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Universal Powerline Bus (UPB)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Universal Powerline Bus (UPB) is a communication methodology for home automation device control, allowing devices to communicate with pulse-position modulation through power lines. UPB was developed in 1999 by PCS Power Systems and is primarily a wired protocol.

As an automation protocol, UPB enables management of devices, including:

  • Leak sensors
  • Light switches
  • Thermostats
  • Remote controls
  • Pumps
  • Motion sensors
  • Alarms
  • Home Audio

UPBs can use controllers (panels and remotes) to communicate with controlled devices or devices can communicate peer-to-peer, negating a need for control panels. The technology features low-frequency high-power pulses that don’t require repeaters. Appliance control modules are plugged into the electrical receptacles (outlets); appliances are then plugged into the modules. The home's existing electrical wiring is used to carry the signals that automate home appliance operation. For example, UPBs might handle a home automation for when someone turns on the lights in the entryway, the heating and cooling might automatically be taken off power-saving mode.

The protocol enables advanced control through USB connected computers with the computer interface module. Control applications are available for Microsoft Windows, as well as for most smartphones.

UPB is one of the older automation protocols but has more efficiency than X10 protocol. It also is more effective than X10 with a claimed 100-1000 times the reliability. The protocol is able to address up to 250 devices per house and up to 250 houses per transformer. Nevertheless, it remains less used in deployed home automation setups than X10. Competing technologies include X10, INSTEON, THREAD, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth LE.

This was last updated in November 2017

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