From the Field

EnOcean Announces ASIC Modules Designed for Energy Harvesting

EnOcean, inventor of energy-harvesting wireless-sensor networks, released in North America its third-generation suite of energy-harvesting wireless modules. The modules are based on the Dolphin ASIC, a platform that supports self-powered two-way wireless communications, ultra-low-power sleep modes, and the ability to self-power actuators, such as water valves and air vents. Dolphin employs the EnOcean Alliance wireless standard, an energy-efficient and reliable RF communications solution available for wireless-sensor networks.

Wireless building-automation devices spend much of their time asleep, so EnOcean engineered the lowest sleep current in the industry (200 nA). Dolphin-based modules consume approximately 1/10th the power of common low-power radio modules. The platform allows OEMs to create energy-autonomous controls able to draw power from multiple ambient sources, such as solar, linear motion, and thermal energies.

“The Dolphin platform provides OEMs built-in functions that speed entry into the building-automation market, such as self-powered two-way communications and extremely low-power sleep modes,” Jim O'Callaghan, president of EnOcean North America, said. “The integrated ASIC also reduces the cost of each module since it uses fewer parts and requires less assembly than its predecessors.”

EnOcean modules often are referred to as “application modules.” The modules ship out-of-box with extensive firmware functionalities built-in, such as basic switching, dimming, measuring, etc., and can go straight into an application without additional programming. EnOcean developed efficient methods of synchronizing sensors, supporting RF acknowledgments as well as integrated sensing/control functions. Application-specific functions reduce product development times and are embedded in each module; however, integrators now also can develop their own firmware using EnOcean's new Dolphin Studio—support software for custom firmware development, RF packet monitoring, and C-based code sampling.

The new Dolphin platform conforms to the open, interoperable EnOcean Alliance protocol and enables manufacturers to rapidly develop solutions to suit today's “green” economy. OEMs now can create solutions that transform structures into energy-efficient, responsive, and sustainable buildings. For example, Dolphin-based controls simplify the installation building-automation systems and also provide a way to collect and disseminate utility information, such as demand-response events and meter consumption. Once received from the utility, EnOcean-based batteryless controls can seamlessly disseminate DR signals throughout a building while managing day-to-day, hour-to-hour, and minute-to-minute energy consumption. Self-powered two-way communications also enable integrators to build thermostats that react to occupancy and window sensor data in addition to regulating room temperatures.

EnOcean's Dolphin system architecture is backward compatible with earlier EnOcean products and installations. In addition to the introduction of new platform, the company also has further enhanced wireless capabilities with remote commissioning and wireless routing, creating new opportunities previously not possible with energy harvesting. Dolphin-based radio modules are now available direct from EnOcean or through its distribution channels.

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