Home Area Network
A home area network is a dedicated network connecting devices in the home such as displays, load control devices and ultimately "smart appliances" seamlessly into the overall smart metering system. It also contains software applications to monitor and control these networks.
The Home Area Market is now emerging within the smart grid sector to serve home with digital application solutions and energy management. Home Area Network has high implications for homeowners, utilities and smart grid vendors, as utilities are seeking means to implement demand side management programs. The installed base of smart home networks globally is expected to increase from 1.5 million homes in 2009 to 14.7 million in 2014.
Figure 1: Home area network (Source: www.asokatech.com)
Building Blocks of HAN
The HAN is a subsystem within the Smart Grid dedicated to demand-side management (DSM), and includes energy efficiency and demand response which are the key components in realizing value in a Smart Grid deployment. A few examples of demand-side management applications are:
- Behavioral energy efficiency
- Technology-enabled dynamic pricing
- Deterministic direct load control.
These applications can be enabled by high bandwidth, two-way, end-to-end communications in the Smart Grid. A Smart Grid that incorporates energy efficiency and demand response increases its value as a long-term infrastructure investment and reduces the time required to achieve a satisfactory return on investment in the short-term.
The latest application of Home Area Networks is installation of smart meters with an in-home display to monitor and manage the power consumption within the networked area. It also allows remote monitoring and control of electric appliances like thermostats etc. "Smart" meters have the capacity to connect wirelessly with the home appliances that contain RF antennas on the same frequency (usually 2.4-2.5 GHz). The meters can, thus, control appliances and generate detailed data on power consumption of each appliance.
The three well-known alliances related to the utility industry in the Home Area Network (HAN) market space that have worked towards technology standardisation are HomePlug Powerline Alliance, Z-Wave, and the ZigBee Alliance.
Zigbee Smart Energy are the global wireless standards that connects the widest range of devices enabling them to work together intelligently and help providing control to its users. These standards have been custom designed to meet the specific needs of a particular business and consumer, like for building automation, health and fitness monitoring, smart homes, advanced remote controls, smarter shopping, LED lighting control etc.
The other set of relevant specifications is HomePlug, which supports networking over the existing home electrical wiring. The HomePlug Alliance is developing industry standard specifications for powerlinecommunication technologies, with partners on over 60 countries. HomePlug certified products available in the market can provide fast and secure home network at every power outlet of a home.
The Z-Wave Alliance is another consortium of leading independent manufacturers who have agreed to build wireless home control products based on the Z-Wave open standard. This means that every product that bears the Z-Wave mark will work with all other Z-Wave products, with no special programming, regardless of who originally manufacturers the item. This has made total home control simple, accessible and affordable to consumers everywhere.
Benefits of Home Area Network
HAN has the following benefits:
- Home Area Network empowers the consumers and allows the smart grid infrastructure to benefit the home owners directly, thus assisting the utility in managing peak electric demand.
- HAN allows the Smart Grid applications to communicate intelligently by providing centralized access to multiple appliances and devices, and has proactive approach to energy savings.
- Utilities can effectively manage grid load by automatically controlling high energy consuming systems with HAN and Smart Grid infrastructure. This results in stress free electric grid avoiding potential blackouts.
- Home Area Networks provide energy monitoring, controlling and energy consumption information about the appliances and devices and hence support energy usage optimization by allowing the consumers to receive price alerts from the utility.
There exists various challenges to HAN, some of them are:
1) One of the major challenge is to integrate various technology solutions, so that smart services such as comfort, automation, security, energy management, and health can be offered seamlessly.
2) Interoperability is another key concern among the technology solutions that needs to be resolved in order for any technology to be acceptable by the market.
3) Consumer privacy and security is an issue that needs to be address.
New Home Network Technologies
New developments in home area networks for home offices, entertainment systems, healthcare and housing sectors are coming up.
The housing industry is an important field for home network technology development. A smart house is a fully networked structure with functions that can be controlled from a central computer, making it an ideal technology for homeowners who travel frequently or for homeowners who simply want it all. Builders are now offering home network options to their customers that range from the primitive system of installing Ethernet cables in the walls, to the cutting edge system that allows management of the ambient temperature from a laptop hundreds of miles from home. These systems can perform a variety of functions like automatically secure entrances, control indoor temperatures and even keep homes clean.
Though it may provide consumer a benefit to manage home energy and devices, it also allows utilities to control these devices remotely thus helping them balance the power load, depending on the needs.
Future of Smart Homes
To display the advantages offered by a smart home network, big corporations have demonstrated a smart network by linking a washing machine and clothes dryer with a TV, PC and cell phone. This network allowed the homeowners to know when their laundry loads were finished washing or drying by sending alerts to their TV screens, instant messaging systems or cell phones.
In other attempts, partnering with home developers is being done to equip new houses with Home Director Model 200, which includes the distribution of video and satellite connections throughout house, using DVD player in the living room to watch a movie in the bedroom, automatically turning on and off lights, and lowering the thermostat at night.
- MeeraBalakrishnan; Smart Energy Solutions for Home Area Networks and Grid-End Applications; Document Number: PWRARBYNDBITSSES; Freescale