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USNAP Alliance and EPRI to combine interface specifications, contributing to a single standard for smart residential device


April 8, 2011
By Alyssa Dalton

April 8, 2011

The USNAP Alliance and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have joined together to develop a single modular interface specification, which, they say, combine elements of the EPRI Demand Response Socket Interface Specification and the USNAP Alliance 2.0 specification. This effort was prompted by a request from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Home-to-Grid Domain Expert Working Group (H2G DEWG) to harmonize the two bodies of work, in preparation for delivery to a standards development organization.

“Consumers are already purchasing USNAP enabled products through national retailers to help them manage their energy consumption,” said Jon Rappaport, chairman of the USNAP Alliance.

“This collaboration project unifies efforts in this area and simply gives manufacturers, utilities, service providers and consumers access to a larger number of consumer products that can react to energy related information from utilities and ISOs,” he added.

According to both companies, there is research that indicates a standard physical interface that allows smart appliances, energy management consoles, and other consumer products to support different user-installable communication modules is in the public’s best interest.

The EPRI collaborative research project, initiated in 2008, developed a socket interface specification for residential devices that support simple demand response commands and pass-through messages from a utility or load controlling entity. The EPRI project engaged a number of residential device manufacturers (water heaters, HVAC, pool equipment, white-goods, consoles, etc.), communication technology providers (Wi-Fi, AMI, PLC, HAN, Cellular, etc.) and electric utilities to identify requirements and draft a specification.

The USNAP Alliance published its 2.0 specification in 2010 defining a low-cost physical interface enabling appliances and other consumer products to share energy related information from utilities and service providers. Using the popular Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) communication port found in most integrated circuits, the USNAP Specification facilitates connectivity between Smart Grid Devices (SGDs) and Universal Communication Modules (UCMs) installed in a Home Area Network (HAN), Local Area Network (LAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN), they explained.

“The two specifications are similar in technical approach and are nearly identical in their basic purpose,” said Brian Seal, senior project manager for EPRI. “Each has broad industry support and provides the range of benefits associated with communication modularity. We are making great progress in merging the specifications, retaining the best attributes from each and coordinating with related standards organizations.”