Confusion reigns throughout the smart grid industry regarding home area network (HAN) communication standards. Despite industry efforts to narrow the field to one wired and one wireless communication standard, the debate only seems to be getting stronger. In the meantime, large producers of HAN devices remain on the sidelines unwilling to produce special products to support each HAN communication standard.

The time has come for industry to support a different approach to the HAN. One backed by key utilities and manufacturers, such as the USNAP Alliance. This group is completing an industry specification that decouples HAN communication from the product, allowing manufacturers to produce smart grid devices that can support any utility HAN. Rather than embed HAN communications directly in the device, the USNAP specification recommends adding a low cost communication port. The port can accept a smart grid module supporting any popular wired or wireless communication standard, such as ZigBee, 6LoPAN, WiFi, Z-Wave, RDS, Insteon, HomePlug or G.hn.

Key utilities backing the USNAP Alliance include AEP, Alliant Energy, Benton PUD, CLECO, Direct Energy, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Portland General Electric.

SMART GRID DEVICE ECOSYSTEM EMERGES
Industry support for USNAP is growing among the smart grid community. Some of the key companies backing the alliance include Aztech, Comverge, GE Consumer & Industrial, Google, Itron, Radio Thermostat, Sensus, Trilliant and Nuri Telecom. Alliance members have been working hard to improve the scalability of the original USNAP specification published last year.

Significant enhancements to the specification include expanded device classes to support appliances, water heaters, in-home displays, thermostats, load control devices, irrigation and more. Recognising the significant role of Smart Energy profile, the specification will support the Smart Energy 1.0 cluster to provide a standardised framework for HAN communications. The group plans to add support for Smart Energy 2.0 when it is completed later this year.

USNAP SOLUTIONS SHOWN AT CES
The first snapshot of products making their way to consumers appeared recently at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Show attendees got an early glimpse of what the future has in store to help consumers manage their energy, homes, devices and lives.

USNAP founding member Radio Thermostat Company of America announced it had jointly developed a new home automation platform with Marvell and chumby industries to power a series of new energy efficient solutions for the smart home market.

Founding USNAP member, Sensus, and CES Innovations Award winner, 4Home, showed smart meter connectivity to 4Home’s home control services platform, which will enable consumers to monitor and control their energy use through a mobile phone, TV, computer, or touch panel. This energy management solution took centre stage at Verizon’s LTE pavilion, where 4Home demonstrated these capabilities over the 4G wireless network using connected devices by Marvell and Trane.

Bulogics showed its Smart Grid Home Controller™ which uses a U-SNAP interface to connect between a ZigBeebased utility smart meter and a ZigBee Smart Energy HAN as well as to Z-Wave-based home control devices.

OurHomeSpaces demonstrated its iPhone application that monitors and controls home temperature, HVAC, and irrigation systems.

Intwine Connect introduced the MyIntwine Personal Energy Network that includes the Intwine Connected Thermostat, available through a partnership with Radio Thermostat Company of America, and the Intwine Connected Whole- House Power Monitor, available through a partnership with power monitor provider Blue Line Innovations.

Additional connected devices are expected to be added to the network ecosystem throughout the next several months including future green products from Monster Cable.

www.usnap.org