The Smart City Blog

HD-PLC with Multi-hop: A Giant Leap Forward for Smart City and Smart Building Applications

- Thursday, February 15, 2018

Smart cities and smart buildings have advanced by leaps and bounds over the last decade. Smart street lighting, integrated building management systems, and dozens of other applications are quickly moving from pilot phases to full-scale deployment. Yet, as project owners and system integrators begin to make this transition, they are finding that the cost of network deployment is the biggest impediment to their success.

Today’s state-of-the-art smart cities and smart buildings have thousands (or even tens of thousands) of sensing nodes capturing inputs about energy, temperature, occupancy, lighting, and more. Control networks are becoming larger and more complex. And as intelligence is distributed across the system, bandwidth requirements are increasing.

For many projects, running thousands of meters of new Ethernet cabling or deploying costly wireless infrastructure is not a practical solution. Particularly in retrofit projects, system integrators need a communications solution that meets the growing bandwidth demands of smart city and smart building applications and the budget constraints of project owners.

Breaking Through Bandwidth Bottlenecks and Cost Barriers with HD-PLC

The most cost-effective approach to control networks is powerline communications (PLC) and other existing wireline infrastructure. With PLC, for example, system integrators are able to use the same wiring that powers their network devices to transmit data. With the installed cost of Ethernet cabling running at approximately $300 per linear foot, the ability to leverage existing wireline infrastructure can dramatically reduce smart city and smart building deployment cost.

However, powerlines are noisy environments, and system integrators have been forced to choose between high-speed transmission over short distances (broadband PLC) or low-speed transmission over long distances (narrowband PLC). This tradeoff has made PLC impractical for the large, high-bandwidth control networks that characterize modern smart city and smart building applications.

HD-PLC changes all of that. Originally developed to meet the bandwidth requirements of multimedia-rich smart home applications, HD-PLC is a broadband technology (2MHz to 28MHz) capable of achieving PHY speeds up to 240Mbps over powerlines, twisted-pair, and coax. In 2016, HD-PLC was enhanced with a unique multi-hop technology to meet the long-distance and robustness demands of industrial IoT applications. Thanks to this advancement, HD-PLC is able to support over 1000 nodes, distances up to 10 kilometers, along with the advanced security protections required in today’s connected world.



Figure 1: This chart shows how HD-PLC stacks up against other wireline technologies. With multi-hop technology, HD-PLC is able to deliver broadband speeds over the long distances one normally expects to find in only low-speed approaches like RS-485.

Making the Leap to Successful Deployments with Multi-hop Technology

At the heart of HD-PLC is an innovative Centralized Matrix-based Source Routing (CMSR) scheme, as defined in the ITU G.9905 international standard. This multi-hop functionality dramatically increases network range, robustness, speed, and simplicity.

HD-PLC supports up to 10 hops, enabling system integrators to expand networks to up to 1024 nodes. In this case, throughput is reduced (10Mbps, min), but system integrators gain the ability to quickly deploy large systems without time-consuming network planning or costly devices like switches and routers.

Multi-hop technology takes the guesswork out of network planning and design by enabling any node to act as a repeater. With this technology, the nodes in the network dynamically calculate route cost and select the best route based on link quality. This eliminates bottlenecks and improves robustness, since the network will automatically reroute traffic if any given node fails.

Multi-hop technology also brings the benefits of mesh networking to wired networks. System integrators no longer need to spend days planning and configuring their control networks. With HD-PLC, they can simply plug in their devices and let the network take care of the rest, automatically calculating route cost and dynamically optimizing traffic.

A Bridge to the Future

Tomorrow’s smart city and smart building networks will be IP-based. IP connectivity enables system integrators to bring together the many islands of automation that exist among today’s building automation systems. It also facilitates the integration of operational networks with information networks, enabling project owners to fully harness the power of the Cloud and Big Data.

An IP-based protocol, HD-PLC meets the demands of tomorrow’s applications with an integrated network bridge functionality that enables any terminal to act as a bridge between PLC networks and Ethernet and serial networks. This makes network design and integration easy—and eliminates costly gateway devices, complicated wiring, and complex software development.



Figure 2: HD-PLC can communicate over any wire, making it an ideal bridge between powerline, Ethernet, and serial networks.

Getting Started with HD-PLC

It’s easy to get started with HD-PLC. MegaChips’ BlueChip SoC is the world’s first fully compliant IEEE1901 HD-PLC solution with multi-hop technology. BlueChip combines MegaChips’ state-of-the-art analog front-end (AFE) with baseband, physical (PHY), and media access control (MAC) layers into a single compact package capable of delivering data rates above 10Mbps (multi-hop) over up to 10km of powerlines or other cables.

Our line of BlueChip Evaluation Kits includes all the hardware, software, and documentation you need to easily set-up and evaluate system performance, and give your software developers a jumpstart with sample firmware and sample external command programs. The BlueChip SDK makes evaluation easy with tools for power control, channel monitoring, net test, and more. 

Order your BlueChip Multi-hop Evaluation Kit today—and discover how HD-PLC can help you make a giant leap forward in your next smart city or smart building design.


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