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June News: Standards let smart homes shed the “geek” label

Home automation -- the idea of running all the electrical loads in your house from a computer -- used to be something only of interest to geeks. But quest for energy efficiency has made home automation a mainstream topic. It’s now known by another name: the Internet of Things. In a nutshell, the concept involves using computers and other smart devices to remotely interact with home electronics, appliances, and systems to control how they behave and use energy. The IEEE Standards Association is now defining standards that it hopes will lead to affordable home energy management systems (HEMS) that let consumers manage energy use and costs in conjunction with smart grids being developed around the world.

“The home of the future is something that was invented a long time ago, but we weren’t able to build it until now,” says Oleg Logvinov, vice chair of the IEEE 1901.2 working group and director of market development for STMicroelectronics. “Today we have a whole portfolio of IEEE standards in place and in development that will transform our homes into an Internet of Things. Among these standards are the IEEE 2030 family, 1901, P1901.2, and P1905.1.”

It’s no secret that power consumption in the home is rising because of information and entertainment electronics. Adding electric vehicles and their home charging stations to the mix will make things worse. But the ability to imbed relatively cheap intelligence and connectivity into virtually every device will enable intelligent control of energy consumption. What’s more, the process of setting standards requires participation by many stakeholders, all with an incentive to collaborate and move the technology forward, says Logvinov.

“The pioneer standard, IEEE 1901, Broadband over Power Line (BPL), was developed in 2005 and covered a wide scope, including home audio/video equipment and PCs, access to BPL outside the home, smart grid energy management, and transportation systems in cars, trucks, trains, and ships,” explains Logvinov. “1901 was a huge undertaking. More than 350 individuals collaborated on its development, from chipmakers and product manufacturers to utilities, universities, service providers, and retailers. Half were from the U.S., and the other half were from Europe and Japan.”

With 1901 established, work moved on to 1901.2, the lower bandwidth smart grid workhorse standard, Low Frequency (less than 500 kHz) Narrow Band Power Line Communications for Smart Grid Applications. Key to this standard is that it enables real-time communication between the electric meter and utility operations center.

“This is the key element to making the grid smarter, enabling every home to become a true part of the smart grid where consumers have an opportunity to be actively involved in managing the grid,” says Jim LeClare, chair of the IEEE 1901.2 working group and technologist at Maxim Integrated Products. “1901.2 is based on two proven technologies, Prime and G3-PLC, and its development is based on input from the world’s largest energy suppliers and technology companies, including IT firms, meter manufacturers, and telecommunications companies, among others.”

Another important standard is IEEE P1905.1 – Standard for a Convergent Digital Home Network for Heterogeneous Technologies, which is being developed to support transmission and end-to-end Quality of Service (QoS) over any available media in a home networking scheme. The standard also aims to let consumers more easily add devices, set up security, and otherwise manage a home network.

“P1905.1 will allow devices to be configured in a simple and consumer friendly way without being concerned about what link (wired, wireless, or powerline) will be used to transfer the data,” says Logvinov. “A lot of work will be done by the P1905.1 technology behind the scenes to support a seamless user experience.”

The latest IEEE undertaking regarding the smart grid began in December 2011 on P1901.1, Recommended Practice for Smart Grid Communication Equipment – Test Methods and Installation Requirements. This project is based on existing standards and affects all parts of the grid, including generation, transmission, and distribution.

That said, service providers such as Verizon and others are already busy rolling out home monitoring and home control products and services. The home of the future may eventually become a self-organizing and self-managing entity, making decisions based on the initial guidance of homeowners.

“Once the home learns how to behave, it could also learn how to make decisions on its own,” explains Logvinov. “That would be the home of the future, and it’s becoming possible now.”

Resources

IEEE, www.ieee.org
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