Interview - Home Automation Networks

Author: Dennis McCain, Murata Wireless Solutions

MurataThe Home Area Network has different meanings depending on the context. In the context of Home Automation, it is the wireless connectivity to enable security and convenience in the home and includes wireless home security, lighting control, HVAC control, and home entertainment control. In the context of Smart Energy, the HAN is the network of devices which communicate wirelessly with the smart meter primarily using  the ZigBee standard and includes devices like programmable communicating thermostats, appliances, in-home power usage displays, and load-control/demand-response devices. The primary purpose of the Smart Energy HAN is to make it easier to reduce power and help utilities better manage the power grid.

 

1.     What is your definition of a HAN (Home Automation Network)?

The Home Area Network has different meanings depending on the context. In the context of Home Automation, it is the wireless connectivity to enable security and convenience in the home and includes wireless home security, lighting control, HVAC control, and home entertainment control. In the context of Smart Energy, the HAN is the network of devices which communicate wirelessly with the smart meter primarily using  the ZigBee standard and includes devices like programmable communicating thermostats, appliances, in-home power usage displays, and load-control/demand-response devices. The primary purpose of the Smart Energy HAN is to make it easier to reduce power and help utilities better manage the power grid.

 

2.     Which wireless standard will dominate the HAN?

There are several wireless standards used within the home including WiFi, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth with no single standard dominating. Each wireless standards has advantages and disadvantages in terms of range, throughput, and robustness to interference and the choice depends on the application. Clearly, WiFi is virtually ubiquitous in homes and will continue to be the wireless standard of choice for many applications in the home, and is pushing into Smart Energy as well. ZigBee is integrated with nearly all of the new smart meters and is currently the de facto standard for the 2-way communication between the HAN and smart meter enabling the realization of the Smart Grid. Bluetooth is ubiquitous in mobile phones and PC's and is the de facto standard for short-range wireless connectivity. It is clear that there will always be multiple wireless standards in the HAN.


3.     What is ZigBee and why would it part of the HAN?

ZigBee is a consortium of over 350 companies and an IEEE 802.15.4 wireless mesh networking standard that includes application profiles for home automation, smart energy, healthcare, building automation, and others. ZigBee is used in many applications requiring short-range, low datarate communications. Notably, it is the wireless standard used for the 2-way communication between the smart meters and the HAN, so it has garnered a lot of visibility in the Smart Energy market. In terms of the HAN, ZigBee allows consumers to closely monitor their power usage and adjust their usage based on time-of-day pricing. It also enables utilities to better manage the power grid through demand-response programs with consumers.


4.     What is your forecast for WiFi in HANs?

WiFi is well-established in the HAN and with WiFi Direct and Smart Energy 2.0, it will be used in more applications in the home. Murata is the #1 global supplier of WiFi modules, and based on our forecast, we see strong growth for WiFi going forward.


5.     Is wireless the only way to go or are wired HANs important as well?

The advantage of wireless HANs in terms of ease of setup is clearly a market driver, but especially with new home construction, wired HANs will still be around.


6.     What does Smart Energy mean in the context of the HAN?

Please see my response above - "In the context of Smart Energy, the HAN is the network of devices which communicate wirelessly with the smart meter primarily using  the ZigBee standard and includes devices like programmable communicating thermostats, appliances, in-home power usage displays, and load-control/demand-response devices. The primary purpose of the Smart Energy HAN is to make it easier to reduce power and help utilities better manage the power grid."


7.     What kind of products does Murata provide for the HAN marketplace?

Murata is the world leader in wireless modules based on WiFi and Bluetooth and with our new focus on vertical markets like Smart Energy, we are developing new wireless modules based on ZigBee and WiFi to address the needs of this market.


8.     What is Murata's strategy for addressing the HAN needs?

Murata has a broad and deep portfolio of wireless modules covering all of the primary wireless HAN standards integrating the IC's from the global leaders in wireless IC design. The high level of hardware and software integration with Murata's wireless modules enables easier product integration and quicker time-to-market required in the evolving wireless HAN market.


9.     What technologies are you focusing on for future HAN products?

The newly formed Murata Wireless Solutions (www.murata-ws.com) is both promoting and supporting Murata's extensive wireless module portfolio in North America and developing new wireless modules for vertical markets like Smart Energy. To address the needs of the Smart Energy market, we recently launched 2 ZigBee modules which can be used not only in Smart Energy applications like smart metering but also home automation and control.

 

Mr. Dennis McCain

Mr. Dennis McCain, Director of Marketing, has 15-years experience in wireless communications research and development. Prior to joining Murata Wireless Solutions, he served in key positions at Nokia leading numerous wireless system research projects within Nokia Research Center. He holds six patents and is the author or co-author of 10 papers and one book chapter. Mr. McCain has an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Louisiana State University.

 

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