The USNAP Alliance, an industry consortium of major stakeholders and utilities in the smart grid, recently announced the final release of its 2.0 specification for enabling interoperable Home Area Network deployment (HAN) deployments. Manufacturers of smart grid devices (SGDs) such as consumer appliances, thermostats, in-home displays, energy management systems, and gateways can use USNAP universal communication modules (UCMs) to connect to a HAN using a variety of connectivity options such as ZigBee, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and FM radio, creating a universal HAN device ecosystem.

The USNAP 2.0 specification represents a collaborative industry effort, building upon the successful 1.0 specification that serves as the basis for consumer and utility-grade HAN solutions for managing energy conservation and demand via home, carrier, and utility networks. Authors of the new specification modeled it after two well-known computer industry standards, namely PCI and USB, ensuring the reliability and flexibility necessary to support the natural progression of communication technology. The new programmatic model provides developers with a flexible standard for developing compelling new applications serving a wider range of consumer products. The USNAP protocol uses the serial peripheral interface (SPI) commonly found in most integrated circuits, making it compatible with the most popular communication chips and processors available in the market.

Recognizing the importance of industry standardization, the revised USNAP specification supports the ZigBee smart energy profile (SEP) 1.0 specification, a common HAN standard found in millions of smart meters installed worldwide. The new command structure uses a "Get, Set, and Send" concept providing a solid foundation for protocol-agnostic, multi-vendor compatibility. The revised USNAP specification also includes serial protocol enhancements for more efficient communication between the UCM and the smart grid device, as well as support for extended size USNAP UCMs.

"Release of the USNAP 2.0 specification will enable manufacturers and utilities to support HAN connectivity to the more than 50 million smart meters that are scheduled for deployment over the next five years," says Jon Rappaport, chairman of the USNAP Alliance. "Uncertainty about communication standards has created a moving target for industry. The USNAP Alliance addresses this concern by providing a method for future proofing consumer products against technological change.