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HomePlug proposal unites rival powerline camps

Posted: 11 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:powerline standard? control networking? broadband access?

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance announced that it has adopted a control networking adjunct to its specification, and detailed a proposal to unite competing powerline camps.

The HomePlug Command and Control 1.0 specification provides a low-speed, low-cost technology that aims to complement the group's higher-speed powerline communications. It is designed to connect lights, white goods and utility meters on a powerline network that is separately also used for broadband access.

"This is enabling green power consumption," said Oleg Logvinov, chief strategy officer of the Alliance and chief executive of Arkados Inc., which makes HomePlug chips. "Utilities are interested in real-time monitoring of consumption, that's very important to them right now," he added.

The group is developing a compliance program for the control network spec. It is not clear when that may be completed and first products using the technology could appear. The spec "will usher in a new era of home automation and create a wide variety of innovative solutions that improve the quality of peoples' lives," said Pete Griffin, director of corporate technology for RadioShack Corp., who serves as chairman of HomePlug. "Consumers can expect to see a breadth of solutions, including advanced energy management and whole-house control of lighting, appliances, climate control, security and other devices," he added, speaking in a prepared statement.

The control net has been in the works since March 2005. Contributors to the technology included HomePlug members Ariane Controls, Corporate Systems Engineering, GE, Huawei, LG Electronics and RadioShack.

Powerline standard
Separately, the HomePlug group detailed a proposal submitted with Panasonic in late September to the IEEE 1901 group that will set a powerline standard. HomePlug, Panasonic and DS2 of Spain have competing and incompatible powerline approaches, something the IEEE effort hopes to resolve.

"This is a fundamental step for this sector," said Logvinov.

The HomePlug/Panasonic proposal defines a single media access controller (MAC) and a PHY protocol that could work with the separate PHY technologies of the two technologies. Both the MAC and protocol are required under the proposal. However, the proposal makes it optional for vendors to support both the HomePlug PHY based on OFDM modulation and the Panasonic HD-PLC PHY, which is based on wavelet technology.

Under the proposal, compliant products would be assured not to interfere with each other. However, they will only be able to share data if vendors implement both PHY approaches in hardware. Backers believe compliant powerline gateways will handle scheduling for any powerline products in the home in such a way that they will hide from users any underlying contention between earlier generation products.

"The experience for the user will be just about the same" as having products from the same company on their network, said Logvinov.

However, the proposal does not address the DS2 technology. DS2, through its separate Universal Powerline Association, has submitted a separate proposal to the IEEE 1901 group. Both proposals will be considered when the standards body meets in later this month.

Logvinov said the HomePlug group and Panasonic command a majority in the IEEE 1901 that could guide their proposal to be the one selected. HomePlug now has 75 members including Cisco, Comcast, Intel, Motorola, Sharp and Texas Instruments.

The various powerline backers tried and failed to unify their approaches back in 2005, Logvinov said. Today the technology fragmentation is keeping carriers away from specifying powerline nets in the gateways and STBs they use.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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