Focus on smart grid and smart energy


Smart Grid and smart energy are a key focus for the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, with many major developments taking place in the last six months. The demand for reduced energy consumption, combined with utility company initiatives, legislative mandates and government funding is expected to drive rapid growth in this sector, and HomePlug powerline technology will play an important role in achieving a standards-based smart grid infrastructure that is more efficient and reliable.

Earlier this year, HomePlug announced a technology roadmap for smart grid. The development of new HomePlug specifications is creating a new class of powerline communications products that offer lower cost, low power consumption while also being fully interoperable with the current HomePlug AV standard and the forthcoming IEEE 1901 standard. This will allow utilities, electricity meter manufacturers and product manufacturers to future proof smart grid networks based on HomePlug/IEEE technology.

In June, HomePlug and the ZigBee Alliance finalised the next generation market requirements for Smart Energy and supporting use cases. This profile creates a common application layer for ZigBee and HomePlug devices. The MRD details the next generation of functionality envisioned for the smart grid with accompanying consumer control. It includes insight into a variety of use cases including plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging, installation, configuration, firmware download for home area network (HAN) devices, prepay services, user information and messaging, load control, demand response, and common information and application profile interfaces for wired and wireless HANs. This ZigBee/HomePlug Smart Energy profile was selected by the US Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as an initial interoperable standard for HAN devices and communications and information model.

The HomePlug Green PHY (HomePlug GP) specification is tailored to the requirements of smart grid applications for home area networks and is based on input from major utility companies. HomePlug GP will be used to connect devices such as home appliances, consumer electronics and HVAC to smart electricity meters that are part of a utility company’s smart grid. The installed base of smart meters is expected to grow to greater than 170 million units worldwide by 2014, according to the ABI Research “Advanced Metering Infrastructure” report published in March 2009. HomePlug GP will play a key role in deployment of AMI. HomePlug GP has a raw data rate of 3.8 Mbs with 1 Mbs MAC layer throughput and fully supports IP networking (Internet Protocol). It is expected that products will ship in the late-2010 timeframe. Products based on HomePlug GP will be interoperable with HomePlug AV and IEEE 1901 products while dramatically reducing cost and power consumption.

In addition to HomePlug technology’s success in the retail home networking and IPTV service provider markets, HomePlug AV, HomePlug GP and IEEE 1901 have been included in the Smart Grid Interoperability Standards Roadmap report published by the US NIST on 17 June of this year. This is further evidence of the clear market leadership that the HomePlug Powerline Alliance and IEEE 1901 powerline standards have achieved.