Archive for the ‘Smart homes’ Category

Inside an iPad-Controlled Home

Friday, April 9th, 2010

By Steve Crowe
09 April 2010

Lifeware system can be controlled via two iPads for lighting, security, entertainment and more.

iPad-Controlled Home

Apple sold more than , and reports say more than 600,000 have been sold in the first six days.

But how many iPads are being used as the primary interface in a fully automated home?

Paul Hughes, president and founder of Lincroft, N.J.-based HomeBase Systems, claims to have installed the first “fully deployed, working” iPad-controlled home automation system. (See video and photos of the system below).

The residence in Ringwood, N.J., employs a Lifeware automation system that can be controlled via two iPads and one iPhone. The devices can command lighting (individual lights or lighting scenes), security, HVAC, cameras, the pool, two iPod docks, two tuners, three media servers and a Russound audio system.

Hughes says that after the control system was functioning properly, it took only three hours to get basic functionality working on the iPads. He finished the iPad programming by 11:30 on Monday morning, only about 48 hours after Apple’s product launch. “We’re going to go back, of course, and tweak the [iPads] since it’s the first time out of the gate,” says Hughes.

iPad-Controlled Home Automation System
Hughes says the client doesn’t see the value in a dedicated touchscreen. Cost, multitasking and aesthetics were the main reasons for going with the iPad.”Why buy something for $5,000 that has one purpose, when you can buy something that has an infinite purpose for $500,” Hughes says. “It’s a no-brainer. And who wants an in-wall touchscreen that’s outdated the day you put it in? The iPad doesn’t need to go in-wall and won’t hurt the aesthetics of your home.”Count Hughes as one installer who doesn’t think iPads should be installed in the wall. “If something bumps the iPad, we now have an iPad broken on the ground or a docking port that’s mis-shaped and could potentially cause damage,” says Hughes. “The iPad functions well enough on its own, I’m not sure it needs to be wall-mounted. But if there’s a secure way to do that, we’d be open to looking into it.”Hughes says the client has already asked him to program two more iPads. “The client is looking at is this way: if two iPads cost $1,000 and one of them breaks or falls in the pool, it would be nice to have an additional one that would be cheaper than buying a touchpanel,” says Hughes. “If I had $5,000, I could buy 10 iPads instead of one touchpanel. Kind of makes touchpanels obsolete.”So how does Hughes think the iPad will affect the home automation industry?

“My plan is to sell many more automation systems,” he says. “The stumbling block for clients in the past hasn’t been the control system, it’s always been the cost of the user interface. With the iPad, this problem has been completely removed. This is a tremendous victory for the future of my business. I don’t have to sell expensive products that don’t multitask. And I get to charge each time I program an iPad or add one to the system.”

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Introduction to smart home

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

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.

Renewable energy with smart grid technology – The new complex relationship turning everthing upside down

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

The energy world is about to turn upside down. With the coming of smart grid, the electricity consumer customer becomes the electricity seller; the passive home appliance becomes the active energy manager; and the local 11KV DNO network becomes the power generation network itself.

Such an upheaval means that the energy world needs to start thinking about a new business model, says a recent report by IBM Global Business Services Energy and Utilities.

The fact that IBM is advising the energy industry is itself a point of interest, yet another signal of the new market opportunity emerging within the energy arena for information technology. This opportunity has drawn the attention of not only IBM, but also CISCO, Google and many others.

So how does IBM see the energy business model changing? First consider what it has been for the last century: a grow-and-build model. Utilities encouraged more and more consumption, and they built power plants and transmission to the far corners of the nation to serve the growing demand.

“The success of this strategy was remarkable. In the United States for example, from 1920 to the mid 1960s (excepting the period of the Great Depression), usage increased at seven percent annually – about five times the rate of usage of all forms of energy combined and three times the rate of economic expansion in general,” says the IBM report, “Switching perspectives: Creating new business models for a changing world of energy.”

But today we no longer need such expansion. The grow-and-build model is obsolete, yet continues to be used by utilities. As a result, utility stocks, which in the 1940s-1960s significantly outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average, now lag well behind.

Instead of expanding their territory, utilities are being called upon to change their product — to offer energy that is more efficient and clean and service that is more consumer-friendly.

Smart grid technology can help utilities meet today’s imperative. But it brings with it a new and complex relationship between customer and utility. This is because smart grid allows consumers to control energy usage via a home computer. With smart buildings into the mix and their appliances can control energy usage without the consumer doing anything. And with increased use of solar energy and other distributed technologies, the home also becomes power plant and storage facility for the electric utility.

“Companies willing to tackle industry model innovation and sit at the nexus of new complex relationships among business partners and customers will be well positioned to create and capture new demand for emerging products and services. Strong growth in revenues and profits – albeit accompanied by some risks – is achievable in multisided business models because of the embedded network economies of scale (i.e., margins increase with network size),” says the report.

IBM calls this new business model “a multisided platform.” What does it look like?

“Manufacturers, retailers and shoppers all benefit from having a single location where they can meet and transact business. A wider variety of stores and services brings more shoppers; more shoppers bring higher sales volumes for manufacturers and lower costs for retailers (and, in theory, also lower prices for shoppers). Thus, some element of network economy is bundled into the shopping center value proposition. The platform owner (the shopping center operator) extracts some of this value in the form of rent to store owners and, in some cases, service fees to shoppers,” says the report.

If indeed this is the future, it won’t be embraced quickly or easily by utilities, which are notorious for their caution. For those who do move forward, here is some of what IBM advises.

Be sure your current customer base is sizable enough to ensure that you get a meaningful head start.

But don’t hurry. History has shown that later movers may actually benefit from standing back from the first wave of early adopters.

Time the announcement of your new business model carefully to avoid shocking long-time constituencies or alerting rivals too soon.

But in the UK, the cat has already leaped out of the bag!

The UK Regulator – Ofgem’s duty to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development promoted this duty, placing it on an equal footing with its duties to meet reasonable demand and financing authorised activities. The principle objective, to protect the interests of consumers, refers to future as well as existing consumers. These changes underline Ofgem’s important and developing role in shaping the future of gas and electricity industries in a sustainable manner.The UK is facing a future that involves increased geopolitical risks to energy security, potentially higher energy prices and the need to do much more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while making sure everyone can afford to adequately heat their homes.

While much of what is needed to deliver sustainability is not within the regulators direct control, a responsibility to facilitate change by engaging in the debate, trying to persuade relevant players to make changes where required and contributing information and expertise where it can.

Actions speak louder than words:

So whats already implemented in the UK?

  • Smart metering (CoP10) with import and export facilities – Coming to every home in the UK – See my blog on smart metering for more information
  • feed-in tariffs (FITs) for small-scale low-carbon electricity generation from 1 April 2010 – Customers own micro energy generation agreements connected to the local DNO grid – See FITs for more information
  • Climate Levy Tax incentives – Look at you next bill and spot this tax!
  • ROC’s – See my blog for more information
  • REGO – See my blog for more information
  • OGEMs – See my blog for more information
  • REC’s – See my blog for more information

The next step:

  • Informing the customer and proving ‘idiots’ guides to understand the available technologies and energy savings available.
  • Providing engineering design  and installation solutions.
  • The correct customer incentives to explore and implements these technologies.

Smart homes: Intelligent heating controls

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Intelligent heating controls (which can also control cooling, such as air conditioning) can be seen as a step beyond smart meters. Smart meters make people aware of their energy use, while intelligent heating controls allow residents to refine their energy use to heat and cool their home in the most efficient way possible.

Intelligent heating controls have two key areas of environmental benefit:

  1. improved control:
  • set time and area preferences, e.g. keeping bedrooms cooler than the rest of the house
  • control heating remotely and automatically turn it off when a house is empty

2. improved efficiency:

  • adjust when the heating switches on throughout the year and respond to outside temperature changes on a daily basis
  • detect occupancy levels to turn heat off in unoccupied areas
  • monitor temperature with a sensor in every room, not just one for the whole house
  • enable more efficient boiler operation

Enabling households to interact more closely with their heating controls, particularly when combined with information from smart meters, will help to raise awareness of energy use and prompt reductions, although this will rely on residents being motivated to engage with the system. But intelligent controls can also deliver energy savings independently of resident involvement by improving the efficiency of theway that heating systems operate. Further benefits will be the ability to integrate and optimise the efficiencies of low carbon systems like solar hot water heating.

Firm evidence on the expected energy savings is hard to obtain. Much of the industry does not have any evidence, as energy efficiency is not yet a selling point for their customers. Control systems in commercial buildings have delivered up to 30 per cent savings, but this is not expected in a domestic setting where systems are smaller and individuals have far greater control over the settings. Research is currently underway to clarify what the expected savings are likely to be. Once this is clearer, controls have the potential to become a serious option for improving a home’s energy efficiency, especially in existing homes where easier energy efficiency options may not be feasible or in homes where the easier options have already been implemented. They can be retrofitted with minimal disruption and will also become more attractive as people become familiar with other intelligent applications, like smart meters.

Smart Homes: Use new and existing policy mechanisms to support smart features

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Various policy mechanisms already exist that could support smart features, particularly once their benefits are better understood. These will help to raise the profile of smart features and firmly place them in the range of options available for lowering the environmental impact of homes. Some new approaches will also help to support smart features.

The existing policy mechanisms discussed are:

  • home information packs
  • the code for sustainable homes
  • building regulations
  • energy efficiency commitment
  • energy end-use efficiency and energy services directive

The new mechanisms discussed are:

  • a strategy for existing stock
  • an intelligent buildings rating

Home Information Packs (HIPs)
HIPs are mandatory when selling homes with three or more bedrooms and a roll out to the rest of the market is expected at some point. HIPs are prepared by sellers for homebuyers and include an energy performance rating, based on the fuel costs of running a home, and an environmental impact rating, based on carbon dioxide emissions. Both ratings will be familiar to people, as they are the same design as the energy efficiency ratings seen on white goods. The assessment process set out the running costs of a home and the intention is to make low impact, energy efficient homes more desirable because of their lower running costs.

Homes will receive ratings from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) with specific aspects of the homes, such as the walls or roof, rated separately and the running costs broken down into heating, lighting etc. The assessment will include recommended measures to improve energy efficiency and the expected cost savings. Sellers do not have to achieve a certain rating in order to sell their home, but this could change and would be a key way to incentivise environmental improvements.

Alternatively, purchasers could be required to implement a certain number of the assessment’s recommendations within two years of purchase. This would increase the market for a wide variety of energy saving options and, with a solid evidence base in place, smart features will be a useful addition to the range of options available to homeowners.

Smart features and HIPs
Smart meters are likely to assist the rating process, as they will be measuring, recording and displaying a home’s resource use. But if smart features are to become a viable option for homeowners looking to improve their rating, the assessment process will have to recognise them as ways of improving environmental performance.

CLG did consider including smart features in the assessment process but they settled on measures that deliver guaranteed levels of energy saving, whereas definitive values can not yet be assigned to smart features. This is a fast changing area though and the list of features included can change. Further research will strengthen the case for smart features and other features will have to be included once conventional options like wall insulation become more widespread.

The assumptions behind the energy ratings present a more fundamental barrier, as they assume certain conditions in a home in order to compare the energy savings delivered by different options. But smart features deliver savings in a different way. Rather than assuming that a home is heated to 18ºC for 16 hours per day on a weekend (as the assessment does) and then comparing savings, the benefit of smart features is that a whole home would not be heated unnecessarily if only a few rooms are in use, or if people are not even at home. The impact of behaviour change on the savings delivered will also need to be considered.

The assessment process will therefore have to become more flexible so that it can recognise the environmental benefits of smart features. But it is crucial that it does, as the assessments in HIPs are one of the few mechanisms that cover new and existing homes, where smart features have a lot to offer.

Require homes to achieve certain energy and environmental performance ratings before they can be sold and recognise smart features in the assessment process as ways to achieve an improved rating.

Code for sustainable homes
The code came into effect in April 2007 and sets national standards for the sustainability of new homes. It has six levels, with minimum standards of energy and water efficiency that have to be achieved at each level, as well as a range of additional points that can be gained for other sustainability measures. The code covers:

  • energy/carbon performance
  • water use
  • materials
  • surface water run off
  • waste
  • pollution
  • health and well being
  • management
  • ecology

After a positive response to the CLG’s proposal to make a code rating mandatory, they are consulting on further details. Developers can have their homes assessed against the code and inform purchasers of the level achieved.

Alternatively, purchasers will be informed that their home only meets building regulations standard and effectively has a zero rating against the code. This aims to raise awareness of a home’s environmental features among consumers and make sustainability a greater factor in decision-making. To avoid confusion, the rating will be linked with the energy performance assessment of new homes and is likely to be presented in HIPs.

Homes will not be required to meet a certain level of the code. But the government’s 2006/07 consultation, Building a greener future: towards zero carbon development proposes strengthening the building regulations in line with the code so that, over time, new homes automatically reach ever higher levels of the code just by meeting building regulations.

The consultation suggests strengthening the building regulations to achieve a:

  • 25 per cent improvement by 2010 = all new homes meet code level 3
  • 44 per cent improvement by 2013 = all new homes meet code level 4
  • zero carbon by 2016 = all new homes meet code level

Is the code smart?
Smart features are not singled out in the code’s assessment as a way of gaining additional points, but this could change when the savings delivered by smart features become clearer.

The real opportunity for smart features in relation to the code lies in the minimum energy and water efficiency standards at each level. As the building regulations get tougher and higher standards of the code have to be met it will get increasingly challenging to build homes that meet the minimum requirements for each level.

Once house builders have included the easier options for improving energy and water efficiency they will be looking for solutions that enable them to deliver the further improvements that they require. Smart home proponents believe that they will be able to offer the final set of savings that house builders will be looking for.

This view is also reflected in the Technology Strategy Board’s motivation for looking at smart features, as they are aware that the building industry will need support in meeting the challenges presented by these policy proposals. As with the energy and environmental assessments of homes discussed above, the code will have to display flexibility in incorporating smart features into the process and recognising their benefits. But it is vital that it does, as smart features will have an increasingly important role to play the higher the level of the code that builders have to meet.

Building regulations
Merging the building regulations with the code for sustainable homes provides a significant opportunity for the take up of smart features, but these developments will only cover new homes. There are also opportunities for using the regulations to improve the energy performance of existing stock.

Amendments to the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act allow CLG to require homes that are changing occupancy or doing large scale building work to bring the rest of the home up to the building regulations standard on conserving fuel and power. So far, CLG has not chosen to enact this.

Other suggestions include requiring homeowners building extensions or doing significant refurbishment to bring the rest of their home up to a certain energy efficiency standard (based on the code or the energy performance assessment in HIPs). This would guarantee whole-home improvements in energy efficiency and smart features will be a good solution in homes where that is a challenge.

Apply the energy efficiency aspects of the building regulations to the whole home when extensions are being built or significant refurbishment done.

Energy efficiency commitment (EEC)
EEC requires all energy suppliers with over 50,000 customers to deliver energy savings in their customer’s homes. This contributes to carbon emission reduction targets by improving the energy performance of existing homes. Suppliers are given an energy saving target proportionate to their customer base and are currently working to EEC phase 2 targets.

EEC 1 ran from 2002 – 2005 and suppliers exceeded the required savings
EEC 2 ran from 2005 – 2008 with a target more than double that of EEC 1
EEC 3 is runing from 2008 – 2011 and will change to a carbon emission reduction target

EEC3 will become known as the carbon emission reduction target (CERT) from 2008 and will require a further doubling of EEC2 targets. EEC credits various energy efficiency measures with delivering certain amounts of carbon emission reductions and the measures covered by CERT have already been finalised. Smart heating controls are included, but the clear winners are still options like cavity wall insulation. This has been the method of choice for meeting EEC targets so far and, given the savings it delivers, its low cost and the 10 million homes still without it, it is likely to remain so for some time.

CERT does however provide some opportunity for smart features, as discussed above.

Suppliers will be allowed to meet a limited portion of their commitment through ‘innovation activity’ that explores measures whose carbon savings are still uncertain, and where savings depend on behavioural change. Suppliers will not be penalised if they fail to deliver the expected savings and once carbon savings are established, the measures in question can be added to the general range of measures recognised by EEC/CERT. This mechanism is ideal for exploring smart features, as many of them involve behaviour change and require further research to better understand the savings they will deliver.

The future of CERT up to 2020 also provides a strong driver for smart meters. The government envisages energy companies working with customers to reduce energy use, with a new business model that makes this a profitable activity. But suppliers will only be able to achieve this if they have the frequent and accurate data on how their customers use energy that smart electricity meters will provide. Without them, energy companies will not be able to evolve into the energy service companies envisaged by government.

Introduce provisions to ensure that suppliers take advantage of the innovation activity element of CERT and use it to trial smart features. Energy end-use efficiency and energy services directive. This EU directive was agreed in November 2005 and was implemented in2008. As long as it is financially reasonable, it requires:

  • the installation of meters (new or replacement) that accurately reflect energy consumption and provide information on time of use
  • billing based on actual consumption that is presented simply and frequently enough for customers to regulate energy consumption

The directive is an ideal opportunity to promote smart electricity meters, as they are the only solution that will allow both increased information on energy use for consumers while enabling suppliers to provide accurate bills. Smart electricity meters are also crucial to the future of smart homes in general. Some pressure is  on the government seize the opportunity presented by this directive and to provide a mandate for a smart electricity meter roll, with a requirement for smart electricity meters in all homes within 10 years. The roll out will not happen immediately, but it is a critical first step that will enable energy companies to start making real progress.

Provide a mandate for smart electricity meters being requiring homes to have one fitted within ten years. Include clear milestones and require the provision of free real time display options to all homes to illustrate consumption.

A strategy for existing stock
Smart features can make a useful contribution to lowering the environmental impact of existing homes, because of the challenges they present to many of the easier, more conventional options. The code for sustainable homes provides a comprehensive approach to environmental impacts for new homes and the same thoroughness would be welcomed when looking at existing homes.

It would be helpful to bring the various policy mechanisms that can incentivise environmental improvements in existing homes into a comprehensive strategy. CLG’s review of the sustainability of existing stock may be a precursor to this, but existing homes will need to be addressed in a more strategic way if they are to make a real contribution to the UK’s carbon reduction targets. And a coherent strategy is required if the goverments ambition of all homes becoming zero carbon over the next decade is to be realised.

Develop a strategy for improving the environmental performance of existing homes so that they can contribute to reducing domestic carbon emissions.

An intelligent buildings rating
TAHI is exploring the idea of an intelligent buildings rating and the Building Research Establishment (BRE) is also working with BERR to develop one. Some countries already have this, such as Japan and South Korea, but they assess the number of smart features in a building, rather than the business and lifestyle improvements that the technologies support. BRE aims to focus more on what smart homes enable. As smart features in homes become more common a smart rating could be included in HIPs. It would make a home’s intelligence an increasingly key feature in decisions, in the same way that existing policies aim to raise awareness of a home’s environmental performance.

With the consideration of including an intelligent buildings rating in HIPS as smart features develop.

Smart Homes: innovate with the way that environmental benefits are assessed

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Smart features are unique in their delivery of environmental benefits, as they are influenced by the way that residents engage with them. Cavity wall insulation will deliver a quantifiable amount of energy saving regardless of occupant behaviour.

Intelligent heating controls, for example, will not, as their benefits depend on the settings that residents decide on.

Many smart features will deliver a certain level of environmental benefit regardless of resident activity. In addition, if people install smart features because they are required to improve the environmental performance of their home, they will have a pressing incentive to make the most of the benefits that smart features can offer. But the impact of residents’ behaviour still needs to be addressed when seeking to incorporate smart features into existing policy mechanisms and assessments. Many of the policies discussed below use a set of assumptions that are inappropriate for smart features. These assumptions will need to be rethought once there is clarity on the benefits of smart features and they start to have a higher profile in efforts to improve the environmental performance of homes.


Be innovative and flexible with policy mechanisms in order to recognise and incorporate the environmental benefits of smart features.

Smart water meters

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

The development of smart water meters has also not progressed as quickly as smart electricity meters, as the debate on whether to universally meter water is still underway.

Only a quarter of UK homes are currently metered and a negligible percentage of these have smart water meters.

The potential environmental benefits of smart water meters are their ability to:

  • reduce consumption
  • reduce peak demand
  • detect leaks and increase efficiency

Metering trials conducted since 1970 have consistently resulted in water use falling by 5 – 21 per cent. It is generally assumed that water meters can reduce demand by an average of ten per cent by making people more aware of how much water they use. Smart water meters have the added benefits of being able to provide more detailed information on consumption and presenting it in a more user-friendly way, as well as enabling variable charging to reduce peak demand.

The size of the UK’s water system (number of reservoirs and pipes) is determined by peak demand in the summer, but it is driven by a small percentage of the population with very high consumption. Their use requires higher capital investment in infrastructure, with the associated environmental impacts, and the costs are passed on to the whole population. It would be preferable to introduce a higher tariff in summer which would be applied above a certain level of use. People would therefore pay more for discretionary use (e.g. excessively watering gardens or filling paddling pools every day), which is likely to reduce overall demand. Smart meters would be required for this, as ‘dumb’ ones would not able to assess consumption patterns against the seasons and differentiate between discretionary and necessary use if, for example, consumption is high because of large family.

Smart water meters can also detect leaks in homes by measuring flow rate. Current estimates suggest that one third of water leaks are in domestic properties, where customers are responsible for them. A smart water meter could highlight them and prevent ongoing wastage once the leaks are mended.

Progress so far
Water companies have been looking at water meters more thoroughly due to increasingly frequent water shortages and the potential for smart water meters to help reduce capital investment requirements is a further incentive. The Environment Agency aims for 70 per cent of homes to have water meters by 2030 and the water industry is in general agreement with this. If they are to go for water meters on this scale it makes sense to go straight to smart ones, although not all will. Companies are also mindful of the EU Energy End Use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive and the possibility that similar metering and billing requirements will be placed on them, which makes smart meters yet more attractive.

Work is underway on developing a common data specification for smart water meters but the regulator, Ofwat, needs to be confident that meters will deliver a ten per cent reduction in water demand to justify passing the costs of smart meters on to consumers. This highlights the need for more consistent and sustained research to confirm the data.

And even with sound evidence of a ten per cent drop in consumption from a trial, unexpected weather may still change peoples’ behaviour. They may be willing to pay far more for water to maintain their gardens during a very hot summer, despite more expensive variable tariffs, than a trial that took place in a mild summer may suggest. Suppliers need to have confidence that consumption will fall, whatever the weather, as it will influence decisions about whether to invest in additional water supply capacity.

Progress is required to confirm the extent of the savings that smart water meters offer and to address the complexities created by uncertainty about peoples’ behaviour. But they will be the missing piece that will provide households with a full picture of their resource use alongside smart electricity and gas meters.

Smart gas meters

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Smart gas meters have had far less focus and have frequently been considered in conjunction with smart electricity meters. Once smart electricity meters are in place the easiest way to provide consumers with consumption information on gas would be for the gas meter to share the electricity meter’s display unit. Rolling out smart electricity meters is therefore the crucial first step in getting smart gas meters and dual fuel households will probably be the initial focus.

Three quarters of domestic carbon emissions come from heating and hot water use, but this consumption will only register with people when their gas consumption is displayed alongside their electricity use. So smart gas meters, with their ability to raise awareness of consumption and to prompt reduced use, will be needed in order to make real inroads into reducing domestic energy use. They will also help to maximise the potential of other smart features, such as intelligent heating controls.

Information on daily gas usage combined with the ability to control it better will have a significant impact on peoples’ consciousness of their heating and hot water use. So far though, little research has been done to explore these savings.

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.

Smart Homes: A look to the future – Smart metering and microgeneration

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

The current thinking is that smart homes will incorporate smart electricity meters by the supply authority (and metering operators). This will have the ability to monitor and administrate the export of electricity to the grid from homes generating their own energy on site. This will be of increasing value as microgeneration becomes more widespread.

Progress so far
The government aims to see smart electricity meters in all homes within the next ten years (i.e. by 2017). This ambition was set out in the 2007 energy white paper and was followed by a UK government consultation on metering and billing.

The main driver is the reduction in domestic carbon dioxide emissions that smart electricity meters are expected to provide.

In addition, the UK has to comply with the EU Energy End Use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive by May 2008 and it is widely seen as a key opportunity to promote smart meters. As long as it is financially reasonable, the directive requires:

  • meters that accurately reflect energy consumption and provide information on time of use
  • billing based on actual consumption that is presented simply and frequently enough for customers to regulate energy consumption

Smart electricity meters are the obvious way to comply with these requirements. When paired with a display unit they will fulfil the first requirement and they will allow suppliers to meet the second, as consistently accurate and informative bills will only be possible once suppliers can remotely obtain meter readings through smart electricity meters.

Smart electricity meters are also key to the government’s vision of a shift in the energy industry to a business model where it becomes profitable for companies to work with their customers to lower energy use. Suppliers will need the information that smart electricity meters provide on how their customers are using energy if they are to work with them to reduce their use.

For these reasons we would like to see the government provide a mandate for a smart electricity meter roll out in the near future that requires smart electricity meters in all homes within 10 years. The roll out will not happen immediately, but setting a requirement will be an important first step that will enable energy companies to start making real progress. In the context of smart homes, smart electricity meters are a critical first step in enabling the spread of other smart features.

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.