging in synch with the widespread use of voice as a human-to-machine interface. One out of three U.S. homes now has a smart speaker, one in four homes has a smart device for controlling lights and other systems, and 43% intend to buy a smart home device in the next 12 months, said Russell.
The ULE Alliance envisions ubiquitous use of ULE across the home. It would like to see it embedded in meters, white goods, plugs, lights, and alarms for security, home automation, and climate control.
In case of a fire, a ULE-enabled smoke detector would send an alert to the broadband-connected gateway which in turn would alert the homeowner’s smartphone as well as the local fire department. The ULE Alliance has developed a hand-off from ULE-IP to 6LoWPAN for Internet access.
ULE’s automated response in case of fire is a classic use case for the alliance. (Source: ULE Alliance)