This article is an excerpt from a report entitled, Home Automation and Utility Customer Services, written by Dr. Wacks and published by Cutter Information Corporation. Please see the Cutter web site ( ) for an outline of the report and ordering information.

The full report is intended to guide energy utility companies in developing new customer services that use home automation networks. This except focuses on home automation systems developed outside of North America. News about significant announcements over the past few months is included.

Figure 1. Home Automation Networks

An excerpt in the December issue of HTINews summarized the SMART HOUSEÃ’ system, while the Echelon LonTalkÃ’ protocol was featured in October. The CEBusÃ’ protocol was described in the August issue of HTINews. The full report covers additional protocols including Home Electronic System (HES, an international standard) and X-10Ã’ , as shown in Figure 1.

The Japanese Home Bus System

A consortium of Japanese companies, supported by government agencies and trade associations, has specified communications standards and equipment for home automation. This encompasses links among appliances, telephones, and audio-video equipment using twisted-pair wires and coaxial cables. This network is called the Home Bus System (HBS).

Background on HBS

Applications of HBS include control of household appliances, audio-video, and access to external services from home. Examples of external services are shopping at home, tele-medicine, and remote learning.

Figure 2
The development of HBS has been funded by one of the largest capital investment in home automation anywhere. HBS has been a joint project of MITI, the Ministry of International Trade & Industry, REEA, the Radio Engineering & Electronics Association, and EIAJ, the EIA of Japan (no relationship to the EIA in Washington). Also, major Japanese consumer electronics companies have participated.

Figure 2 from Hamabe Laboratory of the Fukuoka Institute of Technology in Japan illustrates the topology and interconnectivity offered by HBS.

News from Japan

A few weeks ago, a consortium of Japanese companies announced plans to extend HBS. The companies involved are Hitachi Ltd., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (owner of the Panasonic brand), Mitsubishi Electric Corp., and Toshiba Corp. The expanded HBS is scheduled for completion early next year.

HBS currently specifies transmission over twisted-pair wires and coaxial cable. The consortium plans to add power line carrier (control signals embedded on the electric power line) and radio media. The intended application is communications among appliances for demand-side management to control usage of energy. As reported in EE Times (January 5, 1998), a Matsushita technical liaison manager stated that an energy management technique is to be “more sophisticated than those that simply turn appliances on and off.” A gateway is anticipated to link HBS with an audio/video subsystem.

European Home Automation

European Home Systems (EHS)

The European Commission, the administrative body of the European Union, funds research projects in information technology under the collective name ESPRIT with matching sponsorship from European companies. A European industry and government collaboration on home automation that started in 1984 became ESPRIT II Home Systems (ESPRIT project 2431) and has received a cumulative investment by the European Commission of about $70 million.

ESPRIT Home Systems was renamed European Home Systems (EHS) in 1995. The companies originally funded to develop EHS formed a trade association in 1991 called the European Home Systems Association (EHSA). EHSA now maintains the EHS standard and promotes applications of EHS by European manufacturers. The EHSA Standards Control Committee resolves problems encountered in EHS, while the EHSA Marketing Committee allows members to exchange ideas and develop strategies.

There are 36 members of EHSA, including trade organizations outside Europe. The “Founder Holding Member” is Philips Electronics N.V. Other “Founding Company Members” include British Telecom, Legrand S.A., Daimler Benz GmbH/AEG GmbH, Thomson Consumer Electronics S.A., Thorn EMI PLC, and Zeltron SpA. Among the objectives of EHSA are accelerating the process of standardization and encouraging international harmonization.

EHS — CEBus Cooperation

In October 1995, The CEBus Industry Council (CIC) announced the formation of an alliance with the European Home Systems Association (EHSA). The Chairman of EHSA stated, “Through this alliance, similarities shared by both technologies will be reviewed to identify components common to both. Although the respective specifications will not be changed, the similarities enjoyed should help manufacturers design to both specifications using common components.”

The announcement of cooperation between CEBus and EHS is important to potential manufacturers. Even though convergence to a uniform protocol is not the immediate goal, the message is clear:

– Manufacturers will have some assurance of considerable support for standard protocols.

– The differences between CEBus and EHS will be clarified and limited.

– Common applications will allow common marketing of products intended for the North American and European markets.

The Executive Director of CIC stated that applications for CEBus and EHS should offer the same functionality as perceived by consumers. This uniformity of functions will allow common marketing programs in Europe and the U.S. even though the products operate on different home automation networks.

Building Automation Protocols

Building control systems have a long history starting with the invention of the thermostat about a century ago. Communications network principles have been applied to building control to create building automation. Building control is a well-established industry with many vendors offering competing subsystems.

Some manufacturers have adopted common infrastructures. Two prominent trade groups have been established in Europe supporting completing infrastructures: BatiBUS and EIB. Consortia of companies have been formed to support each protocol. BatiBUS Club International is led by Groupe Schneider in France, while the EIB (European Installation Bus) Association (EIBA) is led by Siemens.

BatiBUS and EIB are similar communications protocols designed for building automation. BatiBUS and EIB networks typically link sensors and actuators to building systems that control HVAC, security, access, and life safety. Supporters of both protocols are promoting the adoption of each for home automation applications.

Protocol Convergence

A major announcement affecting the building and home automation markets in Europe was made in June 1997. The Executive Director of EHSA announced that the EHS, EIB, and BatiBUS communications protocols would be merged into one protocol. Also, the respective trade associations, EHSA, EIBA, and Club BatiBUS, would be combined into a new association. Both the technical and business arrangements are expected to completed during 1998.

Among the goals outlined that motivated the convergence were:

– Ease of installation and use

– Good cost/performance ratio

– A wide range of products and applications

– Multiple uses of the existing infrastructure

– A consistent user interface and appearance

– Efficient training

– Product interoperability

The physical layers of BatiBUS and EIA, both based on twisted-pair wiring, are retained in the converged protocol. Other media supported include power line carrier, radio, and infrared. Application models include a shared-variable mode and a device-oriented mode. Common objects and application profiles promote interworking. A network installation handbook is planned with specifications for connectors and cabling, adapted to local codes. The convergence agenda also includes product certification, configuration tools, and installer training.

The mission of the combined protocols and trade association was stated succinctly as:

– “Competition on applications and not on communications.”

– “One joint association with a clear message to the market.”

© Copyright 1998, Kenneth P. Wacks