The much-ballyhooed ZigBee Smart Energy Protocol (SEP) 2 has finally been completed and ratified, and the standard is available for download. We could even see devices with SEP 2 by the end of the year and availability in 2014.
“The technical work is done, and it’s up to companies to determine what they’re going to do with it, says Tobin J.M. Richardson, ZigBee Alliance chairman and CEO.
The ZigBee wireless mesh network’s SEP 2 is IP-based, meaning devices with the SEP 2 can reside on local area networks like home area networks (HANs) and communicate with them. That should open up many more energy-saving opportunities and home energy management with devices like smart appliances and thermostats.
SEP 2 supports new capabilities such as control of plug-in and hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) charging, deployments in multi-dwelling units (MDUs) such as apartment buildings, support for multiple energy service interfaces into a single premises and support for any transport based on IETF IP compliant protocols such as the recently announced ZigBee IP.
SEP 2 is built with IPv6 compliance, which is better known as the Internet of Things, allowing virtually everything to have a separate IP address. Can you say energy information orgy? (Sorry, I’m trying to think of a better analogy.)
Bucketload? Fire hose? You get the picture.
In the next several weeks a testing platform to certify SEP 2 products will be completed as well.
More Smart Grid?
Richardson sees the greatest significance of SEP 2 in smart grid deployments by utilities. “In the U.S this can accelerate some of the deployments. Some utilities have waited for SEP 2 to do deployments,” he says.
That will allow more and seamless home energy networks and possible direct meter-to-smart appliance signals such as Time of Use pricing information. That is, if utilities choose to send that information over their meter infrastructure. Some have discussed keeping the meter communications one way to the utility and utilizing broadband Internet to deliver pricing data.
Richardson maintains that SEP 2 provides a secure known connection from the back office through the device in the home. He expects to see pilots and trials take place before many utilities roll out with SEP 2. Imagine that: more smart grid pilots and trials!
Utilities that have already deployed meters using SEP 1.x can possibly upgrade over the air to SEP 2, if the meter processing allows it. Some older meters, Richardson says, may not be able to take an upgrade. Though connections can still be made through a gateway device.
Richardson thinks SEP 2 will be especially useful for communicating utility Time of Use rate structures, though most utility pilots have focused on demand response that can dial down large energy users during peak load periods. He says SEP 2’s transparency allows it to be used to send out DR signals and see who’s participating and who’s not and to see the expected load. Users should be able to set priorities and rules on SEP 2 thermostats and the like, and sign up for the programs via SEP 2-based communications.
MDUs and Homes
One of the biggest applications for SEP 2 is considered multiple dwelling units (MDUs), where long-distance wireless signals through tons of concrete are a challenge. SEP 2 was developed in conjunction with the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, which champions powerline carrier technology and has developed a low-power Green Phy protocol for this and other uses such as electric vehicle (EV) charging.
Richardson sees powerline being used in conjunction with ZigBee SEP 2 to deliver the signals from residential tower basements to the dwellings above.
He also expects to see initial product rollouts that focus on thermostats, in-home displays and smart meters, of course. This was the case in when the first SEP rolled out, though now there is more interest on the appliance side.
“I would expect now they would build smart appliances that would take advantage of SEP 2,” Richardson says.
He also cites the Society of Automotive Engineers support of SEP 2, which can deliver signals between a charging device, smart meter and home network. The SunSpec alliance of solar and distributed energy resources backs SEP 2 as well.
On May 14 at 8 am Pacific time, the ZigBee Alliance will host a free public webinar, “Smart Energy Profile 2 – IP based Energy Management for the Home.” Space is limited and advance registration is available.
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