Archive for the ‘Home automation network (HAN)’ Category

ZigBee Smart Energy Certified Products

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

As the industry leader, only ZigBee offers an established, competitive marketplace providing the core technology for monitoring, controlling, and automating the delivery and use of energy and water. ZigBee Smart Energy is the affordable and easy way to improve energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact.

The following ZigBee Smart Energy Certified Products were tested to ensure they meet all of the Alliance’s strict specifications and perform as promised. These products represent solutions across the entire efficiency ecosystem – energy services portals, meters, displays, thermostats and load controllers. Each product may wear the ZigBee Certified logo and the green ZigBee Smart Energy icon so that they may be easily identified in the marketplace.

Alektrona offers embedded communications engineering design services. Our specialization is in systems that leverage IP network and wireless ZigBee\ISM band connectivity. As a core member of the ZigBee Gateway group, Alektrona is an active participant in the design and specifications within the Alliance. Our team focuses on engineering high reliability solutions emphasizing system level design with a business level approach. Alektrona Engineering Expertise Includes: ” ZigBee networking and Gateway product design ” ISM band wireless ” Embedded Systems and Microcontroller Hardware ” Firmware and software design ” Sensor and control networks. ” NMS, SCADA and BMS integration ” Internet appliance design ” End to end embedded product design and manufacturing Please contact us at: solutions@alektrona.com 401-228-2962
Z-Aperture ZA07-200-ESP
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Alektrona’s Z-Aperture™ ZA07-200-ESP is the first broadband Energy Service Portal and Internet Gateway to receive ZigBee Smart Energy Golden Unit certification.
Aztech Associates, Inc.
In-Home Display
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Aztech’s In-Home Display communicates directly with smart meters.
Computime International Limited
CTW200
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CTW200 is a thermostat which monitors, controls and displays energy consumption and rate information for ZigBee-enabled residences.
CTW300
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CTW300 is an In Home Display with a large dot matrix screen for users to monitor energy rate and consumption information in residences supporting the ZigBee Smart Energy profile.
Comverge is a leading provider of clean energy solutions that improve grid reliability and supply electric capacity on a more cost effective basis than conventional alternatives by reducing base load and peak load energy consumption
DCU
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Comverge DCU offers a wide range of functionality – from individual addressing to adaptive algorithms
PowerPortal
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Comverge PowerPortal® IHD is an easy to use, AMI ready display that allows consumers to closely track their electricity consumption and receive messages or alerts from their utility provider.
SuperStat Pro
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Comverge’s SuperStat™ Pro is a state-of-the-art “smart” thermostat.
Control4
EC-100
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The EC-100 is an easy to use energy controller that empowers consumers and utilities to better manage energy use and costs.
Cooper Power Systems, Inc., with revenues of approximately $1 billion, is a division of Cooper Industries, Ltd. (NYSE: CBE). Cooper Power Systems is a global manufacturer of world-class power delivery and reliability solutions for the electrical and industrial markets. Cooper Power Systems manufactures distribution transformers, distribution switchgear, reclosers, capacitors, protective relays, voltage regulators, automated switches, cable accessories, surge arrestors, transformer components and dielectric fluids, fuses and tools and it provides engineering services for the electrical and industrial markets. Through its Energy Automations Solutions group, it is also a leading provider of software, communications and integration solutions that enable customers to increase productivity, improve system reliability, and reduce costs. For more information visit www.cooperpower.com or www.cooperpowereas.com.
UtilityPro ZigBee
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Cooper Power Systems – The ZigBee®-enabled UtilityPRO™ is a Honeywell touchscreen programmable thermostat designed for utility-sponsored demand response programs and is equipped with a Cooper demand response module.
Digi International is the leader in device networking for business. Drop-in Networking solutions include ZigBee/802.15.4 embedded modules, stand-alone adapters, extenders and environmental sensors, plus wireless mesh gateways that collect and transport data from the ZigBee network to an IP network via cellular, Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Reliably network-enable devices and sensors where no wired networking infrastructure exists, where network access is prohibited, or when laying cable is impractical or cost-prohibitive.
ConnectPort X2 ESP
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Digi’s ConnectPort X2 ESP enables energy service providers to deploy HAN devices that are completely managed by the Digi gateway over a broadband or cellular connection, allowing Smart Grid services to be deployed in areas not covered by Smart Metering networks.
Smart Energy Range Extender
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Digi’s XBee Range Extender is a certified ZigBee Smart Energy device.
ecobee�s mission is to help homeowners conserve energy, save money and reduce their environmental impact. Our green automation platform sits at the convergence of energy conservation, green technology, the networked home and consumer electronics. Our products automate energy conservation, making it easier to save on energy costs without sacrificing comfort. ecobee targets the large markets of heating, cooling and ventilation, utility demand response and green automation.
Ecobee Smart Thermostat
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ecobee’s green automation platform sits at the convergence of energy conservation, green technology, the networked home and consumer electronics.
Energate Connecting Conservation with Comfort Energate lets you take your smart grid strategy beyond smart meters, to where demand is rooted — in the home. Energate’s home energy management solutions let consumers and utilities manage energy use and reduce peak demand without sacrificing comfort and convenience. Building upon over 25 years of HVAC industry experience, Energate smart thermostats offer industry-leading equipment interface technology and comfort control algorithms.
Pioneer Z100
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Energate Pioneer Z100 – Energate has expanded its Pioneer series of smart thermostats to support the Smart Energy Profile.
Pioneer Z107
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Energate Pioneer Z107 – Energate has expanded its Pioneer series of smart thermostats to support the Smart Energy Profile. Incorporating next generation technology beyond the features found on today’s most sophisticated thermostats, Energate’s Pioneer Series of smart thermostats provide unparalleled performance with an exceptional user interface to meet your current and future needs.
Founded in 2005, Energy Aware Technology is a Canadian company focused on demand side management products that increase awareness of resource consumption and help people save money. Energy Aware’s first product, the PowerTab, is an in-home energy display designed for deployment with smart metering infrastructure.
PowerTab / PowerPortal
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Energy Aware’s PowerTab is an in-home display that uses the Zigbee Smart Energy profile to allow consumers to closely track electricity consumption and costs. The PowerTab’s attractive design and user-friendly interface encourage energy conservation and facilitate increased data flow to end users. The PowerTab’s features include a 100 mW radio, a magnetic backing, and three colour LEDs to indicate tariff rates.
Itron Inc. is a leading technology provider to the global energy and water industries. Itron Inc. consists of Itron in North America and Actaris outside of North America. Our company is the world’s leading provider of metering, data collection and utility software solutions, with nearly 8,000 utilities worldwide relying on our technology to optimize the delivery and use of energy and water. Our products include electricity, gas and water meters, data collection and communication systems, including automated meter reading (AMR) and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI); meter data management and related software applications; as well as project management, installation, and consulting services. To know more, start here: www.itron.com.
Open Way Gas Module
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Itron – OpenWay Gas Module accurately measures natural gas consumption and supports two-way communication with the Itron
OpenWay
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Itron® OpenWay™ is an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solution built around OpenWay
In Chinese, Jetlun means literally “save energy”. Jetlun is building the last mile to the Smart Grid and providing an integrated energy network management solution for residential and commercial markets using standard-based network technologies that maximizes the use of a building’s existing wires and wireless networks for total coverage and connectivity. The Jetlun Intelligent Management solution (“JIM”) is a family of energy network management products that provides granular energy usage information– by whole-home, by phase, by circuit, and by appliance– enabling a homeowner or property manager to pinpoint areas that are consuming the most power.
JIM Gateway Pro RD75606
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The JetLun Gateway SE (model RD75606) is the world’s first integrated ZigBee and HomePlug® enabled gateway that collects.
JIM Gateway Pro RD75607
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The JetLun Gateway (model RD75607) is the world’s first integrated ZigBee and HomePlug® enabled gateway that collects, stores and displays real-time energy consumption information and helps you manage and control- both onsite and remotely- your energy usage through a simple user interface on any web browser or any web-enabled phone, such as the Blackberry® or iPhone®.
JIM Gateway Pro RD75609
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The JetLun Gateway Lite SE (model RD75609) is an ZigBee® to IP enabled gateway that collects, stores and displays real-time energy consumption
KDN is providing high-tech total electric power IT service in entire processes of electric power system, such as from power generation to transmission, distribution and sale. As such, KDN is largely contributing to achieving efficiency and advancement in electric power business by establishing IT system. Furthermore, KDN, by securing international competitiveness in international power IT market, will grow into a global specialist in power IT.
KDN Smart Meter
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KDN Smart Meter Single-Phase and Poly-Phase Smart Meters produced by Korea Electric Power Data Network Co.[KDN] are highly accurate, intelligent, and fully featured electricity meters with integrated communication modules. The Smart Meters have special features such as two-way communication via standard-based ZigBee and PLC(Power Line Communication) technologies, two-way measurement, Power Quality measurement(Sag and Swell), Tamper detection and Remote connect/disconnect. IEC standards (IEC 62052, IEC 62053, and IEC 62056) are applied to Smart Meter.
Landis+Gyr is the leading provider of advanced metering, energy efficiency, and infrastructure communication systems to electric, gas, and water utilities worldwide. Landis+Gyr’s proven record of customer satisfaction and value creation is supported by over 20 million customer advanced metering end points in production or under contract worldwide. Landis+Gyr supports its 500+ customers with a staff of over 700 professionals located in offices across the United States.
Landis + Gyr E35C-A
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Landis + Gyr E35C-A is a high performance 2.4GHz ZigBee transceiver that is supplied loaded with ZigBee Smart Energy firmware. The unit is fully certified and works with Landis + Gyr E350 U-Series meters.
The EcoMeter Energy Monitor
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The ecoMeter energy monitor is a critical component in the final delivery of the benefits of the smart grid to its energy end-users; and an integral component in Landis Gyr’s Smart Grid solution – Gridstream. The ecoMeter P250 is the means for energy consumers to become fully informed and directly engaged to their energy consumption; and is the tool of choice to empower consumers to manage energy better.
The Landis Gyr Focus AX
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The Landis Gyr Focus AX endpoint is a ZigBee-enabled advanced metering endpoint that provides two-way communication with the utility, meter and home-area networks.
LS Industrial Systems has been leading the industrial electric controls and automation field in Korea with the advanced technology for decades. Providing top quality products, LS Industrial Systems set the long term goal as “Superiority over quality and product development”. To set the standard of digitalization which will drive the future of the industry, LS Industrial Systems provides Total Solution found on abundant industrial knowledge and technology in electric control, automation, tube & pipe and the new business area.
LK Meter
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The LK Series Single-Phase and Poly-Phase Electric Meters are intelligent, fully featured revenue-grade energy meters with integrated communication function. These solid-state meters feature two-way communication via plug-in type communication modules using standard-based ZigBee® and PLC (Power Line Communication) technology. Each meter complies with IEC 62052, 62053, and 62056 standards.
LS Research is a leading design firm specializing in providing turnkey RF and wireless design services. A perfect match for OEM customers looking to develop high performances low cost short range wireless solutions based on 802.15.4 radio and the Zigbee stack. A sister company, LS Compliance, is an FCC-certified and A2LA-approved EMC testing laboratory offering comprehensive EMC testing and consulting services. L.S. Research and L.S. Compliance W66 N220 Commerce Court Cedarburg, Wisconsin 53012 USA Phone: (262) 375-4400 Fax: (262) 375-4248 E-mail: sales@lsr.com www.lsr.com
RS-SE-24-01
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RS-SE-24-01 – The RATE$AVER is an In-Home-Display device capable of communicating with ZigBee Smart Energy Profile Compliant Energy Service Portals (ESP) withn Utility Meters displaying energy usage data.
OpenPeak Inc. creates, designs, and develops innovative systems and devices that enable simple control of home energy usage, VoIP telephony, digital media, Internet content, and consumer electronics on a single touch screen device. OpenPeak allows utilities to deliver service updates to users on demand today, and provides a platform for the deployment of future energy applications as they are developed. Through the OpenPeak App Shop, the same device can deliver a complete communications package including news, sports, weather, social networking, and instant messaging and is compatible with a variety of communication standards, including ZigBee and Wi-Fi. For more visit www.openpeak.com.
OpenFrame 7EZ
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OpenPeak’s OpenFrame 7E – touch screen device provides an engaging way for consumers to take an active role in managing their energy consumption. By integrating home energy management with on-board multi-media functions, the same device can deliver a complete information and communication experience including news, sports, weather, social networking, music, and family photos.
PRI Limited
Customer Information Panel
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Home Energy Controller (HEC) monitors and displays electricity and gas consumption and cost information on a customer friendly display. Using the ZigBee Smart Energy Profile, it can read any meter that meets the standard and display the data in tabular and/or graphical format to encourage consumers to reduce their energy consumption through better information.
Horstmann S23 Meter Interface
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Single and Poly Phase Multi Rate Meters – ZigBee Smart Energy Certified meter interface can be fitted to PRI and Horstmann electricity meters to provide consumption data to other Smart Energy devices on a network. The meters conform to IEC 62052-11 and are available with optional load control switches, as well as a variety of power ratings to suit any market.
Rainforest Automation makes products that enable residential energy management, and allow utilities to rapidly deploy Smart Grids that are less expensive and more reliable. Our products include EMU™, a utility targeted in-home display (IHD) designed with simplicity and high-volume deployments in mind, and Orchid™, an energy services platform that serves as a low-cost gateway between the utility and the consumer.
Energy Monitoring Unit
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Rainforest Automation’s EMU™ – Energy Monitoring Unit is an In-Home Display designed specifically to meet the technical and budget requirements of utility deployments. The EMU™ has a simple user interface, runs on standard AA batteries, and displays real-time usage, accumulated statistics and provides a peak pricing “traffic-light”. With its 2-way link to the smart meter, EMU can support custom features such as pre-payment, opt-out, and messaging response.
Silver Spring Networks, the leader in IP networking, connects utilities with their customers over a two-way, IP based network, enabling innovation and change. Utilities can enhance the way they interact with customers. Customers are empowered to manage their energy more efficiently. Using this IP-based network, utilities can deploy a scalable, reliable infrastructure from the substation to the customer premise and implement advanced metering, demand response and other applications at a fraction of comparable costs. An open, IP -based network lowers not just capital costs, but total cost of ownership. When planning the network of tomorrow, it helps to partner with a company that makes it available today
Interactive Energy Management
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The Silver Spring CustomerIQ web portal by Greenbox delivers near real-time data on their energy efficiency programs, including consumption and pricing
Telegesis develops and manufactures advanced wireless products to provide low cost, high performance solutions. Telegesis ZigBee ready Module and Development Kit is based upon Ember Corporation’s meshing technology and is the first in a family of products, others of which are already at prototype testing stage. Our low cost Development Kit enables an out-of-the-box mesh network in less than half an hour. Telegesis range of ZigBee products will aid rapid development and integration into OEM products through the provision of complete ‘plug-in’ modules. Telegesis AT-style command line interface software further speeds and facilitates the building of total solutions.
ETRX2USB & ETRX2USB-PA ZSE IHD
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ETRX2USB ZSE-IHD In Home Display – The Telegesis ETRX2USB ZSE-IHD is a high performance 2.4GHz ZigBee transceiver in USB stick form which is supplied loaded with ZigBee Smart Energy (ZSE) IHD firmware. The unit is a fully certified In Home Display and can be supplied with Certicom test or full certificates. An AT command layer on top of the ZSE IHD firmware allows a host application to easily control the stick.
Range Extender & Range Extender-PA
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Telegesis Smart Energy Range extender – The Telegesis Range Extender and Range Extender-PA are fully certified ZigBee Smart Energy (ZSE) units which enable increased distance between nodes in a ZigBee Smart Energy network. If the distance between nodes is too great for communication to be established. By adding one or more Routers in-between an extended ZSE mesh network can be formed.
Tendril focuses on network operations and deployment – the next big stage of the Wireless Sensor and Control Network industry. Our software allows companies to access, deploy, monitor, manage, and integrate networks into the real world. This approach allows Tendril to address the macro trends of energy efficiency, security and life expectancy.
Tendril Insight
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Tendril Insight is an in-home display that communicates with networked smart devices, such as thermostats, electricity meters and outlets, and displays information about consumption levels and energy rates. Empowered with real-time information, energy customers can potentially save money, while utilities can reduce customer service incidents and improve overall load balancing and demand response capabilities.
Tendril Relay
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Tendril Relay is a ZigBee device router that plugs into a standard household outlet. The Tendril Relay extends the range of a smart energy network, making it easier to access and connect devices in large homes and hard-to-reach places, like garages and sheds.
Tendril Transport
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Tendril Transport is an IP gateway that opens a new channel of interaction and collaboration between consumers and their utilities. The Tendril Transport delivers two-way information to consumers and utilities, providing insight into household energy footprints. With the Tendril Transport, customers gain more access to energy-related information and more control over energy consumption decisions. Utilities can better manage supply, demand response and load control scenarios, and costs.
Volt
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Tendril Outlet is a 3-prong, ZigBee Smart Energy electrical outlet that can be plugged into a standard home outlet to monitor and control the energy consumption of any electrical appliance or device. Multiple Tendril Outlets in the same home can be tracked individually or as a group over the Internet or from a local Tendril Display device. The Tendril Outlet gives the consumer unprecedented insight into and control over their household energy footprint, improving their overall energy efficiency.
Volt
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Tendril Volt is a three-prong, standards-based smart electrical outlet that can be plugged into a 110Volt/15A AC standard wall power outlet to turn off or on any connected electrical appliance or device. When used in conjunction with the Tendril Insight or the Tendril Vantage web portal, multiple outlets in the same home can be managed individually or as a group over the Internet, giving consumers unprecedented insight into and control over wasted energy and their household energy footprint.
Trilliant Networks, Inc. is the industry leader in open solutions for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), demand response, and grid management. The company is focused on delivering ANSI and IEEE standards-based AMI, without vendor lock-in, enabling choice of meter, network and IT infrastructures. Trilliant brings over 20 years’ experience solving AMI needs for utility customers through the legacy of its Nertec brand founded in 1985. Additionally Trilliant is the originator of the first ANSI tools for development, simulation and compliance now used by most meter manufacturers and AMI companies to develop and test ANSI meters as well as meter communication products. Trilliant has more than 100 utility customers including Baltimore Gas & Electric, Duke Energy, Hydro One, Hydro Quebec, Milton Hydro, Northeast Utilities, OneOK, Public Service Electric & Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric.
SecureMesh Micro Access Portal
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Trilliant SecureMesh™ Micro Access Portal is independent from the meter and can be embedded in any end-point device including thermostats, in-home displays, appliance controllers or meters. Trilliant’s SecureMesh AMI Network is based on the same IEEE 802.15.4 standard as ZigBee providing an end-to-end fully standards-based solution for energy applications.

More evidence of the coming collision between home broadband and the smart grid

Friday, November 20th, 2009

One trend that will pick up steam in 2010 is technologies and alliances that bring the current home broadband infrastructure (Home Automation network) and the emerging smart grid infrastructure closer together. After all, viagra canadian pharmacy as more homes embrace high-speed Internet access (wired OR wireless), it makes sense that smart meters and other smart grid devices communicate via what is already in place.

Anticipating this convergence of interests, iControl Networks has come out with a platform called ConnectedLife Energy Management. The technology, which is intended for broadband operators, utility companies and other service providers, will allow for the development of demand response systems and other energy-efficiency services. The company expects Connected Life Energy Management to be commercially available to consumers sometime in 2010. It would allow for applications such as scheduled energy usage that is tailored to meet certain efficiency or carbon footprint goals.

Here are some of the consumer-level applications that will be possible:

  • Real-time energy usage monitoring
  • Remoted management of thermostats from an Internet browse, iPhone or other mobile phones
  • Automation applications that, for example, would let you set up thermostat configurations for your air-conditioning or heating systems
  • Ability to manage your account against certain cost parameters

How to Approach IPTV Solution Integration – A Framework Based on Lessons Learned

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

End-to-end solution integration (E2E SI) is essential when creating a business plan for IPTV service offerings. Rather than taking a piecemeal or partial approach to integration—which often results in unacceptable end-user quality of experience — operators need a comprehensive method that addresses all aspects of the IPTV implementation. The approach discussed in this white paper is derived from experience gained from actual IPTV implementations over a number of years.

Introduction

IPTV technology is now mainstream. Many service providers have already launched or are in the process of launching consumer IP video services in an attempt to maintain or gain market share in a fast moving, end-user focused competitive arena. Their initial approach has been to offer service bundles of voice, video and data (triple play). These same service providers are contemplating providing their customers with blended VoIP, video and data services (rather than bundling traditional voice), as well as with quadruple play, which includes mobile services. Some typical current strategic, tactical and operational IPTV-related service provider issues include:

 

  • Media aggregation, management, and distribution solutions
  • Content negotiation
  • Existing network and network component capabilities
  • Broadcast and multicast delivery capabilities
  • Capacity to perform realistic trials
  • Enhancing and streamlining business operations
  • Management and billing capabilities
  • Quality of experience (e.g., spectrum utilization index design, interactivity, and User Interface (UI) responsiveness)
  • Quality of service (e.g., video/audio stability, scalability, and redundancy)
  • Home networking components, deployment and maintenance
  • Differentiated applications integration
  • Personalization of existing applications
  • Security and digital rights management
  • Understanding the impact of offering video services on the organization

The challenge of integrating new technologies, features and services into the service provider’s network is complex and demanding. The transformation process usually involves maintaining existing services while developing and migrating to the new service environment. To cope with this level of complexity, many service providers turn to a partner they can trust to help them transform not only their network and services, but also their business operations. This usually includes a combination of professional consulting and integration/deployment services.

Experienced solutions integration (SI) partners have developed the capabilities to address the real issues that service providers face when implementing IPTV or triple play. The SI either takes on turnkey end-to-end projects as the prime integrator and trusted advisor, or it can provide consulting advice in targeted areas such as:

 

  • Network integration
  • Performance
  • Security
  • OSS/BSS integration, and/or operations analysis
  • Rapid integration of new revenue generating, enhanced applications

The SI partner should have specialized lab environments that allow it to pre-integrate end-to end solutions with its own best-in-class partners. The labs are also used to develop the stringent processes required to carry out realistic proof of concept, trial, and commercial deployments for the service provider.

This paper describes how to perform IPTV solution integration, blending end-to-end IPTV component technical knowledge with a strong business-focused approach to create closely integrated work packages that are strung together via a “golden thread” that ties together all deployment lifecycle phases for maximum efficiency and consistency, making IPTV deployments and enhancements predictable, reliable and successful. The golden thread is a proven formula and methodology based upon many years of lessons learned in the field.

 

Components of an IPTV Solution

The key components of an IPTV solution that are typically deployed as part of a video services solution include:

Head-end and head-end subsystems – Includes broadcast service components with relevant redundancy and management capabilities. These components include all the equipment needed for content ingestion, encoding, encapsulation, and encryption, as well as DVB data extraction components.

Edge-QAM subsystem – For cable operator deployments, the SI partner must have the expertise to perform supplier management and integrate the selected edge-QAM hardware within the end-to-end solution.

Content management system – Enables the content providers and the operator to self-manage the full content lifecycle from offline encoding, via ingestion and metadata management, pricing, packaging, bundling, marketing campaigns, through distribution and storage management. The CMS solution is a collection of integrated components covering the required lifecycle functionality of all content types.

Content protection: conditional access /digital rights management (DRM) – A suite of integrated components covering all aspects of content encryption/decryption. Tight integration between all solution components and the CA/DRM vendor components is required.

Video on demand (VOD) server and back-office systems – Video (or streaming) servers are responsible for pushing the content over IP via standardized protocols. Integration of the streaming servers with the head-end, CA, middleware and content management is required. Video services middleware platform – Central IPTV component carrying all the business logic of the IPTV service and responsible for interfacing and managing all solution components and players – e.g., underlying network, head-end, CA, video servers, back-office legacy systems (e.g., OSS, BSS, Customer Relationship Management [CRM]), Content Management Systems (CMS), Integrated Access Device (IAD), set-top box (STB), and end user.

Transport and access networks – the characteristics and capabilities of which bear heavily on service levels delivered to end users. The network is an integrated part of the overall end-to-end video solution and should be considered as such throughout the entire process of strategic planning, design and deployment.

Customer premises equipment: residential gateway (RG)/IAD and STB – The RG/IAD enables the operator to perform end-user provisioning and home device management. The STB is the main component the end-user interfaces with. The STB typically interfaces with the middleware either via a native client or web browser.

An experienced SI should be able to perform vendor evaluation for all solution components selection, including proof of concept, interoperability tests, benchmarking, and “shootouts.” Once the solution component is selected, the SI directly interfaces with and manages the supplier on behalf of the operator.

A Business-Focused Project Approach

A business-focused approach implies that the SI must be aligned to the service provider’s deployment journey from the initial services concept through commercial launch and beyond. Figure 1 below shows the typical phases an operator undertakes when launching a video services solution.

Click here to enlarge Figure 1

Moving through these phases provides the operator with maximum confidence in the service’s readiness in terms of stability and functionality. This approach also minimizes risks while receiving user feedback prior to commercial launch.

The schematic indicates several phases of market scanning along with one or two “friendly user” trials. Following commercial launch there are usually growth and solution extensions and enhancement phases. Eventually, a product enters a “steady state” period. At this stage, the solution is not frequently enhanced or extended, user growth is predictable, and at some point a decision is usually made to reinvent or retire the product. Due to the emerging nature of the IP video business and the ubiquity of IP, many of the current commercial IP video offerings are more likely to be enhanced into new products rather than retained in their current state.

Because service providers are historically very experienced in product introduction, an internal methodology usually exists – albeit focused on a different type of end-user product. Every provider has a different focus, experience, requirements, and way of working, which results in a well understood internal methodology. Usually this methodology is a set of traditional processes that the organization adopts when deploying new services that fit the organization’s structure, behavior and culture.

These processes and procedures – down to the smallest details – have become an integral part of the organization and constitute a methodology that the organization’s team members are accustomed to working with. The SI must take this internally developed methodology into account when assisting in an IPTV deployment.

Application of a Project Methodology

Experienced solution integrators have developed a project lifecycle methodology to guide their integration services. They also have created methodologies specific to individual solutions such as IPTV. The more experience the integrator has, the more its methodology will be end-to-end focused and complete. Superior methodologies, which can take years to build, should be flexible enough to align with the service provider’s internal processes and existing methodologies as highlighted above.

At a high level, professional solution integrator methodologies include five focus areas/phases that are executed in a cyclic fashion. These are:

 

  • Consult
  • Design
  • Integrate &Validate
  • Deploy
  • Maintain and operate

Simply adopting the integrator’s generic methodology may not be the optimum way to achieve the desired project results. The integrator should work with the service provider in order to understand the organization, culture and current methodology being applied to new service introductions. This allows the integrator and provider to collaborate on creating the optimal methodology for introducing video services – a methodology that best fits the service provider’s organizational structure and culture. In addition, it will thoroughly cover relevant video service solution areas, ensuring that all high-level criteria required for such a deployment are met.

Translating the Methodology to a Timeline

This resulting methodology has to be translated into a meaningful timeline. First, activity subjects are defined for each high-level step (i.e., consult, design, integrate, deploy, maintain and operate). Once defined, each activity subject (or “workstream”) is broken down into “boxed set” of activities called “work packages,” or, more formally, “professional services solution integration modules.”

The work packages are defined to meet specific customer business and technical needs. They also take into account the organization’s operational structure and include an estimated effort in time and resources. Adding all work packages and workstream timelines provides the overall project duration.

The figure below shows typical solution integration project subjects (workstreams) that fall into the high-level steps described above. When drawn in a linear fashion, the timeline provides an initial idea of the entire project’s duration and scope.

Click here to enlarge Figure 2

The work packages building the work streams are addressed as independent but correlated sub-projects. Each work package has its own scope of work duration, and associated resources for execution.

An experienced SI’s portfolio for IPTV should be constructed on a set of carefully selected field-proven work packages. Furthermore, the design of each work package should allow execution individually or in conjunction with others, depending on actual project requirements.

The Secret Behind Professional SI Framework Execution

A typical IPTV solution integration project involves many work packages. These work packages not only function as stand-alone modules, but also must be able to integrate with all other work packages. The ability to deal with the complexity required to bring all the work packages together as an E2E solution is the key characteristic of a successful, professional SI. As indicated in Figure 3, each work package may consist of dozens of subtasks and activities, and is usually handled as a project on its own with a dedicated project manager and team. However, the golden thread methodology applied by professional sis ensures that the single work package is closely linked to all other work packages associated with the project.

Click here to enlarge Figure 3

As indicated in Figure 4, each work package goes through a series of high-level methodology steps to ensure that all required information is available, that nothing is hidden from the team and that work package activities truly reflect all aspects of the project.

Click here to enlarge Figure 4

In a typical service provider project, work packages move through the consult, design, integrate, deploy and maintain cycles. When mapping the work packages to the five-step high-level methodology, the SI may find that some work package subtasks are already in process or partially complete. It is the job of the integrator to identify where each work package is in the five-step process, to verify that the steps already completed actually meet the required criteria, and to continue the process for the work packages as defined.

Fast Facts About Work Packages

In order to assist definition and project planning, work packages should;

 

  • Be clearly distinguishable from all other work packages in the project
  • Have a scheduled start and finish date
  • Be the responsibility of a team leader
  • Have specific resources assigned from the integrator, service provider and third parties
  • Be scoped from design to delivery
  • Be completely documented in the project book
  • Be flexible enough to adapt to service provider’s internal needs and allow tight cooperation between service provider, solution integrator, and other third parties
  • Be designed to work in tandem with other work packages as required to achieve the desired project outcomes
  • Have the ability to run standalone, allowing a specific offer (statement of work) to be produced for each work package

A Word on Program Management

For complex end-to-end IPTV solution integration projects, strong focus on program management is one of the keys to ensuring the fluidity and interaction between work packages, as well as overall program tracking and communication. It is advisable to have highly experienced program and solution managers as solution implementation integration and deployment leads.

The solution manager role typically involves making sure that all input is gathered, performing an overall status analysis, and consolidating the issues and risks associated with all project teams, including third parties. Specifically for third-party management, the solution manager should have access to all relevant information on the technical and operational aspects of the suppliers solutions.

The solution manager initially manages the project organization setup and resource assignment involving the SI, service provider, and third-party organizations as mentioned above. Subsequently, the manager actively steers the project organization; this encompasses all work-package leaders and teams involved. In order to do this, the manager should be closely aligned with peers in the service provider’s organization, as defined at the start of the project.

Multilevel Discipline

A multilevel project management discipline is recommended to ensure deployment success. This typically involves a program management office structure that is responsible for taking the project from service description through commercial deployment. The project organization should include key service provider personnel who will steer and manage the project.

A time-tested approach, depicted in Figure 5, is to create three project levels: project steering committee, project management and project operational. For smaller projects, only the project management and operational levels are required.

Click here to enlarge Figure 5


Project Steering Committee Level

This level includes representatives of the sponsor and enabler of the project. They articulate the project’s business-related goals and provide the project management level with the authority to manage the project as the leading team. The representatives meet at intervals determined by the business’s size and relevance of the project – typically once per quarter or, for very large projects, on a monthly basis.

Because the steering committee is comprised of executives from the involved parties in the project, it is the highest level of escalation in case of disputes. This approach also ensures executive participation in risk assessment, investment alternatives and project roadblock management.

Project Management Level

The project management team usually consists of program managers, sales managers, contract administrators, financial controllers and technical project managers responsible for field operations and third parties. Depending on project’s overall scope of work – i.e., the number of work packages and their contents — this team can be extended by adding personnel associated with specific functions. These specialized team members can work either full or part-time depending on project requirements and planning.

The project management team, led by a global project manager, acts in a matrix function on top of the standard line organization. This project manager is also responsible for actively managing the project work packages.

Project Operations Level

Project operations are under direct control of the project management level and usually consist of teams gathered from the service provider, SI, and third parties. Depending on the project phase, the operational level teams usually consist of tender, operational, and installation and commissioning staff, as well as business consultants, legal specialists, and engineering staff. Also included are staff with other technological competencies needed by the project management team to achieve specific project objectives. The project operations teams are responsible for delivering project-specific, predetermined deliverables by executing the statement of work defined for their assigned work package.

Conclusion

For a complex implementation such as IPTV, the negative consequences of deployment errors and implementation shortcuts underscore the need for a well-designed project delivery methodology aligned with the service provider’s business goals. Lessons learned based on global implementations have led experienced solution integrators to develop an IPTV solution integration approach that is flexible and also mitigates the most common risks and pitfalls that service providers are likely to encounter.

Most effective is a business-focused approach that breaks down typical project methodologies into specific work packages. These work packages are carefully developed and aligned to the service provider organization and capabilities. They are then executed under strict control from a multi-tier program management organization. Assigning specialists with specific expertise to each work package, and supporting the entire effort with resources such as in house lab facilities, provides both the solution integrator and service provider with a high level of confidence that they will achieve a successful IPTV integration and implementation.

Energy Transformation Technologies

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

The energy utilities industry is very conservative. The combination of long asset life and the absolute priority on safety and reliability has meant that many of the technologies have not changed radically since the 1950s.

Now that is changing. Faced with the rapid shift in energy-consumption patterns, the move to green energy solutions and the evolution of communications technologies, utilities are reassessing their energy delivery strategies.

This article explores the pressures that this industry is facing. It takes a look at how two of the big technology changes — smart grids and smart metering — mandate the need for a cohesive communications strategy.

The Industry Pressures

There are four fundamental pressures on today’s utilities:

  • The changing pattern of electricity consumption, driven by the extensive proliferation of air conditioning resulting in the peak period of electricity consumption moving to the heat of summer.
  • The move toward green energy solutions, epitomized by the European Commission, which requires (among other things) 20% renewable energies in overall EU energy consumption by 2020.1 This is not uniquely European: politicians everywhere are pressuring utilities to accommodate environmental change.
  • Consumers and regulators alike are demanding highly reliable energy delivery, vital in maintaining an efficient national economy.
  • Financial stakeholders require better operational efficiency. Large-scale investment in new energy infrastructure is to be avoided where feasible. Given that the basic electricity infrastructure lacks the flexibility to track swiftly changing market pressures, utilities are examining two complementary approaches to increasing the efficiency of their networks:
  • Intelligent networks
  • Smart metering

Intelligent Networks

Intelligent networks (a term covering smart grids, substation automation and distribution automation) aim to improve the utilization of the network assets by monitoring and controlling them far more closely than previously possible. For example:

  • Make the energy-carrying capacity of a network dynamic by measuring in real time climatic conditions such as instantaneous temperature or the cooling effect of the wind, thus enabling better network utilization.
  • Today’s distribution networks have little real-time measurement or control. Intelligent technologies will provide a far more accurate picture of demand, energy flows and network incidents, yielding a major improvement in energy reliability and asset utilization.
  • The modern techniques of “condition monitoring” — monitoring the network assets for telltale signs of performance degradation — allow a very accurate forecast of equipment failures to be built. This means that assets can be replaced on a just-in-time basis, delivering significant investment savings and increased energy reliability. The benefits of intelligent energy networks are huge. They extend the lifetime of the assets, optimize power flows, increase energy reliability and enable investment to be focused where it is most needed.

Smart Metering

Smart metering is primarily intended to make consumers more conscious of energy consumption, thus leading to reduced consumption during peak periods and an overall reduction in the production of greenhouse gases.

Informing the user is merely the first step: facilitating the desired action by consumers requires two other capabilities:

  • The use of tariffs to encourage energy consciousness (whereby high instantaneous demand during periods of peak demand is charged a premium price)
  • Direct control of major household appliances

Smart metering brings its own set of challenges. This is a new application using new technologies — the smart meters, the communications network to access millions of devices and the platform to manage them.

Communications as the Key Enabler

As stated above, the technologies used in the energy networks have not changed radically since the 1950s. Thus, communications networks have, in general, been built up over several decades using ad hoc, application-specific technologies, with little network sharing and, in many cases, with little management or control.

To deliver the benefits of intelligent networks and smart metering, a homogeneous, reliable, flexible communications infrastructure is essential. Today, it is feasible to create a single cohesive network that will support:

  • Latency-critical applications such as teleprotection
  • Existing modem-based SCADA applications
  • Intelligent network and smart metering applications using modern communications protocols
  • IEC61850 Ethernet-based services for future automation applications
  • Other future applications, such as closed-circuit TV (CCTV) for physical security, which will expect the latest communications protocols to be supported This results in a typical infrastructure as shown in Figure 1.


In this architecture, the multi-service optical transport layer ensures the support of both mission-critical operations such as teleprotection services, with their very tight technical requirements, and existing applications using traditional TDM-based protocols. Simultaneously, it efficiently transports packet-based data for new services and applications on the same infrastructure.

The IP/MPLS layer supports new packet-based applications traffic, including substation automation, smart metering and security services with a virtualized network using Layer 2 and Layer 3 VPNs. Corporate voice, video and data applications can also be supported, with traffic management features ensuring that mission-critical operational traffic is given priority.

This network architecture delivers high reliability with secure support of mission-critical operations traffic. The associated end-to-end management capability makes this network easy to manage, allowing utilities to lower the skill barrier for staff.

It has allowed existing applications to be migrated and supported without disruption and has enabled systems operators to realize the consequent efficiency and reliability improvements.

For those starting down the road to energy network transformation, experience suggests a number of steps:

  • By starting with the high-voltage substations, a modernized multi-service TDM and Ethernet transport footprint can be established that will support all utility services.
  • Substation transformation to Ethernet services will be driven by asset life cycle management or new plant construction. New Intelligent Electrical Devices will simply plug in to the transport footprint established earlier.
  • Distribution automation and smart metering should be considered as complementary activities (where the regulatory regime permits). In this way, an access network can be built that supports both these applications in a single, cohesive network. This requires that the complete future access requirements are considered at the outset of the project, otherwise utilities risk perpetuating application-specific, vertically integrated networks, thereby aggravating communications inefficiency.

Conclusion

Energy utilities are on the cusp of the first real technology change in network and metering technologies since the 1950s. This change is predicated on the requirement for a robust, reliable and flexible communications network that will support existing mission-critical applications as well as the evolution to modern smart grid and smart metering technologies.



The Future: Smart networking, LonWorks, the IP network, and open source computing are going to drive a different world

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Lunch7

At Apple co-founder Mike Markulla’s Venetian Hotel-styled private theater in this posh Palo Alto suburb, the chairman of Sun Microsystems, makers of Java, and CEO of Duke Energy, makers of 36,000 megawatts of electricity in coal and nuclear plants, shared the stage.

The CEOs found common ground pushing a vision of the future where light switches are superfluous and any device that uses power is networked, easily automated, and far more energy efficient. Holding up a standard Sun identification card, Sun Chairman of the Board Scott McNealy noted that it was faster than an Apple II computer.

“We can connect anything that is more than a dollar in value,” he said.

But McNealy’s declaration that he was “over” the network was the real highlight of the hour-long event to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Markulla’s post-Apple endeavor, Echelon, which makes sensors and controls for all types of devices.

“I want my stuff to be on the network”   said McNealy.

Coming from the CEO of a company that once had the tagline, “The network is the computer,” the comment drew laughs from the small crowd. McNealy admitted that his statement probably was “not the best marketing thing.”

Crowd

Beyond his glib distaste for social networking, McNealy and Jim Rogers, Duke Energy’s CEO, presented a serious case that the future of networking lies with your toaster, lights and curtains. By turning “dumb” devices into nodes on a smart network, the businessmen said that the entire economy could be restructured to use energy more efficiently.

“I believe the most energy efficient economy is going to be the one that provides the greatest standard of living for its people,” Rogers said.

Rogers also noted that utilities would have to redefine their businesses away from commodity power and start making money by helping their customers control, not just use, their electricity.

“I see embedded in every customer six to eight networks and on each network there’s three to five applications,” he said. “What if I create value by optimizing those networks and those applications?”

That’s a major change in thinking for utilities that previously considered their job finished when the electricity hit your meter.

Though they painted grand visions of what the future could hold, both executives said there were many challenges to be met in creating the network of things.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” McNealy said. “There’s a lot of work to take the complexity out of client devices and to take the cost out of client devices.”

Jimrogers

Cost and complexity have slowed the adoption of home automation systems, but all three companies clearly see an opportunity to capitalize on the high cost of energy and increasing concern over carbon emissions.

McNealy even dropped Echelon’s protocol LonWorks into his solution for the future.

LonWorks, the IP network, and open source computing are going to drive a different world where per capita energy usage can plummet as green becomes the new black”, he said “And I mean black in terms of making money.”

Rogers’ vision was equally amibitious and showed that the North Carolina-based CEO knew his big-thinking Silicon Valley audience.

“At the end of the day, what I’m gonna provide is universal access to energy efficiency the way we provided universal access to electricity in the last century.”

Images: Jim Merithew. Top: Scott McNealy speaks to the crowd. Middle: The crowd is bathed in green LED light during a demo of the room’s fancy lighting system. Bottom: Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers lays out his plan for the future of a smarter electrical grid.

Twitter: Messaging service apps for home automation – Send a tweet to flip the switch by remote control

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Twitter_growing

Thanks to its open-ended design and a thriving user community, Twitter is fast outgrowing its roots as a simple, easy-to-use messaging service. Enterprising hackers are creating apps for sharing music and videos, to help you quit smoking and lose weight — spontaneously extending the text-based service into one of the web’s most fertile (and least likely) application platforms.

Hardware hackers have set up household appliances to send status alerts over Twitter, like a washing machine that tweets when the spin cycle is through, or a home security system that tweets whenever it senses movement inside the house. Others have incorporated Twitter into their DIY home automation systems. Forgot to turn off the lights? Send a tweet to flip the switch by remote control.

“It’s so simple and easy to access, people are thinking of more and more uses for the platform,” says Dan Wasyluk, creator of the Twitter-based Snipt service. Wasyluk launched Snipt last week as a way to let programmers share short snippets of code over Twitter.

Launched in 2007, Twitter quickly became a darling of the life- and mind-casting interneterati. But some saw boundless possibilities in the 140-character limit, and what was a slow trickle of innovation is now quickly elevating what is essentially a micro-blogging service into one of the internet’s most important technologies, along with instant messaging and e-mail.

Though its main use — sending and receiving short messages to your social network — is often dismissed as time-wasting trivia, Twitter’s potential as a broad internet platform is just beginning to be fully realized. Twitter has grown into a ubiquitous presence — you can send tweets from your phone, your desktop and your browser — that has potential to not only facilitate communication among humans, but even to make machines do our bidding.

Businesses are starting to be built around it. Botanicalls, for example, sells a Twitter-enabled hardware kit that lets your neglected house plants alert you when they’re thirsty.

The company has developed a tiny moisture sensor attached to a circuit board with an Ethernet port. You stick it in your plant’s soil, and when the moisture levels drop below a certain level, your plant sends you a tweet begging to be watered.

Using Twitter’s application programming interface (API), a programmer with even a modest amount of experience can create a web app that gathers public data from Twitter, or uses it to send links, commands or bursts of information.

“[Twitter’s] open API is a huge reason it has grown into such a platform,” says Wasyluk.

File sharers were the first to rush in. The photo-sharing service TwitPic, one of the oldest Twitter mashups, lets users send pictures to their followers by storing a photo on its servers, then passing the link around on Twitter. Now there are newer apps like Tweetcube and Twittershare, which let users share larger media like MP3s and videos.

Twitter’s limited format of short, text-based announcements are a natural match for sites like TrackThis, which you can use to get status updates on FedEx and UPS packages, and Tweetajob, which job seekers can use to get real-time updates about new job openings.

Anyone who needs help quitting smoking can use Qwitter to monitor their progress. Those looking to lose weight can turn to TweetWhatYouEat or TweetYourEats.

Hardware hackers have put a new spin on the Twitter mashup — as it turns out, just about anything that can be plugged into the internet is capable of talking to Twitter.

Programmer Ryan Rose rigged up his washing machine to send him a tweet when his clothes are done. He just follows his machine’s twitter account (it’s PiMPY3WASH) and he knows when to go downstairs and move his undies to the dryer.

Linux hacker Shantanu Goel set up a video camera and some motion-sensing software on a PC connected to the internet. If anyone breaks into his house or goes snooping through his room, the software detects the movement and sends out a tweet.

Tech-savvy environmentalists can install Tweet-a-Watt, a gadget that plugs into your wall socket and connects to your wi-fi network. Once a day, the pocket-sized device broadcasts stats of your daily energy usage to Twitter.

Whether that sort of transparency results in embarrassment or bragging rights can be determined by a system like the one created by Justin Wickett. The Duke University student wired up his home so he could turn his lights on and off remotely, just by sending a text message to Twitter from his mobile phone.

Home Tweet Home: Energy-Savvy House Broadcasts on Twitter

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

We’ve had the connected home available for sometime now. With home automation connected to the internet, and able to report and control devices on site and remotely from any internet enabled device (PC or cell/mobile device). But this the first report of a house connected to the social network; Twitter.

Read on……

Twitterhouse
Home improvement is gaining a new connected visual dimension.

One house twitters about its energy usage, another posts every item in its refrigerator and dozens more provide live data on how much electricity their solar panels are generating.

An increasing number of homeowners are installing monitors on their houses that broadcast information on the Internet about the physical environment in and around where the houses sit.

This revolution is being led by infotech guys like the Google engineer we wrote about, or the creator of the Twitter system, Andy Stanford-Clark, who works for IBM’s Pervasive and Advanced Messaging Technologies team. And as Katie Fehrenbacher noted over at Earth2Tech, the creators of Flash are now hard at work on an energy monitoring and automation system called Greenbox.

Smart homes today

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Broadband internet and digital TV are seen as the first steps towards smart, networked homes, as they have the potential to be gateways into homes for a wide range of smart applications. Their take up has been rapid; by March 2006, 43 per cent of UK homes had broadband internet connections compared to two years earlier when only 15 per cent did.6 The take up of digital television is driven by government policy to switch all TV to digital by 2012 and 77.2 per cent of British homes had digital TV in some form as reported at the end of 2006.

The technology industry sees smart homes as the next big thing and many companies have smart or digital home programmes. But analysts argue that consumers’ key concerns are still simple problems, like getting all the computers in a house to link to the same printer.

Other than the most technology literate or the very wealthy, consumers do not yet seem to be demanding the advantages of networked homes. Smart homes are therefore more likely to evolve as people purchase different features that link up to each other over time, rather than through an instant technological upgrade.

Even so, many companies and groups are already looking ahead to fully smart homes. The Automated Home initiative (TAHI) aims to “promote, provide the environment for and launch large scale deployments of ‘smart houses’ and the services…for them so that people can see and experience the benefits the connected home can bring and demand them for themselves.” Their working groups look at different aspects of smart homes and want to avoid features developing in isolation, as the ability of smart features to communicate and work together through a home network will be essential to their desirability. TAHI has been feeding in to the European level development of a smart homes specification, as well as developing a mark of interoperability.

A number of BEAMA members already produce smart home technology and the association has a smart homes working group. It sets out what a smart home is, what it can offer and the technologies available on a comprehensive website that promotes their members and provides developers and homeowners with information. Such initiatives will be increasingly important to the development of smart homes, as features start to become commonplace.

Smart homes around the world
The smart homes market in most developed countries is similar to that of the UK, with some key exceptions. South Korea is a clear leader in this area and looking at their achievements illustrates the real potential of smart homes.

Smart homes in South Korea

Following a financial crisis in the 1990s South Korea invested heavily in developing innovative technology. They have introduced the world to the internet fridge, oven and washing machine and are a laboratory for developing the home of the future.

This will help to solve their domestic challenge of dealing with a greying population, as well as providing them with massive export opportunities.

In 2007 the Ministry of Information and Communication will have invested approximately £247 million in supporting the development of original information technology (IT). Part of this will support home networking, which has already received loans to develop 44,000 networked homes. The ultimate aim is to network 10 million homes, with plans to introduce a home network building certification system.

South Korea’s investment in networking is such that they are increasingly looking beyond the smart home to the smart city. The networked home strategy is now part of a larger project to network entire cities, called U-city, which is being promoted by around £11.5 million worth of subsidies to local government bodies and the construction and housing sectors. Dongtan New Town, Korea’s first U-city, is being tested and rolled out from March 2007 and all 1,010 residential units are now networked.

Home networks in South Korea are provided by LG Electronics’ HomNet product or Samsung’s HomeVita. Lotte Castle apartment complex in Seoul is an example of fully networked homes. They have wireless broadband and a HomNet environment that is controlled via TV, a remote control or a keyboard. Cameras relay real time images from other areas of the home and the outdoor playground, DVDs can be copied onto the home’s hard drive, gas and electricity use is tracked, a health monitor checks blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate and there are on-screen controls for the washing machine, the microwave, the air conditioner and the oven.

The entire home can be controlled remotely by mobile phone and residents will be notified of any problems, such as the gas being left on, and can get real time images of their home over the phone.

Other networked homes have voice activated controls, refrigerators that can update residents on their contents and mirrors that display their daily appointments, as well as toilets that send health updates to their doctor.

The focus of smart homes in South Korea is to make life easier, rather than environmental benefits. But as the environmental performance of homes becomes increasingly important in Europe, a key export market, these aspects are likely to be developed and highlighted. The UK’s pursuit of smart homes will be nowhere near as single minded but it does demonstrate what is possible and provide scope for applying South Korean innovations to our environmental ambitions.

Smart homes in the UK
Smart homes in the UK can be found at extreme ends of the housing spectrum.

Wealthy homeowners looking for the latest technology to manage their homes have been installing smart networks and smart applications are also being put into social and sheltered housing because of their healthcare and energy efficiency benefits.

Retrofitting existing homes to make them smarter and to lower their environmental impact, is also now possible.

The mass housing market is between the extremes of high-end mansions and social housing. The average homebuyer is not demanding smart features and developers have no interest in a home’s performance once it is sold, so they have no driver to install energy saving smart features. The market for smart homes, building contractors generally considered that they would remain a rarity except in high-end properties and sceptical about the potential of smart retrofitting, believing it will remain a niche area.

In contrast to this pessimism, smart home contractors and manufacturers are very positive, regarding “the forward march of the intelligent home as almost inevitable.

How to Use Your Home’s Wiring for Networking

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Powerline adapters can help you bridge the gaps in your home network.

Until recently you had two options for setting up a computer network in your home – wired or wireless.

First on the scene was wired networking. The upside is clear and reliable connections between your computers and all the devices attached to your network – printers, external storage, etc. The downside: unsightly wires everywhere.

Then along came wireless technology. No more wiring clutter. All your networked devices could “talk” to each other throughout your home without stringing wires across the floor, over doorjambs and around corners. The use of the new “802.11n” technology with its ability to send wireless signals further and stronger makes the wireless option even more popular.

However, in some homes wireless networking literally runs into “walls.” Your home may have “dead spots” caused by such things as lathe and plaster, steel, aluminum or stone walls, alcoves or other building design elements that block wireless signals.

But, fear not, there is an easy fix to these situations. It is called “powerline networking.”

Networking companies like D-Link offer Powerline Ethernet (wired) Adapters, inexpensive devices (under $140 per pair) that take advantage of your home’s existing electrical wiring. You’ll need at least two to create a network, and more adapters can be added depending on the configuration of your home.

Simply plug them into your wall sockets to create or extend the digital network in a house or apartment. It turns every power outlet into a possible network connection where you can plug computers, digital media players, game consoles, network storage units and other devices in your home’s network.

Certain home appliances, like vacuum cleaners or hair dryers, can slow down your powerline connection, but the overall benefits far outweigh any performance loss and are well worth the cost. In fact, in addition to plug-and-play installation, D-Link’s powerline adapters can prioritize Internet traffic to allow larger data files like movies and video to flow through your network at greater speeds than word processing documents, for instance. They also have security and power-saving green features to boost your network’s effectiveness.

So go ahead. Plug in a powerline adapter on your patio, put your feet up on the chaise lounge and watch your favourite movie on your laptop.

10 Key Features in a Home Automation System

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

The ability to manage your home’s electronic systems from one main control system can make your household run smoother, feel better and save energy.

The trick is to find a system that will meet all the demands of your household, now and in the future. Most systems can be tailored by a custom electronics professional to provide all the benefits you desire, but there are some key features that will make his job easier and your interaction with your system more enjoyable.

In no order of importance, here’s our top 10 key features:-

1. Interoperability
The beauty of an automation system is its ability to tie diverse electronic devices together so they can perform as one unified system. Getting these devices to work cohesively can be simple or complex, depending on the “openness” of the automation system. The more open a system is, the easier it will be for the lights, thermostats, audio/video equipment, security devices, motorized shades and other electronics to communicate with each other. A good example of interoperability is having the lights turn off, the thermostats set back when you press a “goodbye” button on a keypad or when a motion sensor notices that you have exited a room.

To support interoperability between multiple electronic devices, manufacturers of home automation systems often form connectivity partnerships with other manufacturers. Automation products should be able to communicate seamlessly with a wide variety of other systems—from architectural lighting and irrigation, to multiroom audio.

Another way automation manufacturers are fostering interoperability is through adherence to technology standards. For example embedded Zigbee wireless control technology into automation products so those products can network easily with other Zigbee-enabled products.

The more connectivity of different devices that occurs between different partners and manufacturer components linking different communication standards has to be adopted, with more choices that need to be made.  “It allows designers/installers to select the best suite products for their clients.”

2. Remote Access
Automation is all about being able to control things in your home, and part of that is being able to change the settings quickly and easily if your plans change. More often than not, plans change when you’re not at home, so being able to communicate those changes with your home automation system remotely is one of the most revered features of an automation system. Remote access capabilities allow you to monitor your home’s environment and alter the settings of the lights, thermostats and other gear if necessary all from your laptop, mobile phone or iTouch. David Slade of Davmark believes that remote monitoring facility should be incorporated as part of the core offering and be provide free of charge from any service caharge. “Why should you pay to access your automation system when you’re already paying for broadband access?” Proive a gateway to link uo to the outside world!

Remote access also allows your installer to tweak your system without having to make a house call, which is always cheaper and more convenient.

3. Expandability
The way you live in your home five years from now will probably be much different than the way you live in your home today. Moreover, technology will continue to evolve, introducing a completely new generation of products to the marketplace. In the future, you may also want to add new rooms—like a recently finished basement or an addition off the back—to your automation network. Or, you may simply want to start out with just a few features when you first put in your system then add new capabilities later as you have the money. For these reasons, it’s important that a home automation system can be easily expanded both vertically to incorporate additional products and horizontally to support additional rooms.

Manufacturers can support vertical and horizontal expandability by designing their systems to speak a common network language, like IP (Internet Protocol), and by offering wireless retrofittable products that can communicate with a home’s existing network of wired products.

4. Upgradeability
Those touchscreens and black boxes may look impressive, but it’s what you don’t see that holds the true power of an automation system. Software is the driving force of an automation system. The more sophisticated that software is, the more the system can do. As technology changes, so must the software. Before you buy any system, be sure the manufacturer (or your installer) will be able to unlock and download software updates automatically.

5. Variety of Interfaces
There are a number of different ways you can control the electronic systems in your home: by pressing the buttons of a handheld remote or wall-mounted keypad, by touching colorful icons on a portable touchpanel or by sliding your finger across your iTouch. Depending on your family dynamic, budget and preferences, you might like to utilize a variety of different controllers (most people do, says David Slade), so make sure the automation manufacturer offers a wide selection of interfaces.

6. Time-Tested
No one, except for serious early-adopters, likes to be the guinea pig, so choose an automation system with a proven track record. Same goes for the person who installs the system into your home. Look for an installer who’s been installing the same systems for a number of years,” suggests David Slade. You should be able to gather some historical background about manufacturers and installers from their company websites.

7. Strong Dealer Network
“You can have great equipment, but you’ll need a highly trained and certified installer in order to get your money’s worth. It’s a no brainier real” says David Slade. Good home automation manufacturers go above and beyond to create a strong brand and support network, by offering continual education and training and by supporting multiple dealers in a single geographic area. For consumers, having more than one dealer to choose from is important. When more than one dealer carries a particular product in your area, pricing is more competitive and should one dealer go out of business, there’s someone else you can call to pick up the pieces.

8. Commitment to Energy-Savings
One of the hottest topics in the consumer media is energy conservation. Automation systems can help save energy by turning off electronics devices automatically, and some do this better than others. Be sure to check out the energy-saving features of a system before you buy.

9. Layer of Protection
Everyone always wonders what happens to an automated house when the power goes out. Does the system forget how to operate the lights when power is restored? If an automation system has the appropriate back-up protection, you won’t have to worry about that.

10. Can-do Attitude
This goes both for the designer, installer and the manufacturer. Automation is only beneficial and practical if it fits your lifestyle. Since everyone’s lifestyle is different, the manufacturer should provide its installers with the tools to customize the system to your specific needs. If there’s something that you want your system to do and your installer says it’s impossible, either he or the manufacturer has failed you. Keep looking.

Smart homes – building management systems for residential applications

Monday, June 8th, 2009

With the widespread adoption of digital technologies there will be a profound change in how we communicate with others. Even how, in our homes, we shop for goods and services, receive news, manage our finances, learn about the world, and, conduct business, manage resources, find entertainment, and maintain independence and autonomy as we enter old age.

These activities increasingly take place in the home. As our perception of banks, shops, universities, communities, and cities change in response to new technologies, so home building management systems are taking on an extraordinary new importance.

As it exists today the home cannot meet these demands or take advantage of new opportunities created by social and technological changes. Most people live in spaces poorly tailored to their needs.

Until recently, the majority of homes were wired with little more than the main electrical circuits, a few phone lines, and a few TV cables. Times have changed. Electrical and security system contractors routinely install low voltage communication network cables for a wide range of intelligent home or ‘smart home’ systems.

Services and equipment that utilise these networks include: security; home theatre and entertainment; telephones, door-phones and intercoms; PC and internet networks; surveillance cameras; driveway vehicle sensors; communicating thermostats; motorized window blinds and curtains; entry systems; and irrigation systems.

Smart homes
‘Smart home’ is an alternative term for an intelligent residential building, or an intelligent home. A few years ago these concepts weer considered futuristic and fanciful. Now they are reality. These terms are now commonly used to define a residence that uses a control system to integrate the residence’s various automation systems.

Integrating the home systems allows them to communicate with one another through the control system, thereby enabling single button and voice control of the various home systems simultaneously, in pre-programmed scenarios or operating modes.

The development of smart home systems focus on how the home and its related technologies, products, and services should evolve to best meet the opportunities and challenges of the future. The possibilities and permutations are endless.

Home automation network (HAN)

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

A basic overview of HAN architecture for AMI

The push for more consumer involvement in smart grid initiatives is slowly becoming more evident as companies and utilities attempt to grasp the overall impact of government mandated deployments of the smart meter. Understanding what the consumer needs and wants is quickly rising in importance with the goals and objectives of the energy industry.

There are various views and opinions as to how the US federal and state mandate translates to practical solutions. Primary as a viable solution is the deployment of smart meter technology. But not all smart meters are the same, hence the need for a more encompassing option. The complicated field of metering with its canopy of applicable hardware and software results in making intelligent decisions a difficult and rocky road for AMI proponents. Some have focused instead on defining what a smart meter is or isn’t. The resulting business models may or may not be implementable as technology changes the landscape or costly if human behavior fails to adjust to and embrace the deployed solution.

One thing is certain, that a smart meter without interaction from the occupants would diminish the gain in energy use reduction and jeopardize the utilities’ attempts at conservation and global warming compliance.

If the solution isn’t found through meter deployments, then it stands to reason that involving the consumer via technology and education makes sound business and good social sense.

This brings us to the need for a home automation network (HAN) – either a simple system or a complex one. Many envision the HAN with the smart meter as the center or focal point for data gathering and exchanging. The smart meter is the gateway through which the rest of the world garners information about the occupant’s electricity consumption. Others would rather have an independent gateway within the premise that is more controlled by the occupants with privileges allocated to the utilities or an AMI service company. The meter then would be just another peripheral device in the network that links the local network with the outside utilities. The internal home gateway would restrict and determine what information is available to external sources. The former is more in line with what the utilities are implementing while the latter favors the telecom, cable, and IT industry approach, which focuses on broadband home networks and less on low power mesh.

Planning a HAN in an uncertain market that is constantly changing and evolving can be daunting to any individual or company considering AMI deployments. Most seek simple solutions that require very little capital or are constrained to limited HAN implementation. Deploying programmable communicating thermostats (PCTs) is one way of semi-automating the home environment for demand response. Using in-home displays that link the external meter to a remote handheld or tabletop unit is another. Whatever the technology used, these early approaches to consumer involvement demonstrate a growing awareness for HAN planning and consideration.

Critical to planning any future HAN system is the communications architecture being considered. The current emphasis on mesh radio technology and the availability of completely different mesh protocols (ZigBee, Z-Wave, OpenRF, and so on) within each of these radio systems creates both opportunity and potential disaster when considering HAN development and deployment. Other networked communications architectures include power line modems, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and RS485 – all which add layers of complexity to deploying HAN technology. Coupled to this melee of competing options is the dearth of home networked products that provide meaningful and practical demand response solutions.

Making the right choice of communications backbone may well be defined in the legacy system requirements, the data requirements, the environment in which the HAN is located and how the HAN is to be used by the occupants. Cost and ease of deployment/implementation along with the level of after sales support required are considerations that impact a successful planned launch. Whatever choice is made, the decision to go with one or the other could also limit the availability of peripheral devices that can operate within that chosen communications architecture and by default the functions and features available to the consumer. So choosing wisely is paramount.

The correct solution to determining a HAN configuration is the “backwards” approach. Simply put, deciding what end result the network must accomplish and then determining which technology is best suited to do this. In most instances, a cost analysis report or a business case based on reliable information would suffice in evaluating the technology being considered. In other situations where the technology is not proven or the decision makers are not knowledgeable, a trial or test site may be necessary to familiarize everyone with the option.

As mentioned earlier, the market forces driving HAN development and deployment are directly related to the industry and its perspective of market need. Other drivers such as political and global issues also impact consumer anxiety and perception within the market. Hence developing a strategy for HAN architecture must take into consideration those drivers.

A typical HAN may consist of the following basic functional components:

  1. Node controller/gateway/central controller. A node controller is common within mesh networks for maintaining the communications link and exchanges necessary within the protocol. It may or may not be the gateway. The gateway, on the other hand, is the portal through which multiple conflicting protocols link and talk seamlessly. A central controller can be all three plus a data manger/data logger. It manages the network from a user perspective (such as a home computer or a home media server which can act as the controller).
  2. Peripheral devices. The fingers and hands of the HAN are seen in the sensor devices that gather information or provide levels of control. Such devices, such as a PCT, provide a measure of remote command and control to the premise HVAC system. Internal to these devices is the communications backbone which links the devices to the central element of the network.
  3. Software. There are myriad functions that must be accomplished for a HAN to successfully fulfill its intended design. For example, the mesh protocol software manages the mesh network communications within a low power radio configuration. At the gateway, the different protocols must be translated correctly and the data sent to the correct recipient. Throughout the network, some form of security must be employed – whether through software encryption or access denial methodologies. There is a large amount of embedded code within the peripherals that program the tasks associated with those devices. These command and control codes must be incorporated into a central controller which provides remote interaction with the sensing devices.

External to the HAN is the smart meter which may be the gateway to the utility. The smart meter may also just be a peripheral if the HAN has its own dedicated gateway. A smart meter that is very basic or uses wired access may need a HAN that incorporates a gateway. Shifting the gateway away from the meter may be a better cost solution or a strategic decision based on any number of factors. When deciding on the HAN to meter interfacing, these type decisions need to be considered.

HAN basic

A basic HAN (wired and/or wireless)