Gone are the days of wired communication

Current trends in home & building automation

Dr. Dieter Groß, Business Development Manager for Light, Home & Building (CE) at EBV Elektronik, explains current trends in Smart Building Automation and how a solution from EBV developers enables complex designs to be tested.

SmarterWorld: Dr. Great, the days of solely dominating protocols and wireless standards for building automation seem to be over. As a representative of a large distributor for semiconductor components, which standards must or should developers of “intelligent” control systems deal with today?

Dr. Large: We are currently seeing different standards coexist, but expect a consolidation over time. In general, the communication protocols are selected on the basis of several criteria such as: new construction (mostly wired) or retrofitting via radio, interoperability / future security, security, cloud compatibility.

In times of IoT it may seem surprising that wired solutions will continue to exist. There are significant advantages, especially in professional installations: more robust communication, easier commissioning, no batteries required. KNX and DALI should be mentioned here, whereby DEXAL, as a kind of “Power over DALI” bus system, is a brand new open standard that is currently coming onto the lighting market, driven by Osram.

Wireless solutions are becoming more popular for retrofitting and home use. The reasons are: minimal manual effort, flexible installation, wireless design. The criteria here are: ranges, typical existing infrastructure, established standards, energy requirements, security. Here we see Bluetooth as an energy-saving solution with connectivity to smartphones above all. WiFi is also popular when energy supply is not an issue.

ZigBee has established itself especially for private lighting applications due to its more robust and early available wireless mesh networking, so that Amazon Echo Plus also supports this standard. The cell phone network (GSM) and the new NB-IoT with "deep indoor" penetration are other networking options when the range of WiFi, Bluetooth & Co is insufficient. There are also many additional standards and proprietary solutions ...

SmarterWorld: Which Smart Home & Building Controllers still shoulder this complexity, isn't this inevitably moving towards professional development environments for large building automation and PLC providers?

Dr. Large: In the professional area (office, hospitality, shop / retail), professional development environments will certainly remain the way to go. But consolidation is necessary in the private sector, because nobody wants 5 or more different apps and gateways to control a smart home.

A new type of consolidation is also offered by cloud services that bring everything together. Amazon Echo may be an advanced example of comprehensive control of various smart home applications. - Realizing the automation intuitively and using pattern recognition through "artificial intelligence" in a smart way is the big challenge for the software developer. This is independent of the radio standards, especially if all IoT devices are clearly identified, whereby the IP address (IPv6 standard!), For example, may play an important role in the future.

In wireless-based cloud solutions, security is an important issue. Because networks are compromised at the weakest points. At EBV, for example, we are currently developing a reference design for a simple sensor node in which a so-called "secure element" provides hardware security to keep the network secure. The sensor node is clearly identified and the wireless data is encrypted. The software IP in the device can also be encrypted.

Smarterworld: Today, sensors and actuators are also more heterogeneous than ever before, what can you expect in the smart home / building sector?

Dr. Large: Many new types of miniaturized semiconductor-based sensors are being mass-produced cheaply using wearables and smartphones. These products are now also available for other applications. Presence control can now also be carried out using highly sensitive pressure sensors that detect the opening of doors themselves. Or you can use noise detection through a microphone and simply scan for characteristic frequencies of typical noises. After that, a radar with higher energy consumption can be switched on for presence detection, which can detect the breathing rate even in the entry-level segment and safely leave the lighting on, even if someone only reads motionless on the PC. This is an example of sensor fusion.

In the above-mentioned reference design for room sensors, EBV has put together new types of semi-conductor sensors for air quality, motion detection, temperature, humidity, air pressure, light intensity and light color in order to make it easier for developers to test the new possibilities. We see blind, HVAC control and presence detection as target applications. We chose an open design in the Arduino form factor for the developers.

SmarterWorld: Can you summarize again the special advantages of the Arduino form factor solution?

Dr. Large: Arduino is an open developer platform where many components and solutions exist as plug-on boards (so-called shields) in the Arduino form factor. In our KNX RoomSensor reference design, we have developed a sensor shield with new sensor options and a connectivity shield with KNX, Bluetooth and Zigbee modules based on an Infineon XMC1400 base board. The advantage here is that it simplifies the evaluation of the sensor solutions and is open to other shields such as GSM and NBIoT or other standard shields such as WiFi from the Arduino community. It thus simplifies the evaluation of the latest technologies and is open to a wide variety of connectivity solutions. We presented the first prototype at Embedded World 2019.

Dr. Dieter Groß deepened his remarks on May 2, 2019 as part of the Smart Building Summit in Dresden in his lecture "Hardware Components: Innovative Solid State Sensors and Connectivity Solutions".

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