Last month, Dialog Semiconductor announced that it was releasing the world’s first DECT ultra low power wireless devices. Many think this is an intriguing new approach to the low power market for products such as home automation, healthcare, security, energy monitoring, and other consumer applications. I asked Jos van der Loop, Product Marketing, Dialog Semiconductor, if he was willing to answer a few follow up questions about DECT, and he was kind enough to sit down with RF&Microwave Designline to respond….
RF&Microwave Designline : What is DECT? How is it different from other wireless technologies?
van der Loop: DECT is a wireless broadcast technology that transmits small packet data in 1880-1900Mhz band. It has a data rate of 1.152Mb/s, range of approximately 300m (50m indoors) and is automatically configurable, making it ideal for in home applications.
It uses a 1 base station to many portable units organization, and the technology has typically been used for cordless phones. A new, low-power variant, DECT ULE, was announced earlier this year, which enables it to be used for battery-powered applications such as smoke alarms, appliance control, door lock actuators, etc.
The key benefits of DECT relate to:
1) Low interference - portable units continually select an interference-free channel. Also, being based on 1900MHz, it isn’t affected by the home’s WiFi/ Zigbee/ Bluetooth networks or the microwave, which all emit at 2.4GHz.
2) Easy networking with star (base station to many portable units), mesh (base station to base station), and tree (multi base station to many portable units) networks possible.
3) Integration levels, with voice, data and repairer functions possible on the same hardware
RF&Microwave Designline : What is the history of DECT?
van der Loop: DECT was originally developed by Ericsson for a multi basestation (cell) enterprise network that has hand-over and roaming on the handset. The technology was standardized for residential use by ETSI in Europe and then by the FCC in the US.
RF&Microwave Designline : When did you/ your company get involved with the technology?
van der Loop: Dialog’s expertise comes from the 2011 acquisition of Sitel, which I worked for. Sitel (and I) has approximately 20 years experience in this sector, and we created the first DECT telephone in 1992.
RF&Microwave Designline : What is the biggest misconception about DECT? (i.e. what do you wish people knew about it?)
van der Loop: Many people only think of DECT for voice communication, which is wrong. DECT has been installed throughout the world and proven to be easy to install and use in a licensed, interference-free band with coverage range of more than 300m.
We launched the first commercially available DECT ULE products, SmartPulse, in the last month and this will help to rectify this. And many companies have already adopted these products to create battery powered data devices, such as healthcare, security or appliance control systems with exceptional battery life. Using our base station design it’s easy to connect such devices to the web so that they can be monitored and controlled via a smartphone or tablet PC application.
RF&Microwave Designline : Where is the technology most commonly deployed now?
van der Loop: DECT is primarily used to create cordless phones and used throughout the world for residential and business applications. DECT ULE should expand this rapidly and analysts anticipate a “rapid uptake” of the new standard.
RF&Microwave Designline : What is DECT ultra Low Energy? How does it differ from regular DECT? ZigBee? ANT? Bluetooth LE?
van der Loop: DECT ULE adds fast switching to the devices, enabling a deep “sleep” mode, waking up by a pulse from external events or internal counter – for example enabling a smoke alarm to intermittently run a battery check and report that everything’s running well.
From the consumer’s point of view, the key difference is the ease of use and reliability compared with other standards. The remote / portable units automatically configure themselves with the base station. And, because DECT and Wi-Fi are on different frequencies, they can be combined into an Internet gateway device, meaning it’s easier to connect DECT devices to the web.
RF&Microwave Designline : What are the technical specifications?
van der Loop: Same as for DECT; however, the number of portable units (nodes: sensors and actuators) is only limited by memory size, currently supporting 256 nodes.
RF&Microwave Designline : What are the potential new applications for DECT?
van der Loop: The initial designs being developed and launched by our customers are for low-power security devices. Panasonic has used our DECT ULE technology to create a new range of ultra-low-energy wireless home safety devices. And appliance control systems are also being developed. For me, one of the more interesting applications is medical monitors that can be used to release patients from the hospital earlier without affecting their safety.
RF&Microwave Designline : What products are already in development/released using the low energy version?
van der Loop: In addition to the rapidly growing number of applications being developed by our customers and partners, we’re also creating reference designs to speed adoption. These include an IP gateway, door locks, light switches, window break-in alarms, temperature/energy monitors using gateways, and all with web connectivity.
RF&Microwave Designline : What are Dialog's plans for new roll outs?
van der Loop:The initial SmartPulse launch took place in September and devices are available immediately. Reference designs and development kits will be available in October.
Jozef (Jos) van der Loop is product marketing manager for the low power short range wireless division at Dialog Semiconductor. Jos has over 25 years of electronics industry experience and over 20 of these have focused on wireless chip technologies. Jos joined Dialog in 2011 during the acquisition of Sitel. He began his career at Phillips IC lab, designing consumer electronics semiconductors for TV and camera systems. Jos is based in the Netherlands and graduated from Eindhoven HDS in 1984.
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