FAQ: Why is UPB from Simply Automated significantly better than X10?

Lighting control & home automation.  Although UPB and X10 lighting each use standard powerlines to communicate, Simply Automated, the underlying technologies of each are significantly different. First, X10 uses a fixed carrier frequency to communicate data. Carrier frequencies traveling on household power wiring are subject to attenuation and noise interference, which can cause intermittent reliability issues.

UPB utilizes a patented communications method called Pulse Position Modulation (PPM) that is based on timed pulses rather than a carrier frequency. Using pulses for signaling means (a) less attenuation on the powerline and (b) less susceptibility to RF interference. In addition, there is a difference in voltage strength: an X10 signal is 4 volts at its strongest level; while UPB is 40 volts, or 10 times stronger. The end result is faster and more reliable communication, especially when transmitting over longer distances.

Another difference between the two technologies is that the transmission packet for UPB allows more data to be communicated over a much wider address space. This enables a higher level of control and far less potential of interference between adjacent homes. Lastly, UPB is a two-way communication protocol, whereas X10 is primarily unidirectional. Two-way communication allows the system to verify that a given message was successfully received.

About UPB Technology

UPB technology provides an inexpensive and reliable solution for residential and commercial powerline communications applications. While other powerline communication technologies exist, none compare to UPB in cost per node, functionality and reliability.

Highly Reliable — The UPB method of communication is 100 ~ 1000 times more reliable than current X-10 technology and 10 ~100 times more reliable than CEBUS or LONWORKS powerline technologies.  UPB is 99.9% reliable versus 70%-80% reliability of X-10.*

UPB transmits farther (over a mile), is less susceptible to powerline noise and capacitive attenuation (signal reduction) than other technologies for three reasons:

Pulse Position Modulation is a highly reliable time based method of sending bits; it narrows the possibility of power line noise affecting communication, unlike X-10 and other carrier modulation technologies.

UPB pulses on the power line are approximately 40 volts; more than five times greater than the 5 to 7 volt signals of X-10.

UPB transmits at low (4 to 40 kHz) frequencies, carrying much more power than higher frequency technologies like X-10 that transmits at 120 kHz.

When put on one phase of a home’s two phase power line, the signals are so strong they go out to the street side transformer and are induced on the opposite phase, returning back to the home.  Since UPB transmits at a low frequency, it does not affect other powerline devices or appliance/loads.

No New Wires – UPB dimmer switches are installed exactly like regular dimmer switches.  They connect to a home’s standard wiring. Since no new or special wiring is required, they work great in retrofit applications too.

Affordable — UPB dimmer switches can be as affordable as high end non-communicating dimmers.  When comparing costs of home upgrades (theater TV, remodeled bath or kitchen) adding lighting automation and control to a room or whole home provides a surprising improvement in quality of life at a comparably low cost.

Simplicity – Adding lighting control can be as simple as plugging in dimming modules or replacing dimming switches Pre-Configured Series. Unlike radio frequency (RF) wireless switches, where reliability is proportional to the number of ‘mess-networked’ switches installed, UPB provides reliability and performance anywhere in the home without the need of repeaters.       

Peer to Peer – No host computer or central controller is necessary for single, point-to-point control or group (lighting scene) control.  UPB is a no-host, peer to peer network.  Interruption of power, or single point controller/repeater failure, will not affect a stand-alone UPB network.

Two Way Communications – Hardware, software and protocol design allows for two-way communication in all products.  Status can be confirmed with polling or automatically transmitted upon local/manual load changes.  

House Separation – Neighbors with UPB will not control each other’s lights.  The UPB addressing scheme allows for 250 systems (houses) on each transformer and 250 devices on each system. It incorporates over 64,000 total addresses compared to 256 for conventional X-10.

Interaction – UPB communication can be used in the presence of all X-10, CEBus, HomePlug or LonWorks compatible equipment with no interference between either. The UPB technology uses a completely different frequency range than any of the wide-band, narrow-band, or spread spectrum technologies. The physical method of UPB communication is entirely different than the modulation-demodulation techniques of all X-10, CEBus, or LonWorks.

Higher Speed – 20 to 40 times the speed of X- 10 in terms of data transmitted. This is equivalent to over ten full commands per second. The average latency of command to action is less than 0.1 second.

 

UPB System Description X-10 to UPB Migration

 

* Reliability is defined as the percentage of transmitter/receiver pairs that correctly operate upon initial installation. The UPB test units are randomly installed in the environment typical of the target market. This market is defined as the single-family residential market in the US, homes with a median size of 2500 Sq, Ft. This environment is defined to be the existing base of homes, without any modifications, which means there should be no “fixing” the electrical system of the residence by adding couplers, repeaters or filtering.


Comments

FAQ: Why is UPB from Simply Automated significantly better than X10? — 4 Comments

  1. I suspect you’ve heard this story many times. I am heavily invested (time, money, frustration) with X10 home automations products. And, like everyone knows, X10 is highly unreliable.

    I’ve been doing research to determine which, if any, home automation system/protocol to begin migrating to. At this point, it appears there are lots of players in this arena, with more launching every day. At this point in time, it’s very confusing. Further, there’s no way of telling who the winners will be. If I chose Betamax instead of VHS, that’s more money wasted.

    So, until this market becomes more mature, I’m strongly inclined to just continue using X10. However, it’s become more unstable than ever and is a constant source of frustration. UPB, due to its higher signal strength and lower transmission frequency, seems to be a viable option to make my X10 system substantially more reliable. This approach would allow me to hang on with X10, until some clear, reliable and sustainable system becomes apparent.

    So, could you help with some answers?

    1. It appears UPB has actually been around for a while. Is it still available and does it, in fact, work with X10 and substantially increase its reliability?

    2. I have battery operated “keypads”, installed wall switches, lamp and appliance modules, etc. I use ActiveHome software and an interface to the let system function, even with the computer off. Many switches and modules are dimmable. Will UPB allow the same type of functionality or will some options be lost?

    3. If UPB can help me solve my reliability issues, where can I purchase the product?

    4. What, specifically, would I need to purchase in order to solve my problems?

    Frankly, I don’t know exactly how UPB products function which, of course, would help me understand how it would interface with X10. Is it a plug-in unit that receives X10 commands and then amplifies them? If UPB uses a different frequency, how does it “talk” to X10 devices? Obviously, I’m not grasping how the two protocols will play together.

    • Sure Guy. Happy to help.

      1. It appears UPB has actually been around for a while. Is it still available and does it, in fact, work with X10 and substantially increase its reliability?

      -ANSWER- UPB (Universal Powerline Bus) has been around for well over 10 years and Simply Automated has been involved in the design and manufacture of UPB devices from the very beginning.. UPB devices are currently available from 3 major manufacturers as well as several smaller suppliers. UPB will work alongside X-10. The 2 protocols will not, however, communicate directly with each other. There are bridges available that will allow X-10 to UPB and UPB to X-10 communications.

      UPB is substantially more reliable than X-10. An added bonus is that the “UpStart” configuration tool contains some formidable diagnostic tools to assist you if there is a noise or attenuation challenge. The existence of UPB devices in your home will not improve the reliability of your X-10 system. The plan would be to migrate away from X-10 and into UPB.

      2. I have battery operated “keypads”, installed wall switches, lamp and appliance modules, etc. I use ActiveHome software and an interface to the let system function, even with the computer off. Many switches and modules are dimmable. Will UPB allow the same type of functionality or will some options be lost?

      -ANSWER- It is my understanding Active Home only supports X-10, if I’m wrong please correct me. As I mentioned above there are protocol bridges available to allow you to continue to use your existing software controller. There are also other software and hardware solutions that support X-10 as well as UPB. Take a look at HCA (Home Control Assistant) for one possible software solution. If you are interested in full home automation and security I would suggest you check into the ELK M1 or HAI Omni series of security panels. These two panels are definitely up to the task.

      3. If UPB can help me solve my reliability issues, where can I purchase the product?

      -ANSWER- We have several distributors that can assist you with not only our UPB products but everything you might need to fully automate your home. You can take a look at our “where to buy” on our website. http://www.simply-automated.com/whereToBuy_online_usa.php

      I believe that the closest stocking distributor to you will be Automated Outlet. They have 3 stores in Texas. http://www.simply-automated.com/whereToBuy_online_usa.php and one in Oklahoma.

      4. What, specifically, would I need to purchase in order to solve my problems?

      -ANSWER- I believe that Automated Outlet can provide you with some good recommendations of how to get started. I would recommend starting out slow and simple. If you use plug in modules I would start there.

      Possibly a Lamp Module (Part Number UML-20-W) and a Relay Module (Part Number UMA-20-W) and a Computer Interface Module (Part Number UMC-DB9-W or UMC-USB-W). You will need to Download the Software configuration tool. (Upstart). Upstart is a free download from our website. http://www.simply-automated.com/products/SA_UPStart_download.php

      ————-

      As I mentioned above and will reiterate here, UPB and X-10 will not communicate directly with each other. They will however co-exist on the same power line. In order to have the 2 protocols communicate with each other you will need a bridge.

      One suggestion would be the model RUC-01. This device is produced by Web Mountain Technologies. http://www.webmtn.com/contact/contact.php

      The RUC is much more than a bridge and could take you to control via smartphone and scheduling tasks that you are doing with your software at present.

      Simply Automated is a leading supplier of Lighting Control & Automation products in the Home Automation marketplace.

  2. I’m a professional DIYer. Love technology. Love home automation. I used X-10 for years. Had its goods (cheap) and bads (didn’t work). Tried Insteon from SmartHome. Had its goods (cheap, SmartHome has a nice easy website) and bads (toylike even for a DIYer like me and didn’t work). Did some research, converted to UPB 3 years ago. Selected Simply Automated on account of (great) reputation on blog postings and in general market. Just as advertised. Powerful stuff. Price I could afford.

  3. This post has helped me solidify my decision to go with Simply Automated’s UPB technology over X10. I have been trying to decide between the two and from what I’ve read UPB is a much better technology. It is reliable as well as extremely efficient, well worth the additional cost especially versus X10 and Insteon.

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