A technology that has been commercially available for more than 15 years is gaining new momentum in the growing home automation, control and security network industry. Digital Enhanced Cordless Telephone (DECT) was once confined to commodity products such as consumer cordless phones. But with the recent development of the DECT ULP ultra-low-power operating mode, DECT is now opening up a new market for battery-powered wireless sensor / actuator networks.   

The development of DECT ULP was spearheaded by RTX Telecom A/S and SiTel Semiconductor, a Dutch company that spun out of National Semiconductor in 2005. Today, SiTel is a leader in low-cost silicon solutions for mid-range and high-end DECT applications and has a 35% share in the worldwide cordless telephone market. Its chips are also found in baby monitors, healthcare and enterprise systems, and controllers for the Xbox games console.  

SiTel has always differentiated itself with low-power solutions. It has a long-standing commitment to provide more environmentally friendly solutions for power-hungry mobile devices. This drive for ecological innovation in telephony resulted in the company winning the 2009 Frost and Sullivan Global Enterprise VoIP Semiconductors Green Excellence Award in Product Innovation among many other industry accolades.  

That drive also led to the creation of DECT ULP, making it possible for manufacturers to develop a whole new class of devices – DECT-based sensors and actuators. DECT ULP can manage and control everything from security to healthcare and comfort applications. Moreover, it enables ‘fix-and-forget’ sensor nodes that operate for over 5 years on a single AAA battery.  

DECT ULP was introduced to the world in February 2010 at the DECT World Congress in Amsterdam. SiTel, together with Danish firm RTX Telecom A/S and German companies AVM and Gigaset Communications, presented a live demonstration of a working sensor module. 

That appearance certainly made a big impact. At the end of the Congress, attendees voted DECT ULP as the biggest expected future growth scenario for DECT and DECT-related technologies. The four companies have since formed a consortium and working group to investigate the requirements for getting the DECT ULP proposal approved by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute – a move that has gathered a lot of momentum.  

“The technology and the live demo generated a huge amount of interest and positive feedback at the Congress. That shows there is a massive market opportunity for everyone involved in DECT and wireless sensor networks. We believe the window of opportunity is here, and the reaction from the DECT World audience tells us that the DECT industry is ready to take DECT ULP to the next level,” said Jos van der Loop, Product Marketing Manager at SiTel.  

DECT ULP is an ultra-low-power operating mode of the familiar DECT protocol. Leveraging the reliability and consumer market experience of the large installed base of cordless telephones, it gives application developers the comfort of a proven standard and adds high voice quality as an attractive differentiating feature.  

For consumers, DECT ULP promises easy network installation and expansion with push-button registration of new nodes. It operates in a licensed but royalty-free frequency band and allows a large number of nodes to function reliably at the same time.

“DECT ULP inherits all the range, installed base and cost benefits of DECT, and meets consumers’ home sensor network needs without the interference issues, limitations and disadvantages of other proposed network protocols. We’ve clearly shown that it’s the obvious choice for home automation, control and security systems,” van der Loop concluded.

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