A strong backbone

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Livia Rosu, marketing chair at HomeGrid Forum, explains how G.hn technology could hold the key to unlocking the future of the power grid.

The development of smart power grids is set to be the next innovation for smart cities. With the ever-increasing focus on renewable and clean energy, the use of power is an area where smart developments can have a huge impact on our carbon footprint across the world.

The use of technology to support these developments is already being seen around the world. Internet of Things (IoT) technology is increasingly being used in the UK to allow utility companies to maintain the efficiency of their networks, allowing networks to run more smoothly, be more resilient in harsh environments as well as supporting switchgear, which enables utilities to provide power from both traditional power stations and renewable energy sources.

Japan has also showcased steps towards a society that can run without fossil fuels and produces little CO2 emissions, utilising blockchain technology to allow consumers to ‘share’ energy thus reducing the burden on the larger energy grid.

Despite these developments, we are still far from being able to call power grids completely ‘smart’. G.hn technology has the potential to reach this goal.

Global technology

G.hn is a standardised, unified and globally recognised Gigabit home networking technology running on any home cables and developed by the UN’s International Telecommunications Union – Telecom (ITU-T) standards development organisation. The use and deployment of G.hn is supported by the HomeGrid Forum.

G.hn technology has highly flexible PHY and MAC, which allows it to be used in an extensive portfolio of applications, including IPTV, Wi-Fi backhaul and smart grids over any media (powerline, coax, phoneline, plastic optical fibre, and also wireless, including Wi-Fi and visible light communications). 

The G.hn network is based on master/slave architecture with synchronised media access, which allows the technology to adapt to all possible topologies and applications, such as TDMA, CSMA and token-passing, and guarantees reservations for QoS sensitive applications. G.hn comes with efficiency mechanisms capable of operating reliably even in the worst network congestion conditions.

Staying centralised

By applying this technology, smart appliances, energy management systems, security and automation systems and all other household IoT devices can be reached, monitored and centralised using the G.hn backbone. As a result, homeowners are better equipped to manage their energy consumption whilst enjoying advanced communication links to several systems in the home and remotely. 

These G.hn-powered intelligent links enable utilities to offer advanced services such as energy management to their customers as a value-added option, which simultaneously helps reduce consumer costs and lower power demand during peak periods.

Advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems in utilities, supported by a G.hn backbone, will be able to assess the state of distribution lines and systems and proactively determine where an outage has a high likelihood of occurring, while also taking steps to predict and ultimately prevent such power outages. This will allow utilities to increase the efficiency of power grids, ensuring a smoother and more reliable experience for the end-user and reducing energy wastage.

Keeping communication open

Effective and dependable communication lines are vital to support a smart power grid. G.hn technology further enables the utility distribution grid with robust communications links to substations, line-monitoring systems and smart meters. G.hn can provide this backbone network and allows high-speed, high-quality communication across any wire in the home networks. Ultimately this creates a smart grid that facilitates highly intelligent control of energy use in the homes by any networked device.

In a smart grid deployment with G.hn powered devices, the electric utility enables a plug-and-play, self-constructed network in which all nodes act as automatic signal repeaters, creating a complete, self-healing mesh network and real time communication between smart meters and the central office.

Staying safe

A common concern for consumers is the security of smart technology, particularly with worries over the possibility that smart home devices could be externally interfered with. Advanced metering infrastructure using a G.hn backbone can transmit data frames which remain encrypted with G.hn point-2-point security, protecting each meter and its communications from any threat. 

A G.hn-secured smart grid network is able to use relay nodes for passing data frames between concentrators that cannot communicate directly, therefore maintaining full confidentiality for all communication. By using a unique set of encryption keys per each meter, these nodes ensure that no other transceiver in the network can decode its data messages, keeping the end-user completely protected.

As power grids develop to the point where a communication system needs to be in place, G.hn is an excellent backbone. G.hn can pair with Wi-Fi, ZigBee and any wireless technologies that may be used as links to the smart meters from neighborhood network controllers or concentrators.

G.hn is ultimately becoming an integral part of an engineered hybrid-network design, providing all the necessary functions required for a powerful smart grid ‘brain’, with the ability to manage the complexity of energy services inside the home.

We are evolving towards a future of the power grid that can take its abilities to the next level. In this future, we will see fast outage resolution and intelligent two-way communication links between smart meters and the electric utility central office, which will allow for reliable and effective clean energy developments. In order to achieve this, remote management of energy used by major home systems must all evolve to allow the development of a truly smart grid.