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A primer on ZigBee Smart Energy Profile 2.0

Posted: 04 Jul 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:machine-to-machine  ZigBee  Smart Energy Profile 2.0  M2M  embedded software 

The number of devices defined as part of the “Internet of Things” continues to rise quickly as individuals and industries alike seek innovative ways to use connected devices and networks. Enabling machine-to-machine (M2M) communication has endless possibilities, and is one of the more prominent technology areas in the emergence of smart energy. As home meters, personal devices and appliances begin to connect to each other, a bigger and far more comprehensive picture emerges on how to make smarter energy consumption decisions. Connecting devices in the home and local Internet networks to a smart grid enables two-way communication between homeowner and the power company and is becoming more of a reality with each passing day.

This article provides an overview of the Smart Energy Profile 2.0 (SEP), an emerging standard in the smart energy market, being developed by the ZigBee Alliance. With the basic understanding of SEP 2.0, software developers will be better prepared to select embedded software suited for the development of smart energy applications.

Figure 1: In a typical smart home, devices such as a washing machine, an in-home display, and a power meter all work together in tandem –to make the home and grid smarter.

New frontier with the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is a popular buzz phrase and one that conjures up exciting visions of the future – a future where your refrigerator self-checks its contents and emails you a grocery shopping list just as you are about to leave work (not that grocery shopping is a terribly exciting experience), your house gets ready for your arrival by adjusting the temperature to an optimum level, and the oven can pre-heat for dinner. The rapid proliferation of devices embedded with a combination of powerful microprocessors, sensors, and wireless connectivity has resulted in more functionality and intelligence which leads us towards the vision of a smart networked world.

One of the applications of this set of technologies is to improve energy consumption, also termed smart energy. The concept behind smart energy is controlling energy use internally, within the home, and externally from the home to outside connected devices, networks, and the smart grid itself—all with the goal of optimising energy production, distribution, and usage. Bi-directional communication between home networks and the power grid opens up possibilities for improved reliability and sustainability.

Being smart about smart energy
Smart grids and smart homes (smart appliances, gateways etc.) and smart meters (electricity, gas, water) are key elements of the smart energy ecosystem. Smart home appliances are typically those devices consumers interact with daily. By enabling these devices to talk to each other and be controllable by the consumer, a whole new dimension of convenience is added (figure 1). There are several products (smart thermostats, smart switches, smart refrigerator, and more), which are available today that offer some level of intelligence and wireless connectivity. Some of the more advanced appliances include built-in Web servers to interact with other devices in the connected home. Smart meters are the gateways into these homes (and offices) and collect and measure resource usage before sharing some or all of this information with the smart grid. The grid, in turn, acts upon this information by taking necessary steps such as load adjustment, peak curtailment, and even demand-side management.

Smart energy devices, apart from performing their standard functions, must be able to communicate with other smart energy devices within the local network and be able to send and receive relevant information (pricing, usage, alerts, etc.). The exchange of data not only improves the overall efficiency and fault tolerance but optimises the consumption of energy. Smart meters collect and transmit usage data to the energy providers and allow consumers the ability to monitor and manage their own energy consumption. In other words, usage data flows from the consumer to the energy provider and, at the same time, pricing data flows from the energy provider to the consumer. This bi-directional flow of information allows consumers to make decisions to manage consumption. This two-way, real-time communication enables energy providers to improve planning and improve energy distribution.

Standardising smart energy design
As multiple manufacturers design smart energy systems, it is becoming increasingly clear that all devices interoperate in a network. The ZigBee Alliance is working on a specification called the Smart Energy Profile 2.0 (SEP 2.0) to help formalise the requirements for many aspects of the smart energy ecosystem including device communication, connectivity and information sharing requirements.

SEP 2.0 provides the guidelines in which the devices should communicate with one another. It defines various device properties that can be manipulated. These properties (also known as "resources") work together in logical groups to implement SEP 2.0 functionalities (called the "function sets"). A metering system, or pricing system, is an example of an application-specific function set. Devices like smart meters implement one or more function sets to provide value-added services such as usage statistics and trends. These pricing statistics and trends can then be used by either the energy provider or the consumer to further manage services or usage, respectively.

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