Zigbee IP: Extending the Smart Grid to Consumers

June 4, 2012 - 0 Comments

Enabling commercial, industrial and residential customers to better monitor and manage their energy consumption is a key benefit of a Smart Grid.  As part of their grid modernization initiatives, utilities are providing information and incentives to end consumers. These include visibility to real-time energy consumption, as well as variable price and demand response signals that communicate with energy management devices and smart appliances.

This will drive more low power, often battery powered, wireless and wired energy sensors and actuators in the consumer premises.  To date, this space is populated with several PHY/MAC specific, non-standardized protocol stacks which do not interoperate.  To avoid multiple separate consumer networks a PHY/MAC agnostic solution is needed and this solution is best based upon open IP standards.

The ZigBee Alliance’s ZigBee IP (ZIP) standard is a first definition of an open standards based IPv6 stack for smart objects. The effort has made significant progress to bring IPv6 network protocols over 802.15.4 wireless mesh networks to reality.

With respect to the Smart Grid, the use of the well-understood IPv6 suite of standards will enable large scale, multi-vendor deployments of smart-meters, line sensors, smart appliances, energy displays, etc. all supporting standardized energy monitoring and control protocols such as SEP 2.0 and OpenADR.

ZIP enables low power 802.15.4 nodes to participate natively with other IPv6 enabled WiFi, Homeplug, and Ethernet nodes without the complexity and cost of application layer gateways. To accomplish this, the ZIP stack incorporates a number of standardized IETF protocols including 6LoWPAN (IPv6 adaption layer for Low Power Wireless Personal Area Network) for IP header compression and Neighbor Discovery, and RPL (Routing Protocol for Low-power and Lossy Networks) for mesh routing. ZIP further employs other IETF standards to support network joining procedures, service discovery, and TLS/SSL based security mechanisms.

The ZIP specification is nearing release of its 0.9 draft, and has already progressed through more than sixteen, week-long certification events.  It is anticipated that field trial ready stacks will be available Q3 2012, and production ready, certified stacks will be available Q1/Q2 2013.

To insure robust interoperability, Cisco is collaborating with Exegin and Grid2Home (both offering ZIP implementations) within a multi-vendor interoperability testing program. Now into its fourth round, the testing is intended to determine optimal settings for various stack parameters.  To date, the testing reveals that ZIP will comfortably support SEP2 unicast and multicast messaging over an 802.15.4 based HAN mesh. The results of this testing have been and will continue to be socialized to the ZIP team to assist finalization of the ZIP specification and test plan.

With the imminent successful conclusion to the ZIP specification and certification efforts, Cisco is very excited that ZIP based product offerings will soon be interoperating within the smart grid.

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