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EnOcean ultra-low power wireless networks: what they are and how they work

Wireless networks are everywhere – from your office computer to the phone in your pocket – but are becoming increasingly important in the smart building arena.

The ability to connect a network of wireless sensors across an entire office building, to measure everything from temperature to CO2 levels, is changing the face of building management services, with the wireless sensor network industry expected to grow by more than 17% in the next five years [1].

This article looks at how wireless sensor networks operate and the importance of using ultra-low power devices within them. It will also explore the use of the EnOcean wireless standard and why it is such a popular choice within these networks.

What is a wireless sensor network and how does it work?

Wireless sensor networks (WSN) consist of a group of sensors and receivers, often spread across large areas within multiple buildings. The sensors collect and record information on the physical environment – such as temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels.

The sensors use radio waves to send their information to the receivers. This information is then transported wirelessly to a remote location (often known as a gateway), where it is turned into a format compatible with your own systems – for example, a cloud-based platform such as IBM Watson.

Each sensor contains various parts: a radio transceiver, a tiny computer on a single circuit known as a microcontroller, and an energy source, usually a battery or a form of energy harvesting.

Using wireless sensors, instead of those that require cables, significantly cuts down installation time and cost, and means they can be placed in tricky to reach or very small locations that would not be accessible for wired sensors.

What is a gateway within a wireless sensor network?

A gateway is a device which acts as a bridge between the sensors and another network or platform where the information can be processed and evaluated. Gateways take the sensor data and turn it into a format compatible with your own networks or popular cloud-based platforms like IBM Watson, where it can be displayed instantly, allowing you to make changes to your estate in real time.

What is the EnOcean wireless standard?

There are various wireless technologies that can transport data from sensors into a gateway. These are known as wireless standards, and different systems use different standards. EnOcean is one of the most widely-used in the smart building world.

It is a worldwide radio standard (ISO/IEC 14543-3-1x) for battery-less switches and sensors. It is optimised for use with sensors with ultra-low power consumption. Three frequencies are used: 868 MHz for Europe, 902 MHz for North America and 928 MHz for Japan.

It has a range of 30m indoors, which is the optimum range to ensure the sensors can do what they need to do without placing a huge drain on their energy supplies.

More than one million buildings worldwide have EnOcean technology installed, making it the most widespread and most widely field-tested wireless sensor standard in the world.

Because so many manufacturers use the EnOcean standard in their devices it means it has great interoperability, making it easy to combine new systems with existing ones.

Why is ultra-low power so important in wireless sensor networks?

The nature of sensors, and other IoT devices, means low power consumption is crucial, as any given network is likely to contain a large number of devices spread across a wide area.

Ensuring these devices are as low maintenance and as reliable as possible is important to ensure the functioning of the networks.

Battery-less, ultra-low power sensors, are ideal as they can run for the maximum possible time before needing to be upgraded or changed in any way. They also eliminate the need to dispose of used batteries.

How do EnOcean-based products work?

EnOcean’s patented energy harvesting technology, which is used in many of Pressac’s sensors, works by obtaining energy from movement, light and changes of temperature within a room.

Electromagnetic, solar and thermoelectric energy converters are used in order to transform fluctuations in the environment into usable electrical energy.

[1] Wireless Sensor Networks Market – growth, trends and forecast (2019-2024) report by Mordor Intelligence

If you’re interested in talking to us about Pressac’s range of ultra-low power EnOcean-enabled sensors get in touch here.

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