Standards for intelligent homes

European and Asian perspectives

By Philippa Martin-King

For consumers, the smart home, with its home networking and home automation systems, is increasingly becoming a focal point. History shows that in the late 1980s the Las Vegas, US (United States), CES (Consumer Electronic Show) was already demonstrating intelligent home network devices. This year, the leitmotiv at CES was on wireless communication. With the additional need for interoperability and seamless connectivity, it was also clear that manufacturers had finally realized the importance of International Standards. Smart homes are now becoming better connected and offering many incentives to enable remote check-in and full control of energy and resources using dedicated programmable smart home data centres and systems.

Air conditioning uses 30 % of electric energy consumed in Japan (photo: Sanyo) Air conditioning uses 30 % of electric energy consumed in Japan (photo: Sanyo)

International smart home standards

The modern smart home now embodies not only new outlooks for connectivity, but also a new philosophy that pays attention to global climate change and energy consumption patterns on a daily basis. Home owners have greater home appliance control with specific security systems, video communications, home multi-media system controls and so on that take account of the Smart Grid and the availability of cheaper-rate power at lower demand times.

Thanks to the work of ISO (International Organization for Standardization)/IEC JTC (Joint Technical Committee) 1/SC (Subcommittee) 25/WG (Working Group) 1: Interconnection of information technology equipment, which has paved the way with its home automation/home networking standards, consumers are finally able to take control of their energy use and programme their devices to a much larger extent than ever before. They have set the pattern, and other regions and nations are now following with their own adoptions.

European organization issues SmartHouse Roadmap

In February 2011, CENELEC, the European Committee for Electro-technical Standardization, organized a closing event for its SHR (SmartHouse Roadmap) Project in Brussels. The goal was to present the vision, approach and suggested way forward for smart homes in a European project put together by the CENELEC SHR Project Team with support from the Steering Group with which it has been working since the project began in 2009.

A roadmap for the SmartHouse

The SHR Roadmap focuses on all standards for SmartHouse devices, including home (and home office) networks, home automation and multi-media platforms, on associated services such as security, energy management and sustainability, health- and tele-care, and includes applications for service providers of all types that have particular relevance to the consumer in the provision of e-inclusion and accessibility. The Roadmap also includes references to relevant areas that contribute to the overall goal of SmartHouse standardization.

Shortlist of 25 ecosystems

Having created a short list of relevant standards for the Roadmap, the SHR Project Team reduced the more than 6 000 existing SmartHouse-related standards to a short list of 25 ecosystems relevant for the SmartHouse Roadmap. Examples of ecosystems that can be shared in the SmartHouse home network resources and are able to operate at one or more levels are: Bluetooth, DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications), DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting), TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), USB (Universal Serial Bus) and Wi-Fi.

Endorsing SHR project methodology

The SHR Project has developed a set of recommendations to stimulate a successful deployment of the Roadmap covering issues like transition and compliance testing. The recommendations address generic actions that will create opportunities for interoperability for a future digital home environment such as the "SmartHouse". Recommendations aim to encourage the EC (European Commission) to stimulate industrial alliances and invite standardization bodies to intensify and extend the collaboration to harmonize common elements of system hardware and software interfaces.

Home energy management systems in Asia

"PASC (Pacific Area Standards Congress) members are increasingly concerned about energy efficiency and the different measures they can put into place," said IEC-APRC (Asia-Pacific Regional Office) Officer in Charge Dennis Chew following the 34th PASC meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand, on 31 March-2 April.

PASC will include HEMS (home energy management systems) at its 2012 meeting.

The approaches to energy-efficient homes in the future present certain similarities in the region’s most industrialized economies: Japan, China and the Republic of Korea.
 Shuji Hirakawa, Japan’s member on the IEC SMB (Standardization Management Board) and former secretary of IEC TC (Technical Committee) 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment, gave e-tech an overview of the situation in these countries.


In Japan, equipment manufacturers felt they were approaching the limit of what could be achieved in terms of the energy efficiency of individual appliances and devices. They saw integrated, systematic control of energy consumption at the community and household level as an attractive option. The Echonet (Energy Conservation and Homecare NETwork) consortium developed a standard of the same name for communication between appliances and networks that was accepted as an International Standard by IEC TC 100, which prepared a number of Echonet-compatible International Standards for, in particular, network and service diagnostic interfaces and communication protocol over IP for multimedia household appliances.

Japan wants to introduce automation systems and city- and regional-level energy management systems. Several companies such as Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi and Fuji Electric are proposing infrastructures on the energy supply-side. Japan also has many consumer electronics firms, like Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic and others that produce white goods (refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, etc.).

Echonet provides tools to implement functionalities to control white goods via embedded microprocessors through wireless or wired connections. Echonet-enabled air-conditioning units can be controlled remotely. Japan already has 10 million Echonet-ready air-conditioning units. This is quite important as air conditioning consumes 30 % of the electric energy used in Japanese homes, Hirakawa said.

Current Echonet appliances have small display and control units, but it will be possible to control them via TV sets, personal computers or mobile devices in the future.

China and Korea

China, through its IGRS (Intelligent Grouping and Resource Sharing) developed a solution similar to Echonet, which was also accepted as an International Standard by IEC TC 100. Control of the appliances that meet this standard relies mainly on wireless control, as China lacks the extensive wired networks common in Japan. For its wireless operation the Chinese system uses frequencies in the 900 MHz range that require central government frequency allocation.

Korea, through the Korea Home Network Industries Association, makes great efforts to realize smart home applications to be able to control power consumption of each appliance remotely either centrally or through distribution, according to the architecture. However, consumers in Korea, like elsewhere, don’t like to be ordered to stop their equipment. Nevertheless they can be encouraged to manage their consumption and control their equipment to use it at low-demand time at a lower cost through flexible price structures. These will allow the consumers’ interests in reducing outlays and the suppliers’ interests in achieving lower demand at peak time to converge.

In July 2005, these three organizations from Japan, China and Korea joined to organize the International Seminar on the Standardization of Asia Home Networks, which aimed at seeking ways to cooperate in promoting the spread of home networking in East Asia.

Following the 34th PASC meeting Chew said that the IEC’s Smart Grid work would be helpful in the drive to introduce smart home energy management systems in Asia.

Shorter time to market and greater flexibility

Harmonizing common elements should assist service and application developers, manufacturers of advanced electronic devices and service providers in designing and developing services and products with lower costs, increased reliability, improved safety and shorter times-to-market and greater flexibility, and in providing users with a richer choice and planning confidence in the areas of eHealth, energy management, alarming, telecommunications, Internet access, TV and multi-media, and home automation systems (Domotics).

Air conditioning uses 30 % of electric energy consumed in Japan (photo: Sanyo) Air conditioning uses 30 % of electric energy consumed in Japan (photo: Sanyo)
Many home appliances can be programmed remotely in the near future (Photo: Whirlpool) Many home appliances can be programmed remotely in the near future (Photo: Whirlpool)