Ensuring the Smart Grid

A few days ago an amazing thing occurred in the world certification and testing. A group for organizations are joining forces—yes, it’s true—to form a new consortium for SEP 2 (Smart Energy Profile) interoperability.

The HomePlug Alliance, Wi-Fi Alliance, HomeGrid Forum, and ZigBee Alliance are teaming up with the goal of implementing a consistent testing plan for interoperable SEP 2 devices across an IP network. A joint certification and test program simply means that now companies can certify wireless and wired devices that support IP-based smart-energy applications and end-user devices such as thermostats, doorbells, window shades, home security, appliances, and even gateways.

In addition, the new consortium will address devices operating on one or more of a variety of underlying connectivity technologies and provide the smart-energy ecosystem ¬– including utilities, product vendors, and consumers – assurances of application and device interoperability and that’s a pretty significant thing when products come to market.

When you really look at the market, the ZigBee Alliance had a stranglehold on certification and interoperability until the formation of the Consortium. Now with the development of a common standard, the growth of the smart-grid industry in North America can really blossom.
Let’s be honest, even though the ZigBee Alliance is a powerhouse in its own right with a number of member companies, it really didn’t have the wherewithal as a single alliance to achieve all that was necessary to advance a common standard with so many competing company agendas and corporate egos on the market today.

Now the industry as a whole can expedite the development of products, assuring consumers and the smart-grid industry of a common standard and set of solutions that will benefit the majority rather than the few.

The SEP was selected in 2009 by the NIST (National Institute of Standard and Technology) as a standard profile for smart-grid management in home devices and now is workable on a variety of IP-based technologies. The exciting part of all of this is that no longer will products come to market that are immature.

So reading my tea leaves then, this should mean better things for the industry and consumers alike. Ultimately, I envision this will lead to a shortened rollout for products since everyone is playing nice in the sandbox. In addition, we should see much better product control and testing at all levels and perhaps even better pricing and reduced costs for consumers as products come to market faster. I see this putting the smart-grid on the fast-track now, and this should make regulators happy, the utilities industry proud, and perhaps ease the concerns of consumers. Looks like a win-win for all. Now let’s only hope they can work as friendly as this agreement looks on paper.

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