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HomeGrid Aims for the Smart Grid

Carol Wilson
12/23/2009

Home networks using the G.hn standard can help position service providers to compete in the smart energy market, according to HomeGrid Forum , the marketing arm of the G.hn standard.

The Forum earlier this year added members from the smart grid community (see HomeGrid Adds G.hn Supporters) to its rolls, and is now preparing to demonstrate new capabilities at CES in January.

While multimedia support for multiple devices in the home remains the bread and butter of home networking, there is a mini version of G.hn that supports remote energy monitoring and management, says Mario Finocchario, director of business development for Aware Inc.

"We can make profiles that are full-featured and very robust for multimedia and all the traditional home networking stuff we have been talking about," Finocchario says. "But we also have agreement in G.hn on a lower-cost and lower-complexity smart grid profile so that companies that are developing white goods, smart-energy type products, and in-home displays that are showing how much energy is being consumed can build in low-cost, low-performance networking."

The two networks can coexist and interoperate but will serve separate functions, Finocchario notes. HomeGrid Forum believes there is an opportunity for telecom service providers to use their two-way digital infrastructures to offer smart grid technology to utilities that haven't yet built out two-way networks to support smart meters and remote energy management.

HomeGrid Forum is leveraging the role of its president, Intel's Matthew Theall, as a member of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel that is part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) , according to Finocchario, and is talking to major appliance makers that have set their own timetables for adding smart meter technology to their gear. The lower-cost G.hn profile fits their need to keep appliance costs down while making them smarter, Finocchario adds.

HomeGrid Forum is also working with other groups such as the Society of Automotive Engineers.

"There is a lot of thinking that is going on about plug-in electrical vehicles, such as cars that will have hard drives for uploading iTunes," Finocchario says. "There needs to be a way to let the car get authenticated on the smart grid to get charging and a higher bandwidth application that will bring all your iTunes in or upgrade the GPS system with new maps. We are working with the Society of Automotive Engineers to show how G.hn could fit in, and bringing information back to the ITU."

Although G.hn was approved by the International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) last October, there has been some controversy, particularly among the backers of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) and the HomePlug Powerline Alliance , who bemoan the lack of backward compatibility. (See ITU Touts G.hn Standard.)

The result has been some confusion among service providers and a greater need for G.hn backers like the HomeGrid Forum to advance the standard's case. (See G.hn No Slam Dunk With Service Providers.)

Finocchario says G.hn is seeing growing support among service providers, pointing to Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) joining the HomeGrid Forum's board. Many service providers are waiting only for G.hn products to come out (expected next year) and are ready to test them, he believes.

"They are very knowledgeable -- they are paying attention, watching the standard."

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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