Lutron Clear Connect Wireless - Whitepaper Technology Overview

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By Rich Black
Engineering Project Manager
Lutron Electronics Company, Inc.
Clear Connect
RF Technology 2
Forward thinking
In 1991, Lutron
identified the need for a completely retrofit light
control system (LCS). The retrofit requirement drove the communi
cations to be RF-based. Lutron knew that light control in a home
or business was operationally essential, therefore ultimate reliability
was vital. These systems can never stop working; in fact, they can’t
even tolerate latency issues. The required performance standard for
a light control system is much higher than for many other systems.
The company began analyzing the needs in the global marketplace,
investigating possible communication topologies, observing and pre
dicting changes and trends in RF technology and usage, and working
through the various frequency bands and their regulatory require
A groundbreaking retrofit light control system required new communi
cations technology. The mission was defined: design an ultra-reliable
RF communications system that works to specification every time—
in every installation—today and well into the future.
The result? RadioRA
became the first easy-to-install, versatile and
reliable RF home light control system (LCS). In addition to RadioRA,
many diverse product lines were developed using this patented
technology: HomeWorks
, RadioTouch
, AuroRa
, and Sivoia QED

electronic shading systems. In 2008, after more than a decade of
experience and refinement with the system, and with over a million
RF devices installed globally, Lutron introduced Clear Connect
Technology — its latest advancement in reliable RF communication.
Clear Connect has since been deployed in Lutron’s next generation
RF systems including Maestro Wireless
, Radio Powr Savr
QS Wireless, Sivoia
QS Wireless, and RadioRA
This paper will describe the Lutron requirements, investigations and
decisions regarding best methods for RF communications in an LCS.
Other available frequencies, system topologies, industry standards for
RF products, and practical field issues will be discussed.
The company’s exhaustive research and unwillingness to compro
mise on performance led to its leadership in the RF lighting control
market. The following pages have been written to present the Lutron
perspective on the science of RF light control. Lutron hopes that you
will find this information useful in determining the parameters for RF
systems that meet the unique needs of your clients. Lutron
The requirements
When investigating RF commu
nications, ultimate reliability was
key due to the operationally es
sential nature of a LCS. Beyond
ultimate reliability, the system
had to be completely “retrofitta
ble” and easy to install. No spe
cial tools or workmanship would
be required. It had to replace
existing switches and dimmers
using the existing wiring — calling
for dimmers that operate without a
neutral wire, which takes significant
ly more engineering effort and skill.
The complete solution would control
all load types, have wall-mounted
and tapletop keypads and dimmers,
controls for the car, and integration
devices. Components would have
elegant aesthetics and be easy to
use and understand — something
Lutron has always required of its
products. Many new entrants to the
RF light control market miss several
of these key elements. A system
that provides the ability to control
“most” of the lights from “most”
locations loses “most” of its value.
Having the ability to control table
lamps, or provide control from your
car, is the difference between ordi
nary and extraordinary control.
With Clear Connect
, Lutron’s RF systems are extremely reliable and completely “retrofittable” solutions.
tabletop master
in-wall master
wireless occupancy
tabletop dimmers

QS Wireless

QS Wireless Shades
main repeater/processor
Wireless Control 4
The investigation
Lutron investigated many different frequency bands, such as 400
MHz, and 2.4
GHz. The company also considered numerous regula
tory requirements from a global perspective. RF emission surveys were
conducted in the field to assess the best bands for operation. Measure
ments were taken in major cities and around major RF transmission sites
(antenna farms), all in an effort to understand real-world issues and activ
ity. Existing RF products (like cordless phones) were also put to the test.
What did Lutron learn?

Every tested system was
subject to interference and
could be compromised—
regardless of sophisticated
modulation, hopping or
coding schemes.

While higher RF power would
extend range under “quiet”
conditions, it did not ensure
. Since all devices
in a given operating band can

radiate at the same power
level, the risk of in-band inter
ference greatly outweighs the
benefit of additional power.

Bands allowing “continuous”
transmissions (like those from
cordless phones and wireless
routers) would always be
problematic (too many devices
with too much “on” time).
Those bands must be avoided.

Lower frequencies experience
less attenuation through—and
reflection from—construction
materials than higher frequencies
(analogous to low frequency
audio signals).
Testing and analysis conclud
ed that operating in “quiet”
bands—allowing only very
brief, low-power transmis
sions—optimized overall sys
tem performance. The ideal
band was defined by FCC
regulations Part 15.231. Lutron
RF competition is everywhere.
This FCC chart shows the complexity of spectrum allocation in the United States. The operating rules
(power, maximum on-time, bandwidth...) in each band can be dramatically different. 6
FCC 15.231: A brief description

Devices are relatively low power
(fractions of a watt). This reduces
the possibility of interference
between adjacent systems
and eases the power supply
requirements of a product.

Devices may not transmit
continuously. Generally speaking,

all activity is driven by user
action (like pressing a button),
which further reduces the likeli
hood of interference.

Devices may not poll or generate
periodic transmissions. There
is a 5-second maximum event
time after pressing a button.

Devices in this band include
garage door openers, security
sensors, and car key fobs.
Benefits of 15.231

Band is essentially silent.

Plenty of frequency room
available, ~170
overcrowding is not foreseeable.

The band has a long and
stable history with respect
to regulatory changes.

No proposed rule changes.

Bands with similar definitions
were available globally
by other governments’
telecommunications authorities.
Typical devices found in FCC Part 15.231. Lutron
Imagine how many 900 MHz or 2.4
GHz devices could exist
in a building like this.
The decision
Lutron decided that operation under
the 15.231 regulations would pro
vide the best overall system perfor
mance. This decision was key in the
development of the initial RadioRA

system, as well as all domestic
Lutron RF systems, including those
with Clear Connect
. After review
ing the devices currently operating
in this band (public domain infor
mation on the FCC website), the
company then chose frequencies
that did not line up with other popu
lar devices— such as garage door
The result was an ultra-reliable
system that has been all but free of
in-band interference. This band has
proven to be great for high-density
installations like multi-dwelling units,
urban areas, and dense single-
family developments. The prolifera
tion of wireless devices in the global
market has had minimal impact on
this band.
In 2002, Lutron began work on RF
—their second
major RF product line. Its system
size and feature set mandated
changes to the communications
system. Ultimately, the data protocol
was modified. However, after careful
re-evaluation, Lutron agreed that
they were operating with the correct
frequency band and rules (15.231). 8
How many of these popular devices do you own?
Why not 900
MHz or 2.4
These bands allow for
continuous-on, high-power
transmitters such as telephones,
Wi-Fi routers and Bluetooth

devices. This puts customers at
high risk for interference, which
result in performance issues.
Complex radio techniques such
as Direct Sequence Spread
Spectrum, Frequency Hop
ping Spread Spectrum and
Orthogonal Frequency Division
Multiplexing, are used in these
These techniques are required
for several reasons. First, due to
the fierce competition for band
width, they are required just for
basic operation of several
co-located devices. Next, per
sonal voice and data require the
highest level of security provided
by these techniques. Finally,
many of the intended applications
require very high data rates (e.g.,
Wi-Fi router).
The extra hardware, processing
power, and software required
to operate in these bands adds
no value to light control applica
tions. These applications prefer
not to compete with co-located
devices. Security concerns are
more than adequately addressed
with several basic, low overhead
techniques. The data payloads
required for normal operations
are relatively small; the key is to
have them travel through the sys
tem quickly. There will be more
about that later.
Both the industry and public
equate higher frequency and high
er power levels to higher product
performance levels. While all of this
makes for great marketing— ad
mittedly important to selling prod
ucts—the “benefits” are mostly just
trade-offs. Lutron’s design deci
sions have always been based on
superior, total system performance
— not on great advertising.
Clearly many 900 MHz and 2.4
GHz projects will install flawlessly
and operate successfully for years.
The knowledgeable integrator
(hopefully you, or others you are
working with) will identify potential
risks — and mitigate them. Lutron
Let’s assume that you make the right decision and install a DECT 6.0 (1.9 GHz) phone system along with a 2.4
GHz-based lighting control system. What happens when the occupant or a neighbor buys a new 2.4 GHz baby
monitor? What if he installs a 2.4 GHz wireless camera for security? What happens after the building, develop
ment, or community is built out? How many service calls can your business provide before your reputation and
profits suffer?
Electronic devices are going wireless at a breakneck pace. All of us have experienced dropped cell phone calls
or a lost Bluetooth
connection. It’s something we’ve learned to expect and to live with. When an AV system
goes down, it’s inconvenient. But lighting control is operationally essential in a home or commercial building —
so when a light control system goes down, it’s unacceptable. It is likely that you will have to dispatch a truck to
that location immediately, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Interference may not be a
problem in your cozy little duplex...
What happens when that duplex
becomes a community?
Losing a cell phone call is really
When a light control system fails,
it’s unacceptable. 10
Fixed network
Lutron’s Clear Connect
RF Technology utilizes a fixed network to quickly
transmit group commands—to the entire LCS.
Message delivery:

Fixed or mesh network?
In applications where the net
work of devices covers a large
area and point-to-point direct
communications among devices
is not possible, messages must
somehow be relayed through
the system. There are two
primary methods for delivering
messages around an extended
whole home automation net
work. One calls for dedicated
sending, receiving, and comput
ing stations in predetermined
locations— providing RF cov
erage to all system devices.
These stations are commonly
known today as Wireless Ac
cess Points, or WAPs. Lutron
began calling these devices
“repeaters” over a decade ago.
Through years of development,
their functionality now extends
well beyond the usual definition
of the word. This message de
livery scheme is called a “fixed
network,” meaning the cover
age area and message route
are constant. It is fairly simple to
create this coverage for homes
10,000 square feet or larger.
Messages are moved up and
down the fixed network quickly
and in a predetermined man
ner. Lutron RF systems use this
delivery mechanism.
Another common method for
message delivery is called a
“mesh network.” In this topol
ogy, messages can be relayed
from a source device through
most other device(s) to reach
their destination. The devices
and disadvantages. The advan
tages of Lutron’s fixed network are
revealed when we think specifically
about light control applications— as
opposed to general home automa
tion applications.
The predetermined route in the fixed
network always provides predict
able, fast reaction time to a button
press, regardless of that button’s
location within the system. The
network is not shared with, or doing
work for, any task other than lighting
Lutron has designed its repeaters to
be ultra-reliable. They are separated
from the line voltage by a robust low
voltage transformer that suppresses
any damaging line phenomenon.
Their solid state design gener
ates very little heat. And because
repeaters are installed in hidden
locations—and are not interacted
in the network form a matrix of
possible message delivery routes.
When a source device needs to
send a message to a destination
device, it uses a routing table to
figure out how to get the message
delivered—by way of hops through
other system devices. If there are
enough repeating devices in the
network, no dedicated signal relay
stations are required. If a preferred
route is unavailable, another route
could presumably be identified
(although in practice this network
“healing”, if possible, takes a no
ticeably long time especially if you
are in the dark waiting for the lights
to come on).
These descriptions are brief, con
ceptual overviews. While pages
of detail could be provided, it is
widely accepted that both meth
ods will work for home automation
systems. Each has its advantages Lutron
Mesh Network
A mesh network can use any participating devices for message relay.
This diagram shows delivery of four directed commands.
with during normal operation—they
are less susceptible to electrostatic
discharge failure through touch
ing and are less likely to be moved,
replaced (as is a TV that may get
upgraded regularly), or unplugged.
These are important factors when
considering the long-term stability of
the communication network.
Depending on the locations of the
source and destination devices in
a mesh network, system reaction
time may vary from imperceptibly
fast—to unacceptably slow. When a
device that was part of the normal
route is moved, replaced, uplugged,
switched off or fails, a new route
must be identified. This will take
time. Hopefully, there is another
Mesh network troubleshooting
can also be challenging, since the
number of possible message routes
is large and dynamic and may be
traversing unrelated products. Also,
there is no mandatory requirement
that every device participate in
the relay of messages from other
system devices. While it may be
good citizenship to participate, not
all devices take on the additional
duties because it requires additional
processing resources, additional
memory, may not be possible given
battery power operation, etc.
You might not notice if it takes a few
extra seconds to turn on the cof
fee maker from a bedroom control,
or for the lawn sensor to report a
“dry” condition. However, if you are
standing at the door at night hold
ing a bag of groceries and the lights
take a few seconds to come on—
you will notice that. These realities
have a serious impact on perceived
system quality. Erratic performance
issues can lead to service calls,
even though the overall system is
operating fine.
Group Commands vs.
Directed Commands
Unrelated to how the messages
move around the system is the is
sue of the content of the message
and how the system design reacts
to that content. Lutron systems, in
cluding those with Clear Connect
use “Group” or “Preset” commands.
In this scheme, a button press
sends out a generic command
like “Preset 01.” The devices have
distributed intelligence (e.g. devices
have non-volatile memory and a
database, and know how to react
to this command). When a button is
pressed, the system transmits “Pre
set 01” down the fixed network one
time. All devices “hear” and respond
simultaneously. These systems can
be expanded with no degradation in
performance. Most system de
signs do not have this mechanism
and are unable to provide it. The
reason is that it requires owner
ship, coordination, and hardware
(memory) of all the devices in the
network. In systems comprised of
devices from a disparate group of
manufacturers, commands must
be issued to each device sequen
tially. These commands are called
“directed commands.” To turn on
10 different devices requires 10
unique commands. This can cre
ate the “popcorn effect.” One light
turns on; there is a pause, the next
turns on, and so on. To see it in the
application is a real letdown. Cus
tomers may be happy with the initial
installation, add more devices, and
become dissatisfied at a later date. 12
Practical field issues
It is not the goal of this paper
to denigrate the RF standards,
but it is important to discuss the
issues that prevent them from
being the best choice for your
light control subsystem spe
cifically. Industry standards are
valuable tools in general; they
add value to society and to our
industry as a whole. However,
they are generally designed
to solve as large a problem as
possible and therefore result in
less than optimum performance
for a given specific application.
Built on over a decade of experi
ence, Lutron’s Clear Connect

RF communication technology
was designed specifically for the
needs of a light control system.
essential to a home or building.
Low-cost, plug-in power-line-
carrier devices are fine for the
hobbyist turning on Christmas
lights. Likewise, RF standards
will probably provide the do-
it-yourself amateur good per
formance for his various home
automation projects. However,
Lutron asserts that the RF stan
dards can fall short on their
promises and that they do not
provide professional grade prod
ucts for light control systems.
Here are four reasons why:
Point 1 – Control system is
still required
The promise of RF standards
is that all devices can talk to
one another seamlessly – just
start buying devices and they all
interoperate. Let’s think about
that in practical terms—within the
context of complete home automa
tion. Is someone going to make a
thermostat that has a user interface
to control your audio amplifier? Is
my audio amplifier going to have
buttons to arm my security system?
How will I program these buttons,
since this could get somewhat com
plex? Is the thermostat manufactur
er going to develop a PC utility for
programming the system? Clearly
having all devices able to talk to
one another is much different than
coordinating them to all talk to one
another. The point is that we will
always have the need for a “parent”
or “control” system or device to pro
gram and control all these devices.
That requirement doesn’t go away
with an RF standard.
Point 2 – Quality and experience
The existence of the RF standards
greatly lowers the barriers of en
try into the RF market. RF chip
manufacturers would lead you to
believe that all you have to do is
plunk down their chip, and presto,
it works! Device manufacturers who
would not have the engineering
resources, expertise, and commit
ment to develop RF technology on
their own can now jump right in.
Let’s assume that the standards
are absolutely flawless—perfect
hardware, software stack, and
protocol. Each manufacturer still
has to execute that perfect standard
correctly. Mistakes and oversights
can be made in the implementation
(such as not meeting timing require
ments to turn around a message). It
is particularly difficult to design an
RF dimmer. Placing sensitive radio
receivers in an inherently electrically
challenging environment is a
difficult task. Understanding all
the possible states, conditions
and tolerances is not an easy
feat. Newcomers—and their
customers—will likely endure
the pain of this learning curve.
Point 3 - Accountability
Imagine an RF network com
prised of equipment from three
different manufacturers utilizing
an RF standard. During the set
up process, you’re experienc
ing some difficulty getting
the handheld remote to hop
through the security sensor to
talk to the dimmer. Who do you
call? Which company will stand
behind the system if it fails
to operate as specified, even
though they are only one ele
ment of it? Who will be sending
field service out to help you?
Which manufacturer even has a
field service department?
Point 4 - Compatibility
When revisions to the stan
dards, device profiles, and ap
plication layer firmware occur,
how do you ensure compat
ibility? Will you be stuck with all
the old features even when you
add new devices—because
you have to operate under the
old rules? As an example, the
way 802.11g operates with
802.11b is by slowing all the “g”
devices down to “b” speeds.
Therefore, one “b” device holds
back your entire network. Lutron
Published specs:
Don’t just read them. Read into them.
A number of RF equipment manufacturers appear to be eternal optimists.
Many of them write specs stating “works up to 100 feet.” Does that mean it
will work at 50 feet? How does one design a system using this ambiguous
Still others specify ranges based on results in flat, unobstructed outdoor
environments. This specification is appropriate for devices operated outside,
like a remote controlled toy or a car visor transmitter, but it is not appropriate
for a device operating within a home or commercial building. Devices boast
ing an operating range of 300 feet in those ideal conditions may not work
30 feet inside a building. Dense construction materials attenuate RF signals
quickly. A number of RF reflective materials such as metal, cause multi-path
fading and shadowing. Grounded metal wallboxes, metal wallplates, large
sections of metal duct work, refrigerators and more can be the cause of prob
Lutron publishes definitive specs based on the real-world conditions that
the product was designed to be operated in. Very often Lutron products will
exceed the company’s worst-case spec, but the spec is one that you can
design to in the planning phase and then depend on at installation time (and
for years thereafter). When Lutron states their indoor ranges of 60 feet from
repeater to repeater—which translates to a sphere of 2,500 square feet of
coverage per repeater; or 30 feet from a repeater to another device they are
accounting for the worst-case conditions so that you don’t have to. To pro
vide installers the maximum utilization of their equipment, for certain indoor
products (like an occupancy sensor) the company additionally provides some
unobstructed or line-of-sight range values. These values are not the mislead
ing “outdoor” specs because they are still accounting for real indoor condi
tions, like multi-path fading, but they are logical specs for the line-of-sight
type applications they cover. For outdoor products (like a car visor transmitter)
Lutron provides outdoor specs.
Don’t be mislead by various “specmanship” techniques used by other manu
facturers. While the range spec is the most visible and touted, other specs
such as power output or data rate are similarly used as misleading selling
points. These specs taken in isolation of the total system design are meaning
less. Customers don’t need 10dBm more power—they need the command to
get through. Specs with bigger numbers aren’t better – specs that are accu
rate, real-world, reliable, and meaningful are better.
The best specification point of all is a system that works – it’s a one-name
spec – Lutron’s Clear Connect
RF Technology. 14
Lutron integration
Lutron systems can operate independently of equipment from other manufacturers. The systems are
designed to allow you to isolate and troubleshoot them on a stand-alone basis. Lutron makes integration
with third-party equipment simple, seamless, and cost-effective. If there becomes a real market need, the
company could make an interface that directly ties Lutron RF systems using Clear Connect
to other sys
tems using RF standards. There is minimal inefficiency in mixing a Lutron LCS and any other subsystem
together. The result is an ultra-reliable LCS. Lutron has the service organization, decades of experience, and
unflinching commitment to stand behind their systems and products—RF or otherwise.
Lutron systems using Clear Connect
RF Technology

can co-exist seamlessly with
other subsystems. Integration between Lutron light control systems and any other
subsystem is simple and reliable.
Lutron and
“RF Standard”
Lights On
Lights Of
On Lutron
Always evaluating and anticipating
Lutron has always evaluated new technologies and anticipated customer needs. It is a practice the company
lives by today, and one they will always embrace. Let the following details on the evolution of Lutron’s patent
ed RF Technology stand as testimony:
MHz – one channel (AM)
World’s first RF professional-grade two-way LCS.
Today it’s the “gold standard” to which all LCSs are compared.
RadioRA “B” Frequency 434
MHz – one channel (AM)
In nearly a decade—and with over 1 million devices sold—only one
isolated area in North America has interfered with Lutron’s one channel
RadioRA system—New York City. The “B” frequency was developed
to address this situation. More proof of the Lutron commitment to their
customers and the light control business. This empirical evidence
speaks volumes about the appropriateness of operating in FCC 15.231.
– 434
MHz – 60 channels (FM)
When Lutron decided to design RF products for the HomeWorks product
line, the system size and feature set required a multi-channel transceiver
(allows multiple subsystems to communicate simultaneously). This was
a complete redesign of the radio transceiver, and the company reevalu
ated all the decision points that were discussed in this paper. Ultimately,
they came to the same conclusions: FCC 15.231 was still the best band
of operation, and their fixed network topology yielded superior results.
With more than a decade of experience in RF Technology and having
installed over a million RF devices, Lutron develops
Clear Connect
as its latest advancement in reliable RF communications. All
subsequent Lutron RF systems utilize Clear Connect
is introduced as the new standard for lighting control in hotel
guest rooms.
Radio Powr Savr

wireless sensor and
Maestro Wireless
are introduced as the simplest way to retrofit energy savings and conve
nience into a space.
The introduction of wireless capability to
brings the flexibility, ease of installation, and convenience of wireless
control to two of Lutron’s flagship product families.

introduced as the long-awaited next generation RadioRA

system with expanded capabilities, a broadened product offering, and
simpler system set up. Which RF technology offers the most for your customers?
The answer is Clear Connect
Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.

7200 Suter Road
Coopersburg, PA 18036-1299
This publication has been written and produced by Lutron Electronics Company, Inc., as a technical and
professional trade document. It presents views, findings, and facts gathered through extensive field and
analytical research. The contents of this document are intended for use by certified, professional electronics
dealers and installers.
Sivoia QED is a trademark and RadioRA, RadioTouch, HomeWorks and AuroRa are registered trademarks of
Lutron Electronics Company, Inc. Bluetooth is a registered trademark of Bluetooth SIG.
08/2009 Lutron Electronics Co., Inc. I Made and printed in the U.S.A. P/N 367-1234 Rev B
The leader in light control

50-year company history

Global organization

24/7 technical support

Focus on light and energy

Industry leader expanding
the market with trade and
consumer campaigns

Industry leader who is
providing programs to
develop your business
RF Experience

Pioneered RF LCS category

Over 1 million devices sold

More than a decade of
production, sales, and

Many diverse product lines
RF Technology

Seven RF-specific patents

Fixed network message
delivery topology

Fast group or preset commands
(not directed commands)

Unique house codes, device
addresses, serial numbers

Easy and reliable integration
(Ethernet, RS232, IR, CCIs,
CCOs and telephone interfaces)


Load types: Incandescent,

World’s most advanced
shading solutions

2-wire, neutral-wire

Dimming and switching

Wall-mounted and tabletop
dimmers and keypads

Aesthetic styling, colors,
and finishes

Recognized industry leader

ISO 9001:2000 certified

100% end-of-line testing
World Headquarters 1.610.282.3800
Technical Support Center 1.800.523.9466
Customer Service 1.888.LUTRON1
In closing...
This document detailed Lutron’s
RF design philosophy and meth-
odology which has led to the
development of the company’s
Clear Connect
RF Technology.
What is unwritten, but obvious,
is Lutron’s steadfast commit-
ment to designing and manu-
facturing the world’s premier
RF light control systems. It is
with hope that the information
presented will be of value to
you when making your critical
business decisions. There are
a number of things to consider
when deciding what manufac-
turer will supply your business
with products – choose the one
who will supply your business
with success.