Across Europe, countries are under pressure to use energy more efficiently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using green methods of generation. This means energy suppliers are developing home-based micro generation (micro combined heat and power) and photovoltaic (PV) panels as well as other means of moderating demand and providing the consumer with a better environment using less energy.
This has led to a demand for meters that can measure export energy as well as the more usual imported energy. But the residential meter could do far more than that. Assuming information management aspects can be resolved, near real-time metering would provide a far more detailed picture of the way people use energy. This could readily be harnessed to provide ways to influence load at any time of the day, automatically or on demand.
For instance, a local CHP device could easily be asked to deliver more power or energy using devices to use less power, in order to flatten the supplier’s demand curve at peak load times and at trough load periods. However, in the smart home the meter becomes a vital node in a networked system. Its uses range from monitoring and controlling electrical equipment to providing evidence that elderly customers are well, while the applications that could use the continuous measurement of energy are many.
The Application Home Initiative (TAHI) was established to “accelerate the adoption of home-based connected services and applications”. It aims to bring multiple services into the home and to bundle them together so that overheads are shared. Thus the AMR range of applications become viable, even though the immediate return is not great. The ability to share equipment, reach out to all the equipment in the home and utilise the user interfaces (such as the TV, but also the mobile phone and PC) to communicate with the consumer will provide opportunities for many new and original services and applications.
APPLICATIONS WITHIN TAHI'S SCOPE
The network of organisations that make up TAHI will enable far closer communication and allow the energy supplier and distributor to understand the consumer much better. It will mean a better deal for energy supply while sharing the cost of providing the new systems with other service providers, some of whom have much greater returns on their services. This is why, serving both, EDF Energy is closely involved with TAHI.
TAHI has now been in existence for two years, and during this time it has grown to about 38 members. It has sought to ensure that it has a wide balance of organisations in its membership, ranging from companies such as Centrica and EDF Energy to SMEs such as Linguamatics and Amino Communications. There are also several academic members. TAHI has carried out some significant research into what people think the smart home will offer. It has encouraged its members to embark on a number of trials and programmes that will assist in understanding the market. In this there has been enthusiastic support and funding from the DTI, as much of what TAHI is aiming to do fulfils the e-agendas of the UK Government.
THE ENERGY TRIAL
In London and the South East of the UK, EDF Energy is heading up a trial to find out how energy and energy supply fits into the equation of the smart home. It is working with a number of other TAHI members to establish actual values for the intangible benefits of ubiquitous communication into the home. This trial is built from the aspect of an energy distributor, supplier and meter operator – and also from that of a major service provider. It has been named ‘The Energy Trial’ but its aims and objectives lie at least as much with customer loyalty and value as with using energy more effectively.
TAHI is also involved with other trials or projects. The equipment management trial aims to understand and evaluate services that provide peace of mind for the customer. For example, systems can carry out remote diagnostics on gas central heating boilers and other systems in the home to detect CO2 levels and gas escape. The trial will determine the costs and benefits of using technologically advanced systems for monitoring the home, ensuring that householders need no longer worry about equipment breaking down, because problems are diagnosed and repaired before the equipment fails.
The service aggregation programme aims to develop ways to deliver a number of services through a common means. It will develop methodologies for this and models for establishing the likely value of services when they are delivered into a competitive market place.
The living space programme concentrates on how broadband and ultimately how no bandwidth constraints will characterise the delivery of services in an always-on world. Of particular interest to the utility sector is the premise of there being no delay between reading a meter and seeing the result in a utility management or billing system, and that real-time continuous metering will be possible. There is an opportunity to use the information constructively for service to the consumer, and a challenge on how to handle the information.
One of the concepts that will come out of the living space programme is that of the broadband virtual laboratory – a logical outcome of the series of public authority hosted trials. Because of the pervasive connectedness of a willing population and their connected equipment in the home (devices, user interfaces, sensors, systems and networks) any new service, application or technology can be introduced and tested in real-time. The broadband virtual laboratory allows any new technology or service to be tested in a statistically unbiased manner, because the trial populations will have been chosen to ensure a full demographic and geographic sample of the UK population.
When the trials are complete, each project will become an operating consortium able to use the open architectures, methodologies and some of the techniques of each project in delivering new services to a wider population. (See the roadmap on the previous page).
TAHI has a number of working groups that carry out valuable tasks defining the technology and metrics for the members and trials groups. The market intelligence group exists to inform members of developments in markets, events, initiatives and technology related to the smart home. It will assist and co-ordinate the modelling work that TAHI projects are carrying out to place a value on new and existing services to the home-based user.TAHI will also assist its members to exploit the knowledge created during the projects, and will form an exploitation working group later this year.
The technology working group is defining the TAHI Open Architecture (TOA) that will provide a methodology and common practice for delivering and providing services by electronic means. The TOA is defining the structure of remote service objects and pervasive service agents that characterise the systems, networks and equipment that deliver the service, and negotiate to ensure that the equipment meets service requirements.
The diagram shows the entities that are involved with the delivery of any service (from AMR to digital TV). All services have content (e.g. meter readings or TV programmes) that is created (in the meter or the studio) and carried through a series of entities to and from the consumer to the service provider.
Because any service is characterised by defined pervasive service agents and the media and equipment by remote service objects, all services use the same architecture. This means that as long as one service (e.g. Automated Meter Reader) uses the TAHI open architecture, complementary services can do so too. This allows services that enhance the basic service to be delivered to the consumer in such a way as to enhance the value of all the services delivered.