The HomePlug Powerline Alliance, Portland, Ore., recently announced a technology path for Smart Grid (intelligent energy networks), an infrastructure-critical market poised for rapid growth. The Alliance has completed its Market Requirements Document (MRD) for HomePlug Smart Energy. The MRD will guide the development of new HomePlug specifications, creating a new class of powerline communications products that offer lower cost, low power consumption while being fully interoperable with the current HomePlug AV standard and the forthcoming IEEE 1901 standard — at data rates tailored to meet the anticipated future requirements of smart energy management. This will allow utilities, electricity meter manufacturers, and product manufacturers to “future proof” Smart Grid networks based on HomePlug/IEEE technology.

According to a press release from the Alliance, its members believe HomePlug powerline technology will play an increasingly important role in achieving a standards-based Smart Grid infrastructure that is more efficient and reliable. The demand for reduced energy consumption, combined with utility company initiatives, legislative mandates, and government funding, is expected to drive rapid growth in this sector. In fact, the installed base of smart meters is expected to grow to greater than 170 million units worldwide by 2014, according to the ABI Research “Advanced Metering Infrastructure” report published in March 2009. The HomePlug C&C and HomePlug 1.0 technologies are already being deployed in Smart Meter networks around the world. HomePlug C&C is coexistent with other HomePlug technologies and, in combination with those, will help provide a flexible solution for powerline communications needs.

The Alliance thinks the fastest and most cost-effective technology path to fulfilling all requirements for Smart Energy is to leverage carrier-proven, widely deployed HomePlug powerline technology. HomePlug AV products have shipped in volume over the past three years and have been tested, accepted, and launched by carriers and OEMs to millions of home networking users around the world. This same technology helps to provide a baseline for a reliable technology that reaches from the electricity meter to many other electric devices in the home, forming a Home Area Network (HAN).

The Alliance also believes that worldwide standards are critical to wide adoption and continue to work closely with the IEEE P1901 Working Group. As a result of this work, HomePlug AV technology is fully interoperable with the baseline standard developed by P1901. There are already multiple IC suppliers of HomePlug AV technology competing in the market with aggressive cost and feature roadmaps. The HomePlug certification logo program, combined with IEEE international standardization, provides a solid base for interoperability and technology stability that is required for “future proofing.”