Big news in the smart grid world was announced last month: Smart Energy Profile (SEP) 2.0 went live. The update included enhanced capabilities and increased communication between devices such as smart meters, energy management systems and plug-in electric vehicles.
The consortium for SEP interoperability, which was developed in 2011 and governs the ultra-low power, short-range communications protocol, believes SEP 2.0 will take ZigBee beyond smart meters in industrial controls and into millions of connected devices such appliances, thermostats and electric vehicles by adding Internet Protocol capability. This opens the way for home energy management networks to receive data from the smart grid.
Currently, most smart meters being deployed use ZigBee Smart Energy Profile 1.0 or 1.x, which uses protocol that was designed specifically for low-power wireless communication solutions. One limitation is that you still need a gateway device or something similar, to convert the ZigBee protocol to Internet Protocol when you want to communicate with other devices, such as home automation devices, white goods or any other device that is connected to the Internet. This gateway function can be integrated into a product or made available in a separate device.
As more and more devices came on to the market that used Wi-Fi as their communication and connectivity gateway, it became clear that ZigBee needed to be a part of the conversation and in 2011 the consortium was formed.
In order for our thermostats to connect to our utility, smart meter and smartphone, one option could be to have more than one communication radio built in. The thermostats will, in essence, be ZigBee and Wi-Fi enabled. If it is necessary for your utility to have access to the information, other home devices might also be enabled this way.
Companies and retail giants like AT&T and Lowes have launched their own wireless-based home automation and security solutions. Have these technologies, along with the increased adoption of smart appliances enabled with Wi-Fi, taken the forefront in the ZigBee vs. Wi-Fi debate?
Three years ago, this article might have read a lot differently. Smart meters were once considered to lead the charge in homes. Are security and home automation offerings prompting the endorsement of SEP 2.0? Will the new technologies and rollouts of the new standard redefine the home landscape or are consumers driving the definition of what they want to see in their home?
During the next few weeks and months, devices will begin to be tested and certified for commercial sale. Only then we will then see the real impact SEP 2.0. A webinar, hosted by Zigbee Alliance, will be held on May 14 and will give attendees an overview of SEP 2.0 and how to implement the standard in order to create innovative applications for energy management in the home.
We all will be looking to see how the next couple of months will shake out in terms of standards, products and policy. How will this announcement impact the emerging smart grid trends? Will products stay on 1.0 or implement the new standard? One thing is for certain; there will be applications for all three of the communication pathways; ZigBee, Wi-Fi and HomePlug…just getting them all to work together might be a different story.