The networked home paving the way for the smart grid

Issue 36 – March 2012

Integrating a myriad networked devices in homes will make daily life more enjoyable and convenient and open up opportunities to manage energy supply and demand sensibly. Work by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), in collaboration with its sister organisations International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in preparing international Standards for networking the home environment will ensure that tomorrow's homes will be smarter.

Planning home networking

Home appliance manufacturers and utilities companies are actively planning the networking of home appliances and electronic devices of all kinds. This trend is driven by public and private concerns regarding energy efficiency and environmental issues. Plans to introduce a smart grid to manage energy consumption more effectively are also behind the development.

Collaborative enterprise

As the networking of all these devices involves the preparation and adoption of Standards in the electrotechnology, information and communication technology, and telecommunication domains, collaboration between the IEC and ISO within ISO/IEC joint technical committee (JTC) 1, 'Information technology', and with ITU-T, 'Telecommunication standardization sector', is essential, in particular for communication protocols and interfaces.

Cable and wireless

Home networks use various media: IT cables, wireless connection, or power line transmission.

Groundwork for the cabled home is already well under way with Standards prepared by ISO/IEC JTC 1/Subcommittee (SC) 25, 'Interconnection of information technology equipment'. Networks using structured cabling as specified in ISO/IEC 15018, Information technology – Generic cabling for homes, are now a regular feature of many new homes or in renovated properties.

Networks in home environments are also being more widely accepted, thanks to the use of wireless technology and PLT. Work on the wireless beacon-enabled energy efficient mesh network Standard for wireless home network services continues.

Homes are also increasingly equipped with Home Electronic Systems (HES) that meet the ISO/IEC 14543 series of HES architecture standards, which allow the interoperability of products from different sources. An energy management system for HES is addressed by the ISO/IEC 15067-3 Information technology – Home Electronic System (HES) application model – Part 3: Model of an energy management system for HES International Standard.

ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 25 also recently released international Standards in the 29341 series for Universal Plug and Play device architecture, which allows devices to communicate with each other across networks.

Networking homes for energy efficiency

Given the current overall attention paid to energy consumption and environmental issues, the modern networked home does not focus only on connectivity per se, but seeks to give occupants greater control over home appliances and electronic devices and over energy use.

This can be achieved by allowing management of lighting, temperature, and appliances to be incorporated with specific home multi-media and communication system controls that take into account the smart grid and the availability of cheaper-rate power at times of lower demand.

As power from renewable energies will be fed into grids, networked homes will have a role to play when electric vehicles (EVs) enter the overall equation. In a smart grid configuration, EVs can be used to balance out consumption peaks and troughs, as they can be charged and act as storage units during peak supply time and then provide a source when demand is at its highest.

The drive to network homes is gathering momentum in several regions of the world

In Europe, the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization started work on its SmartHouse Roadmap Project in 2009.

In Japan, the Energy Conservation and Homecare NETwork (Echonet) consortium developed a Standard of the same name for communication between appliances and networks. Echonet was accepted as an international Standard by IEC TC 100. China and Korea are working on solutions similar to Echonet

Thanks to the work of ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 25, in the future, home occupants in many countries will be able to manage their energy use better and to programme their home appliances and devices.

Summarised from the International Electrotechnical Commission's e-tech, January/February 2012.

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