Home grid briefing

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start in the home[edit]

Evolution starts in the home with devices like this. The "optional manual or automatic standby functionality for efficient power consumption" will evolve into 802.3at plugs to eliminate wall warts, UPS features and full software control in a multi-port device like this one. When people are used to AC and DC power and data all on one cable to each device, it'll be a no-brainer to think of fridges or water heaters just doing what the TV already does (by then).

push to the grid[edit]

And then demanding that the power grid be at least as smart. Plenty of power companies, like NB Power, are already doing this on their own poles, by running fibre right up to every device - an approach that won't work into the home. Nothing else deployed on the poles could be more reliable than the powerco's own gear, if it relied on power from that powerco and did not have its own backup battery. See transit exchange shed for more details on that issue.

Powercos will eventually need to use the ITU-T G.9960 ("G.hn") standard to move bits over powerline, telephone line or coax to a "smart meter". It is *really* important that they *never* deploy a smart meter that does not meet this standard or cannot be upgraded to it - but quite a few intend to do so, or send data so slowly it is of no use for power management. Once they waste hundreds of dollars per household on this, possibly also charging you for it, it'll be decades before they upgrade these meters - so you have to push hard *now* for this upgrade path to be guaranteed.

BPL services[edit]

Convincing them to roll out universal broadband over power line (BPL) and ethernet-over-power (EoP, G.hn) everywhere, replacing old fashioned monopolies: an Alcatel-Lucent presentation lists some applications

  • "Security : video surveillance...gas, flood or fire alert; Tele-assistance : health monitoring, elderly support, assisted living; Home energy management & climate control..."

BPL supports thus better-than-average services with lower costs, including health care, education, job and business development and energy efficiency/sustainability - without having to subject people to excessive wireless transmissions from high-power centralized transceivers on towers.

fight fixed charges on power bills[edit]

Some powercos try to add fixed charges on power bills to pay for meters or conservation - a very stupid approach compared to requiring powercos to access these other revenues, or get the money by averting maintenance. Any fixed charge on your power bill is a sure sign something is going very wrong.

women's issue[edit]

This may be a women's issue because women are more likely to care for the elderly or vulnerable, spend more time at home, be more vulnerable to crime, care for children and gain more from telework.

"innovative communities"[edit]

The "five Intelligent Community Indicators are broadband deployment, ability to create and sustain a knowledge-based workforce, digital inclusion, innovation, marketing and advocacy. The 2009 Award program also evaluated communities based on their *ability to create a "culture of use" that helps citizens and organizations to make broadband applications a part of their daily lives, which increases efficiency, expands their knowledge and improves living standards. [1].

focus on latency, power reliability, service throttling[edit]

Latency (in milliseconds), power reliability and types of service that are "throttled" are actually more important questions than "capacity". Fixed wireless and satellite, and even some poorly configured or overloaded wired services are "useless for voice, questionable for many other business applications due to latency and type of service throttling, lower capacity and much more expensive, especially when initial setup and in-home devices are added in". Satellite is inherently useless for voice because it takes so long to get a signal up to space and back. So satellite users are allies.

from the edge in[edit]

Since the economics of home grids make the most sense at the very edge of the power grid beyond the reach of wired broadband, connect as much as possible to people complaining about satellite net access. I'd keep restating it this way: "We need a wired service, not a wireless band-aid. Satellite is no good for business, and we need far better integration of power and data, if only to save energy."

I can't reduce this to sound bites easily but here is a very good briefing that outlines the many savings to government and many strategic advantages of fibre to the poles and BPL/EoP/G.hn into the house. I mention also the way that DC devices are going to evolve towards PoE from USB and wall warts for completeness. And list many things we could do with this configuration that are presently done in other countries that we really need to do here, or go broke doing it the old-fashioned way. All that without even getting to the business advantages of real wired broadband, which are considerable.

fibre on the poles - who owns, who pays?[edit]

Fibre infrastructure is being deployed to enhance communications for gov't services such as Dept. of Education, NB Power and possibly ambulance, e.g., the Harcourt school has a dedicated fibre optic cable for communications and connections to government information/networks.

Is government paying for this fibre several times over? It could well be. The schools' use is one payment, government is probably running its own communications over that same fibre optic cable, and NB Power, publicly owned, is paying to run its smart grid and do real time monitoring with it. If the province paid to extend universal broadband to rural residents that would be a fourth payment from the public to Aliant/Xwave for fibre... Other governments, like Australia, have decided to not pay multiple times and instead to deploy the fibre itself and tariff it competitively: http://www.dbcde.gov.au/communications_for_business/funding_programs__and__support/national_broadband_network

So we know how the bits and power get to the pole. How should they get into the home?


Of the various ways to bring bits into the home, broadband-over-power-line (BPL) is the only one that can pay for itself with power savings and safety and maintenance services. IBM and Cisco have bet the farm on this technology, and it's proven faster and more universal than wireless options like Motorola Canopy which don't work in many areas:


This is how the bits get from the house to the meter - a smart meter. Just being able to see how much power is in use can save 10-30% of a household power bill as people realize what they can turn off easily. Kids make it a game.

Home area network[edit]

How the bits and power move around in the house generate more savings: By 2015 we'll see almost every electrical device able to communicate on a "home area network". The power will move through the ordinary AC system to existing wall outlets, but a gigabit of data will move through it also (using the G.hn aka G.9960 standard) to hook up not just computers and TVs but also fridges/freezers and water heaters and even perhaps pumps, lights.


G.hn networks connect everything in the house with no additional wiring. The formal standard name is ITU-T G.9960 and describes how to move up to a gigabit of data over existing coaxial, home phone lines and (most important) AC outlets. Here's a picture of a G.hn home area network:


Ethernet over Power (EoP), AC outlets with a gigabit of data[edit]

Inside the house, broadband over power line (BPL) means that data moves around between AC outlets over existing copper wires - this is sometimes called ethernet-over-power (EoP). It's faster and more secure and reliable than wireless "WiFi" connections, up to 20x faster.

It's this EoP AC-based technology that will smarten up your fridge & TV, no other technology is likely to catch on for networking these relatively dumb devices. When TV starts to be delivered over Internet Protocol ("IPTV") it will be increasingly common to have only one plug on the TV: an AC plug to connect it to the AC wall outlet. Video and sound will come through it...

Freezers and water heaters will learn very quickly to shut off when there is a need for peak power, and the homeowner will get paid for that shutoff during peak hours: Your freezer going off for an hour could pay for it to run several nights for nothing. But first it must know when to turn off.

The huge advantage of major appliances that can participate in what is called "peak curtailment" (companies like EnerNOC and Comverge do this as their only business), is that NB can avoid building any new power plants and totally eliminate coal and other fossil sources that are run during the peak hours. The savings can be astonishing, in Nova Scotia they are expecting widespread conservation programs to cut so much power that no new power plant will ever need to be built - saving a billion dollars for about $60 million.

There are some glitches that can be expected from smarter appliances but none that would not be easily made up for with a billion dollars to spend on making up for them... ;) In many jurisdictions, like Berkeley CA for example, the utility pays for consumers to acquire efficient devices just because it saves them a fortune. Utilities can recover conservation costs in a long list of ways including averted expenses of new power plants or fuel, selling communications/broadband directly to customers or just access to the bandwidth they own/rent, getting interest on credit for smarter/efficient appliances, third party services of use to government or residents, and just the simple benefits of smartening up their own maintenance.

Powered Ethernet (PoE), DC devices up to 80w with a gigabit of data[edit]

The advantages aren't restricted to the larger AC devices directly fed from the wall.

Smaller devices which actually use DC power may contain transformers but it will be increasingly common to connect them to the AC outlet with one powered-ethernet switch with multiple ports and ethernet cables to each device. This will be safer and far more efficient than plugging multiple "wall warts" into one outlet.

"Wall warts" are small DC transformers (usually black) that plug into the AC outlet and provide low-voltage DC power to what is actually a DC device. These old-fashioned horrors suck a lot of what is called "vampire power" - electronics like TVs draw a lot of this power even when they are *off*. Getting rid of them is a high priority for energy conservation agencies.

There are two ways to get rid of them: Replace them with USB devices, or with PoE (powered Ethernet) devices, either of which can provide DC power just like the wall warts do. Powered ethernet is far more flexible than USB which is restricted to five volts and at most 10-20 watts, while PoE can support 1.5 to about 60 volts and up to 80 watts, so it can replace pretty much all of the wall warts and DC wires with off-the-shelf cables.

One big advantage of this is that you would be easily able to replace any damaged wires or converters with standard PoE parts and cables. While now it takes a confident geek to figure out how to plug in a multi-transformer without blowing up the elecronics it connects to. PoE communicates like a modem to figure out what voltage and wattage is expected, to prevent nasty electric fires and ozone smells that tell you you just fried your phone(s). So there's less e-waste, less shipping weight on electronics, fewer fires.

Interchangeable parts and less fried gear are not the only advantages. With that gigabit of data, the DC devices can turn themselves off, go into appropriate power-saving modes, turn on when there is actually something to do or show. They can also report reliably that they are using power so someone can turn them down or off. This may save 10-40% off an ordinary electric bill, some of which overlaps with the savings from smart meters.

Advanced resilient services[edit]

Aging populations face incredible challenges and we will increasingly need smarter infrastructure to deal with these. This could be considered both a seniors and womens' issue, and also one that affects vulnerable persons such as the disabled.

Look at a typical list of services deployed on a "home area network" or "home grid" based on broadband over power line (BPL) standards and other existing-wiring standards (G.hn/G.9960):

"Security : video surveillance...gas, flood or fire alert; Tele-assistance : health monitoring, elderly support, assisted living; Home energy management & climate control..."

Now consider who tends to care for the elderly or vulnerable, who spends more time at home, who is more vulnerable to crime, who cares for children and gain more from telework options - often because they have less mobility.

Power grid maintenance - and other forms of safety monitoring[edit]

NB Power has already deployed a "smart grid" to cut its monitoring and maintenanc expenses - thanks to fibre up on the poles they can spot a lot of problems before they become expensive urgent failures. This is called "real-time monitoring" (see http://www.informationweek.com/news/global-cio/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=18901903 )

The power guys are up on the poles near Harcourt before anyone knows what's wrong. But they're not the only utility or service that could generate huge savings this way.

It should be the same for gas leaks or shorting appliances or (perhaps) pacemakers that pick up heart murmurs or devices that detect strokes or insulin shocks.

In Japan, for many years, toilets have been quite high-tech. There are common commercial toilet models that detect blood in stool and send the message to the family doctor. It knows who was sitting on the toilet by weight. Networked toilets are a daily reality for that aging population, already.

Rural ERs and volunteer fire departments will rely more and more on early detection, prevention, and require us to adopt a lower-risk lower-energy infrastructure. Or else we'll just get shut down, burned down, bypassed and waiting in ERs.

Entrepreneurs and home work[edit]

Presently the combination of voice, data/Internet and television services costs a typical household over $100/month in rural areas unserved by wired broadband. All the above services could be available for much less and be generating huge savings for government due to more efficient energy use and service provision.

The words "high -speed" and "broadband" are actually a problem. They are used to describe a wide variety of connections, some as low as 256kbps - just 5x modem speed. Also many services, including all satellite services no matter how fast, have "latency" problems that prevent them from ever being used for voice-over-IP (because the voice must go back and forth to space, creating that long gap we sometimes see on interviews on live TV).

What entrepreneurs and home workers need is communications: The ability to use voice-over-IP (VoIP), which requires latency below 100 milliseconds (ms).

Modern business phone systems rely on voice-over-IP (VoIP) and get their DC power from powered ethernet (PoE) - they connect with an RJ45 ethernet cable to a computer or specialized device which is basically an Internet appliance. But none of this will work if the latency is not under 100 ms.

So even with a satellite connection, a home worker or entrepreneur is stuck relying on expensive cell or inflexible PSTN/analog land lines that retard their business and force them to pay for long distance. This kills many business opportunities.

Fibre to the home ; redundant failover ; fixed wireless[edit]

It's important not to confuse fibre to the *pole* with fibre into the *home*. Bringing fibre closer than the pole is a *loser*, economically, for almost all buildings except perhaps high-tech office buildings or schools or government buildings with a lot of heavy users inside. Even in that case they will need broadband-over-power-line / ethernet-over-power (EoP) anyway for power mangaement and to avoid having to add new wiring.

The optimal network brings fibre to the pole and routes around the transformer to bring gigabit to every AC outlet. An ordinary home or small business user will never get a fibre connection to the net faster than this anyway.

If they really insist they can pay to run fibre to the house from the pole themselves, but they will still need to keep the BPL for power management and any other high-reliability services. A wireless connection could make such a house invincible to almost any outage - it would always be in touch and would switch over to whatever network was most reliable or less crowded at the time.

While fixed wireless like Motorola Canopy is low bandwidth (1.5 mbps) and relatively high latency (because it is a "mesh network" relying on several "hops" to move signals around), it isn't a terrible last-resort backup for critical services to rely on. It's better than big cell towers and so on, because mesh networks rely on larger numbers of much weaker transceivers that are less likely to cause health problems.