The role of broadband service providers (BSP) in providing services that allow consumers to manage their home energy consumption.

The explosion of internet-based services such as video, VoIP, social media, and web services of every kind continues unabated. At the same time, the speed of internet connections to the home, and the reach of interconnection among devices within the home are both increasing rapidly. As the electrical network is upgraded to include smart grid capabilities, the relationship between broadband networks and the smart grid is leading to new services for consumers.

The home gateway (HG) connects the home with the broadband network and supports home data networks based on WiFi, Ethernet, power wiring, and other media. The HG helps to recognize and prioritize delay sensitive data like video (e.g. IPTV), and it allows the BSP to manage and support the customer’s home network. The HG is also used to provide value-added services such as cordless telephony and media backup services. As HGs become more powerful, flexible, and reliable, we expect BSPs to offer a richer set of services to consumers on the HG platform. One such service is home energy management (HEM).

The Home Gateway Initiative (HGI) has worked with many BSPs and manufacturers to set out use cases and a technical architecture for HEM. In a nutshell, HEM as defined by HGI is a broadband service that allows consumers to manage their electrical energy consumption by providing awareness of current and past consumption and pricing information. It may also allow consumers to schedule energy intensive tasks at times of day when pricing is lowest, to prevent overload conditions, and to select among energy providers. All of this may be done locally from within the home, or remotely.

While HEM works alongside the smart grid, it is not necessarily closely coupled to the core smart grid capabilities like AMI/AMR, demand-response, and management of the electrical network itself. Some requirements for the BSP to support HEM are: 

  • Access to electrical consumption data (this typically would come from a connection between the HG and the smart meter) 
  • Access to pricing signals/changes (this could also come from the smart meter, or from an HG connection to a cloud-based portal) 
  • Interconnection with significant electrical load devices, particularly those amenable to intelligent scheduling. Examples are smart appliances (e.g. washing machines), legacy appliances connected to smart plugs, lighting, heating, and hot water. There is a wide set of candidate interconnects for these purposes, many of them already available at the HG, including DECT, G.hn, Homeplug, WiFi, Zigbee, Z-wave, etc. 
  • User interface. There are several candidates for display and management of the HEM service. One option is to unify the HEM service with other BSP-based services like IPTV (e.g. the energy use data can be displayed on a particular TV channel). Another is to provide user interface via smartphone, tablet, or home computer.

The HG-based HEM service takes advantage of a flexible, always on, always present platform that is widely deployed in broadband customers’ homes. HGI and its members are working to publish a common set of use cases, technical architecture, and a set of requirements for the HG to support HEM. HGI’s approach to specification and testing allows manufacturers to more quickly deliver services and capabilities such as a service-aware HG, and the service logic and interconnections needed to support home energy management.

www.homegatewayinitiative.org

Duncan Bees, Chief Technical and Business Officer, Home Gateway Initiative