The Smart City Blog
Let’s face it. There’s no shortage of communications options for modern control networks.
You have the usual selection of fieldbuses like Modbus and Profibus for low-data-rate applications, Ethernet for high-end systems, and a broad selection of wireless (Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave, etc.) and powerline communication (G3-PLC, G.hn, HomePlug, etc.) for everything in-between.
Do you really need one more?
That depends. Are your control systems getting larger and more complex? Do you struggle to deliver the bandwidth required by today’s increasingly sophisticated applications? Do you need to extend IP all the way to endpoints, or reduce the cost of doing so?
Then you may want to take a closer look at HD-PLC. Originally developed by Panasonic for multimedia applications, HD-PLC is now an international open standard with multiple enhancements specifically developed for modern industrial control networks.
In this article, we provide an overview of HD-PLC and discuss the real-world benefits one of our customers, NURI Telecom, realized when they adopted HD-PLC for their advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solutions.
What is HD-PLC?
HD-PLC is an international standard for long-range, high-speed, IP-based wireline communication. It operates over a high-frequency range (2MHz to 28MHz), avoiding the noise and interference challenges that plague narrowband PLC solutions. It includes a multi-hop mechanism, based on ITU-T G.9905, to enable any node to act as a repeater to extend network range and robustness. And it allows the use of any wired channel, including twisted-pair, coax, Ethernet, phone, and power lines.
Offering PHY speeds up to 240Mbps, built-in mesh networking, and transmission ranges up to several kilometers, HD-PLC is well-suited for the large control networks that typify today’s smart city and smart building applications.
4 Real-World Advantages of HD-PLC
1) Reduces deployment time and cost.
Undoubtedly, the biggest advantage of HD-PLC is its ability to deliver megabit speeds over any wiring. System integrators and facility managers love this feature, because it enables them to leverage the installed wiring infrastructure. This saves the cost of deploying new Ethernet cabling or a large network of wireless modems, repeaters and gateways.
Our customer NURI Telecom discovered that these cost savings can extend much further than the communications infrastructure. Previously, they had used sub-GHz wireless solutions for AMI in large apartment buildings. However, the difficulty of sending wireless signals through walls and ceilings of varying thickness and construction meant that their customers had to spend days conducting field surveys, planning the network design, and troubleshooting problems during installation.
HD-PLC eliminates all these problems by sending data over the same wires used to deliver power. Now system deployment cost is much lower, giving NURI Telecom a significant advantage over competitive solutions.
2) Plenty of bandwidth to spare.
More sensors, larger control packets, and new integrations with other systems. Whether you design smart lighting, HVAC or other building automation systems, chances are that your control networks need more bandwidth every year. Keeping up with this demand is increasingly difficult with legacy technologies, and very costly with today’s wireless and Ethernet solutions.
HD-PLC solves this problem by delivering megabit speeds over long distances, using any wiring. This is a powerful benefit, enabling you to develop advanced applications that differentiate your products and increase ROI for your customers.
For NURI Telecom, the expanded bandwidth afforded by HD-PLC enables sophisticated metering applications and security functionality. Plus, it gives them plenty of spare bandwidth to support future requirements. This effectively extends the lifetime of their systems, maximizing ROI for their customers.
3) Enables larger, more complex control networks.
In modern smart cities and buildings, you’ll find tens of thousands of sensors capturing inputs about carbon dioxide, temperature, lighting, occupancy, safety and security, energy use and more. Control networks are getting larger and more complex. They’re also becoming more integrated, as systems converge and operators dig deeper into data for new insights and efficiencies.
These systems require more bandwidth, over longer distances—which means more problems if you’re using legacy communications channels. Many of the dominant protocols (BACnet, LonWorks, etc.) were defined two to three decades ago, when 78kbps over twisted-pair or 5kbps over powerline seemed to be plenty of bandwidth. But if you’re like many system designers, you’re probably finding that these data rates put a hard limit on your application and network size, as well as your creativity.
HD-PLC addresses this problem by giving your more bandwidth, along with a range-extending multi-hop functionality. Thanks to this advancement, you’re able to support up to 1024 nodes over distances up to 10 kilometers, with a minimum data rate of 10Mbps. (Higher data rates are possible, depending upon network size and configuration.)
4) Enhances network robustness and stability.>
It can be difficult to quantify the benefits of network reliability. When NURI Telecom investigated this issue, they realized that planning, deploying and troubleshooting wireless networks was challenging for their customers, which meant that NURI had to devote a lot of resources to support them. Likewise, when the company investigated narrowband PLC, it discovered that the relatively low data rate (100kbps) was insufficient for all of the data generated in large apartment buildings, resulting in slower, less stable network connections.
If not addressed, these problems can eat away at a business’ margins. That’s why NURI Telecom decided to switch to HD-PLC. With HD-PLC, the company was able to dramatically reduce the cost and complexity of system deployment, management and maintenance. HD-PLC’s built-in mesh networking eliminates the need for time-consuming field surveys and network planning. Additionally, network authentication and stability are greatly improved with the higher speeds available from HD-PLC. Altogether, these benefits reduced meter installation time from days to just hours—they also minimized the cost of customer support for NURI.
Building Smarter Control Networks
Control networks have changed dramatically over the last decade. Now so are your communications options.
HD-PLC gives you a proven solution for reliably delivering high-speed data over the long distances required by modern control networks. With HD-PLC, system integrators and facility managers avoid the expense of running Ethernet cables or deploying costly wireless infrastructure. Now they can use their existing wiring infrastructure to build faster, smarter and more robust control networks. And you can use HD-PLC to develop sophisticated applications that differentiate your products and keep you ahead of competitors in fast-moving markets.
Get all the details on why NURI Telecom switched to HD-PLC with multi-hop—and how the company gained new cost and performance advantages in the competitive smart meter market.
Let Us Know What You Think
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VP, Marketing and Business Development, MegaChips
Michael is an accomplished business executive who has spent the last 15 years working to advance the communications technologies needed to build a smarter planet. The original founder of the G3-PLC Alliance, he was a key contributor in the evolution of G3-PLC as the premier communications technology for smart grids. Today, Michael is applying his experience and energy to bringing the benefits of HD-PLC to smart cities and smart buildings. When he’s not driving technology transformation, you’ll likely find him in one of his vintage cars heading down Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California.
Connect with him on LinkedIn.