The ZigBee Alliance has announced the development of a neighborhood area network (NAN) profile, aimed to achieve true plug-and-play interoperability between wireless smart grid NAN products and solutions.

The IPv6 communication profile will be based on international open IEEE and IETF standards. The existing IEEE and IETF standards on their own do not ensure interoperability due to the many options available within the standards. The NAN specification will fill the gap by selecting the most appropriate options between standards and defining a communication profile with certifiable interoperability.

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In order to ensure interoperability, a full wireless communications protocol is being defined for layers 1 through 4 of the ISO OSI communication stack. This provides a harmonized transport network supporting different IP-based applications. Layers 1 and 2 will be based on the IEEE 802.15.4g amendment to the IEEE 802.15.4 (2011) standard that was introduced to enable the development of interoperable NANs. Layers 3 and 4 will be based on IEFT standards including the IPv6 network layer and associated networking schemes, appropriate routing and transport protocols (e.g., RPL, UDP and TCP) and relevant security mechanisms.

This wireless communications profile will enable interoperability between different vendors who have all implemented their smart meters, smart grid devices and communication infrastructure node products according to the certifiable NAN communications profile. Today’s existing smart grid applications such as smart metering and distribution automation will run on top of this interoperable wireless IPv6 communications profile.

A key aspect of this NAN standardization work is to establish a test and certification program supported by independent test houses. The ZigBee Alliance will maintain a register of certified smart meter and smart grid products in order to provide confidence for utility customers when making their smart grid vendor selections.

“The ZigBee Alliance has a long history of developing interoperable wireless communication standards based on open international IEEE 802.15.4 and IETF standards, which have been adopted worldwide in numerous applications,” said Tobin J.M. Richardson, president and CEO of the ZigBee Alliance. “We welcome this new initiative and look forward to extending our activities by helping utilities to achieve interoperability in their NANs.”

To date, the definition and documentation of the market requirements and the detailed technical requirements for the NAN has been completed. A number of ‘proof of concept’ events to test the interoperability of the PHY/MAC functions that will be included in the NAN standard have been held during the past year involving companies from around the world. All participants’ NAN products were able to communicate with each other through the PHY/MAC layers. In addition, several companies demonstrated interoperability for basic IP functions.

The NAN standardization work is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2014 and will also include the technical specification, protocol implementation conformance statement (PICS) and certification test plan.