Integrating home networked devices

Paving the way for the smart grid

By Morand Fachot

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

Remotely turning lights on and off in the networked home Remotely turning lights on and off in the networked home

Planning home networking

Home appliance manufacturers and utilities 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, ICT (information and communication technology) and telecommunication domains, collaboration between the IEC and ISO within ISO/IEC JTC (Joint Technical Committee) 1, Information technology, and with ITU-T, Telecommunication Standardization Sector, is essential, in particular as regards communication protocols and interfaces.

Cable and wireless

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

Groundwork for the cabled home is already well under way with standards prepared by ISO/IECJTC 1/SC (Subcommittee) 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 WiBEEM (Wireless Beacon-enabled Energy Efficient Mesh network) Standard for wireless home network services continues.

Homes are also increasingly equipped with HES (Home Electronic Systems) 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 UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) Device Architecture, which allows devices to communicate with each other across networks (see Plug and Play article in this edition of e-tech). .

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 EVs (electric vehicles) 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, CENELEC, the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization, started work on its SHR (SmartHouse Roadmap) Project in 2009.
In Japan the Echonet (Energy Conservation and Homecare NETwork) 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. (For details of these regional initiatives, see Standards for intelligent homes - European and Asian perspectives, in e-tech June 2011.)

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.

Remotely turning lights on and off in the networked home Remotely turning lights on and off in the networked home
LG HomNet panel to control home appliances (Photo: LG) LG HomNet panel to control home appliances (Photo: LG)
Home appliances will be controlled remotely in the future, saving energy (Photo: Miele) Home appliances will be controlled remotely in the future, saving energy (Photo: Miele)