EIB-European Installation Bus (home automation)

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EIB-European Installation Bus (home automation)

Bài gửi  duyminh on Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:44 pm

EIB - European Installation Bus (home automation)

EIB (European Installation Bus) is one of the best-kept secrets in the UK's electrical installation market, but a growing army of integrators, installers, smart home enthusiasts, and users are finding it impossible to ignore.

Originally thought of as a solution reserved for commercial installations, EIB has come of age in the residential market with the release of switches that look stylish in the British living room. A really integrated house looks consistent from the front door to the master bedroom - with door entry, light switches, audio controls, thermostats, all looking the same within an EIB environment. The result is a highly-aspirational product that has great value for the installer and occupier alike.

The vast majority of new EIB parts are now focused on the residential market, and, because of the huge number of manufacturers, there are new product innovations being released every week. No other system has the combined engineering and marketing resource of 140 companies to launch new products at the rate that EIB does.

While other control systems can be excellent at doing one thing well, they are often made to perform other functions as afterthoughts, with bolt-on packages and modules. They are also limited to doing this in the finishes, styles and colours that are a particular manufacturer's idea of what the world should look like. EIB is different - it delivers flexibility of aesthetic design in an open standard that handles, amongst others, lighting, heating, blind and audio control as a part of its native language.

Who started EIB?

Founded in the late eighties by a number of major European manufacturers such as Siemens, Gira, Jung, Merten, and ABB, the EIB Association now polices and defines the strategy of EIB for the future. Historically known as Instabus, EIB quickly became well-established in Europe. Being scalable, it is suited to installations from flats to airports, and at last count, is believed to be installed as a base level building control system in more than 40% of all new-build commercial space in Germany. To complete the delivery of a truly European Standard control system, EIB will become known as 'Konnex' as it combines the common protocols of BatiBus and EHS (European Home system). As a result, in 2003, it became a European standard as part of the EN 50090 series.

With a large and growing number of companies manufacturing EIB equipment - around 140 at the last count - the future of EIB as a dominant technology is assured. This level of cross-company investment in a building control protocol is unprecedented, and means EIB is here to stay. In the UK, the use of EIB is about to explode as its advantage over other incumbent systems becomes evident.

How it works

EIB is seen as a 'BMW' type of product. In the last few years, beautifully-designed switches in natural finishes including glass, wood, brass and aluminium, have made EIB a highly-desirable option in home installations. Now with the advent of wireless control, these professional-grade switches can be used for retrofit and DIY.

Other than the workhorse applications of lighting, blinds and heating, other uses include control of multiroom audio, DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) lighting, visualisation for access over IP/Internet, and environmentally- (wind/rain) dependent intelligence. Of course there are also interfaces to all major control systems such as AMX, Crestron and RS232, so two-way control of third-party equipment is not just possible, but also simple.

The technology

The EIB Device Network is a powerful embedded control protocol for digital communication between smart devices. It combines flexible node architecture for devices, with strong network management features over twisted pair and RF media, plus ensured cross-manufacturer inter-working.

EIB can be equally effective in the smallest home or in the largest building because the system is hierarchical. EIB is a fully peer-to-peer network, which accommodates up to 61,455 devices. The logical topology allows 256 devices on one 'line', and 15 lines may be grouped together with a main line into an 'area'. An entire domain is formed by 15 areas together with a backbone line. Without the addresses reserved for couplers, (255 x 16) x 15 + 255 = 61,455 end devices may be joined to an EIB network.


Typically, the two-wire installation bus is laid parallel to the 230V power supply network, and the 29V DC bus line connects all of the bus users (actuators and sensors) together. In this way the network structure is simple. An approved 2 x 2 x 0.8mm2 cable, usually green in colour, is used as a bus line. The line serves both for open information exchange between actuators and sensors through two of the cores, as well as a protected low-voltage supply for ancillary devices that may require power.

Every EIB device, be it an actuator in a panel, or a thermostat on a wall, contains a 'bus coupler' that is connected to the 'green wire' which typically is daisy chained from one device to the next. The only rule an installer must observe is not to close the loop!

The actuators are usually mounted on DIN rails in a distribution cabinet, and radially wired out to each point-of-load. EIB is highly fault-tolerant as there is no single point of failure. There is no central controller to fail, or reboot after a power cut, every device takes a few seconds to recover and is only responsible for its own actions.

The manufacturer-independent programming tool, ETS3, is simple to learn and use for commissioning of all devices in a network using a laptop, and the system is commissioned either via RS232, USB or across IP. In any one project, parts from five or six manufacturers are often used, so it is essential to have access to products from various sources.

What makes EIB attractive for integrators?

EIB is, and will remain, a product for professional install and very competent enthusiasts. EIB will not be available as an 'out of the box' solution, and is not a product suited to design and installation by the average electrician. So there will always be a place for qualified integrators to secure good business.

As EIB is not a commodity product, pricing is sensible, reasonable and the integrator is not undercut at every turn. In any case, as every installation is different, the parts price tends not to be transparent to a client, and the real value is in the design, and commissioning.

Top five things to consider when using EIB

1. Consider whether you are going to put a control system throughout the whole property or only part of it. Hardwired EIB is good for a complete re-wire or a new-wire, but a system like Radio Bus may be better for lighting control in the odd room.

2. Think carefully about switch styles. Smart, showy switches are great for reception rooms, but you may want something more robust and less expensive in the utility room. A central control screen is also a 'nice to have'.

3. Incorporate and integrate as much as you feel comfortable with. The system components are not complex and the more you integrate, the more useful the installation becomes and the more cost-effective each item is. Each component ends up doing more than one thing. For example the lighting control can also be a part of the security system.

4. Consider your audio requirements at the outset. EIB can reduce the cabling you need compared with a traditional system, and the finish on the wall is much tidier, with no compromise on sound quality.

5. An EIB qualification course is available from the BRE (Building Research Establishment) which teaches techniques of installation and programming, with an exam at the end. If passed, this allows the individual to register as a qualified 'EIB Partner'.

EIB wall controller for indoor and outdoor functions


What EIB does, it does very well, simply and reliably. Once installed, EIB installations are rarely revisited except for program changes and additions which are all opportunities for the integrator to 'stay in touch' with the project. Also, EIB opens up both residential and commercial opportunities for the broad-minded integrator, so ensuring a wide market place.

From a product point of view, the huge plethora of parts and manufacturers of EIB is growing quickly. The integrator is not limited to a single manufacturer's idea of how to make a project look and work, and this flexibility means being able to provide a solution for almost any budget or specification, both aesthetically and technically.

In summary, if you are not already involved in, or using, EIB now, keep a good eye on it because it will be coming to a street near you very soon!

Colin Price is a Director of Ivory Egg (UK) Limited, specialist wholesaler of a full range of EIB and related products, and provider of expertise and technical support.

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