ZigBee IP: Smart Grid, Meet the Internet of Things

April 4, 2013
ZigBee IP network topology

ZigBee IP with SEP2 can communicate with other networked devices.

There has been a lot of hype about the Internet of Things, but how important is it to energy efficiency? The new ZigBee IP standard for wireless RF mesh networking gives us a glimpse at how the smart grid and the Internet of Things can come together to enhance energy efficiency.

ZigBee IP is the first standard-based IPv6 specification for wireless sensor networks. And if you’ve done your homework you know that IPv6, or a new and improved Internet, provides a zillion IP addresses and enables the so-called Internet of Things and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications.

ZigBee IP was specifically designed to operate on low-cost, low-power devices and support the requirements of ZigBee Smart Energy version 2, which ups the ante on Smart Energy Protocol (SEP) 1.0 and 1.1 standards by enabling local area network connectivity and control of electric vehicle (EV) charging. By using IP, it can work with Wi-Fi and HomePlug, which offers a Green Phy protocol adopted by some car companies for EV charging communications.

SEP 2 was selected by the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a standard profile for smart energy management in home devices. It is an application on the ZigBee IP stack, which is based on standard Internet protocols such as 6LoWPAN, PANA, RPL, TCP, TLS and UDP, with TLS1.2 and AES-128-CCM for security.

ZigBee says about 40 million homes now have devices connecting to smart meters using ZigBee Smart Energy Protocol. One can imagine millions more smart meters and other devices such as in-home displays, thermostats, smart appliances and solar inverters being rolled out with SEP 2, as well as existing SEP 1.x smart meters being upgraded to SEP 2 (if that’s really possible). SEP 2 has been viewed as a solution for multiple dwelling units (MDUs).

Internet of SEP?

“This is about the smart grid and how it meets Internet of Things and the cloud, says Robby Simpson, System Architect with GE Digital Energy and SEP2 Technical Working Group Chair.

So IPv6 is creating the Internet of Things, which meets smart grid through SEP to enable the potential for massively scalable networks employing energy-efficient devices everywhere. At least that’s the potential.

Ralph Droms,Internet Engineering Task Force Director and Cisco distinguished Engineer, says that with ZigBee IP, you can think about automating and connecting almost anything in electronics and anything with a battery.

A smartphone connected to a Wi-Fi router, for instance, could have a connection to a smart meter using ZigBee IP and SEP 2, through a router employing ZigBee IP. In other instances, ZigBee IP devices can communicate directly to other ZigBee IP products. Those on SEP 1 with ZigBee Pro can communicate with SEP 2 ZigBee IP devices through a gateway.

ZigBee layers

ZigBee IP stack versus ZigBee Pro and RF4CE.

ZigBee IP and SEP 2 means new devices in the Internet of Things immediately become available to the network, adds Droms.

With this, the Internet of Things can collect far more data such as energy usage and provide information about certain users and behavior patterns. That leads to huge opportunities for building data collection and building management systems—as in energy data analytics that assess ways buildings can run more efficiently using—yet another trendy term—Big Data.

Droms says it can also allow for decentralized control for things like home and building solar systems and electric vehicles systems, which need more flexible, autonomous control.

Home Automation Potential

ZigBee IP with SEP 2 will also enable more home automation interconnection capabilities, so devices like thermostats can be incorporated into the network to gather data and know behaviors in the house–and be tied to smartphones that are also connected to the smart grid. Because heating and cooling represent the largest sheddable loads for utility demand response programs, connecting thermostats are a driving force for smart grid to home applications.

The information doesn’t have to come from a smart meter. For example, a cloud server could provide electricity pricing info right to ZigBee IP-equipped thermostat, with no new gateways required.

ZigBee IP can also be used to connect vehicles with sensors on highways and in parking lots to gather more data and analyze data and build behavior patterns.

ZigBee IP with SEP 2 supports devices with long battery life, like gas or water meters that need to run for years on single batteries. ZigBee IP lets battery-powered devices sleep for hours or even days, reducing battery use. A ZigBee node can wake up and communicate with other ZigBee devices and return to sleep.

ZigBee also says its meshing capability, which allows the signals to hop to other nodes on a network en route to their destinations, allows for communications between indoor and outdoor devices, including exterior electric meters in metal enclosures.

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Greenest Home in America’ Relies on Efficiency Technologies

Parks Associates Looks at Engaging Consumers in Home Energy Management



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