Currently there are two wireless networks for home entertainment, data networks and in home communication - the data network which usually runs on one of the various flavors of Wi-Fi and the cordless phone systems using the so-called DECT standard. Even though both technologies are very mature and effective, because of their high bandwidth and data throughput, they require a lot of power.

Next Generation Green Tech for the Home

Cees Links | GreenPeak

The data network and cordless phone base stations usually run off the home's AC power system. The mobile side, laptops and handsets can run off of batteries but you will need a lot of battery replacements or do regular (daily) recharging.
In comparison to these large throughput networks, there are other home automation, security and entertainment applications that only need a narrow bandwidth channel – therefore only requiring a low power connection. These networks can connect by using an ultra low power wireless network. This is the third wireless home network – a network of narrow bandwidth wireless devices and controllers that require minimal power.
The leading technology for this third wireless home network is ZigBee. ZigBee has been around for a decade and recently launched a new flavor – a low power stack for home and entertainment use called ZigBee RF4CE.
RF4CE is an acronym for Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics and represents a paradigm shift away from the old IR (infrared) wireless technology to a much more powerful and full featured RF (radio) based technology for home use.
Backed by many of the leading consumer electronics companies, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony, etc., this new technology is now first rolling out as remote controls for home entertainment and automation systems.
RF4CE – The Next Generation Remote Controls
ZigBee RF4CE combines the benefits of RF with the standardization and low power features of ZigBee.
Radio (RF) offers many user advantages when compared to the antiquated IR technology found in most of today's TV sets and remote controls. Because RF4CE is radio and not a beam of light, the signal can transmit through walls, cabinets, floors and furniture. Users no longer have to be standing with a few yards of the TV set or home entertainment device that they are trying to change channels on. Because the RF signal travels through walls and other common building materials, not only can users control their devices from other rooms, but now can hide for instance the settop box away, out of sight. The cable or TV set-up box, the home entertainment server, the home automation control center, etc., all can be hidden away in a closet or inside a piece of furniture.
LCD TVs hanging on your wall offer a sleek, minimal appearance. Why does the control box have to sit out in the open? By using RF, home decorators and interior designers can now hide ugly electronics to maintain a stylish and modern look.
RF4CE always provides other benefits as well. Because of its capability for interactivity, it is now possible to have a remote with a built-in display screen that makes it possible to select channels, adjust volume controls and program your DVR without having to look at the TV screen. This same kind of remote could also be used to monitor and program your home automation, security and environmental control systems.
Imagine you are in your bedroom watching the morning news. The kids are about to wake up. The remote could tell you that the downstairs kitchen is cold and that you need to energize the heating system. The kids like watching a certain TV show while eating breakfast so you can turn on the kitchen TV and tune in the right channel. Maybe you are going to join them. You can monitor the coffee beans and water level in the coffee maker, and if it is OK, you can use your remote to activate the coffee maker and start it all perking.
It is a cold morning and you don't want to walk outside to fetch the paper unless you know that it is already delivered on your driveway. You can access your home's remote TV camera and take a look first. Ah… it’s there! Using your remote, you de-activate the home security alarm so that you don't wake up your neighbors and also remotely unlock the door so that you don't get trapped outside in your pajamas.
These are just a few of the capabilities that a RF enabled remote control can provide.
In addition, by using ZigBee RF4CE, you can also do your part to make this a greener and healthier world. Because RF4CE does not require a lot of energy to transmit and receive signals from RF4CE enabled appliances and devices, you don't have to worry as much about power and batteries.
By using an ultra low power radio, like those created by GreenPeak Technologies, it is possible to build a RF4CE Remote Control that can operate off of a single battery for ten years or more, This will greatly slash the amount of batteries that the world needs to manufacture and dispose of.
For example, on average, a typical IR-based remote uses two AA batteries. They need to be changed every two years or so. More powerful and sophisticated remotes may go through batteries every few months. The ultra low power RF4CE remote can operate on a single battery that can last for ten years or more. This results in a 90% or more reduction in the amount of batteries needed for the lifetime of the device.
This also means a greater than 90% reduction in the amount of heavy metals and toxic chemicals required for making these batteries. On top of that, you can add the smaller carbon footprint that results from reducing overall battery manufacturing and disposal.
Another interesting benefit is that by using a single battery that is hard wired into a remote control, manufacturers no longer have to design and build battery compartments, so that users can change batteries. The battery compartment covers often break and the lid and batteries end up being held together by rubber bands or tape. Because the battery is a lot smaller, remote control makers can also design sleeker and flatter cases that are more stylish.
IR versus RF – what is the cost impact?
ZigBee RF4CE powered remote controls can be designed and built for about the same costs as old technology IR remote controls. Currently, using the GreenPeak Emerald transceiver and communication controller chip, it is possible to build a RF4CE certified remote control for below two dollars, about the same BOM (bill of materials) as required for IR remote controls. Even more interesting, by using ZigBee RF4CE, it is now possible to build and sell sophisticated RF control systems for a less cost than currently required for the proprietary RF solutions on the market.
Better performance, more features and less batteries – all at the same price? It is no wonder that most of the major consumer electronics, home entertainment equipment makers and even cable/broadband suppliers are now looking at ZigBee RF4CE as the best networking and communication solution for their next generation remote controls and home entertainment and automation systems.
Soon this third wireless home network, under the ZigBee RF4CE umbrella, will be widespread in homes, making it as commonplace as DECT cordless phones and Wi-Fi internet. 
Cees Links
Founder & Chief Executive Officer of GreenPeak

Cees Links is a pioneer of the wireless data industry, a visionary leader bringing the world of mobile computing and continuous networking together. Under his responsibility, the first wireless LANs were developed which ultimately became a house-hold technology integrated into the PCs and notebooks we are all familiar with. He also pioneered the development of Wi-Fi access points, home networking routers and hotspot base stations, all widely used today.

Cees was involved in the establishment of the IEEE 802.11 standardization committee and the Wi-Fi Alliance. He was also instrumental in helping to establish the IEEE 802.15 standardization committee that became the basis for the ZigBee sense and control networking technology and standard.

Cees’ vision is to build a smarter world by developing a communications platform between devices sensing and enabling us to control our lives.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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