What is UPB?

Universal powerline bus (or UPB) is a protocol for communication among devices used for home automation. It uses power line wiring for signaling and control.

UPB was developed by Powerline Control Systems (PCS) of Northridge, California and released in 1999. Based on the concept of the ubiquitous X10 standard, UPB has an improved transmission rate and higher reliability.

UPB is a very technical and sophisticated system. Due to the power of the system, users may find the system to be confusing and difficult to setup at first, but after a little experience, the logic of the system’s design becomes evident. This document is meant to help the new user get started with UPB quickly.

The Basics

All UPB devices have to be set up with some fundamental information. The items that can be configured include:

  • Unit ID
  • Network ID
  • Network Password
  • Network Name
  • Links

Other information

UPB devices all work on a concept called “Links”. Many of you are familiar with scenes – links are very similar to scenes. Each UPB device can be associated with multiple links, meaning that the device can participate in multiple scenes. If a device receives a Link Activate UPB command, and the device is associated with that link, the device will take an action based upon its programming. While devices can be controlled via their Unit ID, the real power of UPB is in the Links. We’ll come back to links in a minute.

Each UPB device must be programmed with a Unit ID. The unit ID will have a value between 1 and 250. Units out of the box from the factory will have a Unit ID assigned that equals the manufacturer’s product ID. For example, all Web Mountain appliance modules out of the box will have a Unit ID of 5. Another example: all Web Mountain lamp modules out of the box will have a Unit ID of 1. In normal operation, a Unit ID will have little meaning, as the device will be used mainly to respond to Links. However, in the event that the user wants to program a specific device with configurations other than the default, the available programming tools (to be discussed later), will need unique Unit IDs. We will discuss programming shortly.

Each UPB product must also have a Network ID. When control signals are sent out on the powerline, part of the signal is the Network ID. Only devices that have that specific Network ID will respond to the signal and take the appropriate action. In real life, it is expected that a Network ID will correspond to one home. Adjacent homes should use different Network IDs, in order to prevent signals in one home from controlling devices in the next door house. The appropriate range for Network IDs is 1 – 250, with the default Network ID out of the box being FF (hex) or 255 decimal.

Each UPB product must also have a Network Password. In order to program a device or change its programming, you must know the appropriate Network ID, and then the appropriate Network Password. If two homes side by side have the same Network ID, but different passwords, then users in both homes will be able to control devices in each home, but they can’t program devices in the other home, only their own. Again, this highlights the importance of using different Network IDs for adjacent homes. The Network Password is a four character alpha-numeric password, with each character allowed to be in the range of 0 – F (hexadecimal). The default Network Password out of the box is 1234 (hex).

While the network name has little importance, it is a means of determining which network is being used, especially in the case of a multi-network system. The default network name out of the box is New Network Name. However, the Network Name is not used as a primary means of identification, and has little importance.

UPB devices are also programmed for a room name, and a device name. The room name is important within various controller environments, as it organizes all devices according to rooms. However, it is not important for manual setup. The device name merely gives the user the ability to name a device so that it is easily understood what the device does. For example, rather than being named New Lamp Module, the module can be named bedside table lamp.