Readers will like to know the results of the recently held CEBus Developers Conference held by the CEBus Industry Council in San Francisco. At the conference the Home Plug and Play Specification was introduced to the 80 some odd companies that attended. A marketing track was also presented to the overflow audience.

As mentioned in a previous column, the Home Plug and Play Specification ( HPnP) was proposed to provide a protocol neutral platform for development of interoperability in the home and industry. Attendees were briefed on the importance of this concept by Bill Howard, Editor of PC Magazine. Bill shared the view of PC Magazine and many others, that convergence of electronics products, services and content will drive interoperability at home and work. He outlined many of the technologies that computer hardware and software vendors are and will offer that impact on services and functionality delivering and requiring interoperability.

Through this briefing, and many that followed, it became clear that the vision of HPnP is right on target. Since the conference was attended as well by telecommunication service providers and hardware companies, utility companies, computer vendors and chip makers; it was possible to grasp their feelings of what HPnP will do.

Quite unanimously, they indicated that the view of the home and business environment as one that will contain several kinds of networks of both wide and narrow bandwidth and varying speed, was correct. In their minds, HPnP provides a cross-network language and grammar that will allow development in all of these environments to afford complete interoperability.

To support this, attendees were not just briefed on the technical details of the specification, but also on how HPnP works over networks like IEEE1394 and others, across the Internet, with Java, and how to deal with PC interfaces. You can gather that the developers and companies attending were very impressed with the completeness of this vision, and also just how well it worked with the CEBus protocol, which has also been extended to encompass this wider universe.

In support of this activity, CEMA, the sector of EIA responsible for CEBus also announce the completion of the separation of the CAL language from the CEBus protocol stack and the assignment of its own IS-721 moniker. This was a requirement for the progress of HPnP, and it was apparent from the speed of this development just how well embraced this concept has become. Attendees were also briefed on the IS-633 CEBus conformance document, which is now in ballot form, and which will form the basis of an ongoing testing and certification program now under development as a standard to assure interoperable products for the consumer.

To underscore the impact of progress on the CEBus and HPnP fronts, several key product announcements were made at the conference. First, chip maker Intellon introduced their P300 series, and also offered a range of CEBus and HPnP solutions……all at well under $10, and in some cases under $5. Attendees felt that the pricing allowed development of items that could compete in the marketplace.

Smart Corporation introduced a total line up of products, some 15 in all, that will appear this year. These included home controllers, bridge products, smart light switches and receptacles, energy management and security modules, and others. Smart’s vision is a modular approach to building total home management. Under their system, one can control their home with or without a PC, and they can start with a very modestly priced solution, and later add powerful functionality. This is precisely the kind of pattern offered by HPnP, and in this case executed using CEBus.

Integrated Media Systems (IMS) introduced their code-named Stargate product as the PC-home solution. Unlike Smart, IMS views the basis of control and communication as the PC. In keeping with the vision of HPnP, the controller not only makes items CEBus compatible and PC compatible, but also offers a gateway to X-10 devices. Now in one system, we can have interoperability between several protocols! The HPnP vision at work, and at the start. Truly, the attendees felt that this was the mark of an important and successful launch.

Honeywell briefed attendees on the nearly 100 HPnP products that they will sell this year. A major commitment to this market. Leviton and AMP shared their product plans for items in ’97. Domosys showed their development tools and discussed their summer launch of their CEWay chips. Diablo Research toured attendees at their facilities and showed the work they are doing on deploying CEBus and HPnP today. Tecom showed their new Interamp product for both home and utility usage. Attendees were also briefed on many successful utility deployments under way.

You can see that this conference was busy and successful. More importantly, much of the product and concept being shown will see the light of day shortly. Some is on sale today.

To support development. CIC announced an HPnP “Plug-Fest”, to be held in August. CIC invites all companies and developers to attend with their finished products or prototypes. At this technical meeting, companies will have the opportunity to “plug” their products together and view the interoperability of their items within the HPnP specification. Developers can assess the promises and challenges to their products.

Here, the HPnP spec will be “road-tested” and any changes needed to improve the interoperability promised can be implemented. After the “plug-fest”, the HPnP spec will be updated to version 1.0, since it will have proven itself in the real world. This “plug-fest” will also serve as an excellent basis for developing testing procedures leading to certification of product interoperability.

Look out for more developments from CIC on the CEBus and HPnP fronts in the coming months; and also look for the many products forthcoming. We are looking forward to an even bigger conference next time! If you are developing or deploying home automation, management or interoperable products you should attend or join CIC. Come visit us at our web site Thank you!