Piscataway, N.J.-based IEEE, the world's leading professional association for the advancement of technology, recently announced that work is underway for the formal recognition of Distributed Network Protocol (DNP3) as an IEEE standard. Designated as IEEE P1815, the standard will promote interoperability across hundreds of operational systems with thousands of installed devices, as well as strengthen security protocols while maintaining compatibility with existing object models.

IEEE P1815 is intended for industry-wide use in the electric utility, energy and water industries, in smart grid applications, and for high-integrity general purpose supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) applications. A multi-layered protocol, DNP3 is an extremely robust and flexible methodology for optimizing data transmission between mission-critical devices in process automation settings. Most commonly found as an essential component in SCADA systems, DNP3 facilitates communications between acquisition devices and control equipment.

Originally based upon standards set by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Technical Committee 57, Working Group 03, and further developed and maintained by the DNP3 Users Group, the protocol has been adapted to address new technologies and developments. Its proposed ratification and publication as IEEE P1815 ensures the protocol's continued expansion, evolution, and longevity, while providing new avenues of resources, support, and unparalleled technical expertise from within the organization.

"DNP3 has proven to be a powerful and effective tool for streamlining and optimizing communications transmissions between central control systems and remote devices, thanks to exceptional, forward-thinking stewardship by the IEC and DNP3 Users Group," says H. Lee Smith, president, DNP Users Group. "As we build and expand upon the firm foundation already laid, we expect IEEE P1815 to continue its successful trajectory, finding new and deeper relevance across a host of applications and industries."

IEEE P1815 received Project Authorization Request (PAR) approval from IEEE's Standards Board in early December 2009, greenlighting the project for further development. Led by the IEEE P1815 Work Group (WG), the standard's continued development and expansion will be performed in collaboration with the DNP3 Users Group. The IEEE P1815 WG will evaluate proposed features and additions, integration of existing and emerging communications architectures, and increasing levels of interoperability between operational networks and device types. The joint IEEE P1815 WG/DNP team has also been tasked with the preservation of backwards compatibility to the devices already in service and the creation of data profiles in formats that can be mapped to IEC 61850 Object Models.

Additional areas of focus for the IEEE P1815 WG/DNP team is the completion of existing security protocols to address emerging cyber security threats and designing of new frameworks allowing the standard to be easily deployed in smart grid applications. With the increasing frequency of sophisticated malicious cyber attacks around the world, enhancing data and communications security is a top priority. As a result, the team will incorporate state-of-the-art security technologies within the standard in order to mitigate such threats.

As the standard is expected to play a significant role in the emerging smart grid, the IEEE P1815 WG/DNP team's efforts will also center on the development of flexible, yet robust architecture designed to streamline deployment in smart grid applications. The emerging smart grid relies on seamless interaction between diverse constituencies, such as power transmission and distribution, IT, and advanced communications. Leveraging IEEE P1815 in smart grid applications will facilitate greater interoperability and security of cross-device communications.

"IEEE has emerged as the premier global resource for smart grid information and technical expertise; therefore, it is appropriate that it undertakes a leadership role in further adapting the IEEE P1815 standard for smart grid use,” says Judy Gorman, managing director, IEEE-SA. "Interoperability and security are critical factors in bringing the smart grid online, and IEEE P1815 will ensure these vital requirements are being met."

The IEEE P1815 WG will continue the standard's development through early 2010, with ratification targeted for mid-2010. Additional information about IEEE P1815 and the IEEE P1815 WG can be found online at the IEEE Web site.