The Smart City Blog

NURI Telecom Discovers 4 Advantages of HD-PLC for Control Networks

- Monday, June 11, 2018

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.

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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.

Download the Complete Case Study

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

Please comment below to share your experience and recommendations for modern smart building projects.

Michael Navid
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.

Smart Building Network Based on HD-PLC

- Thursday, March 15, 2018

An Example Smart Building Network Based on HD-PLC

HD-PLC is the new standard for high-speed wireline networks. Based on the IEEE 1901 and ITU-T G.9905 international standards, HD-PLC offers megabit speeds over up to several kilometers of wiring (AC/DC powerlines, twisted-pair, coax, phone lines, etc.). The combination of high-speed, long-distance communication, and physical media flexibility makes it well suited for a wide variety of building automation systems (BAS).

In this article, we review an example smart building network built using HD-PLC. This network can integrate multiple systems found in modern smart buildings, including IP cameras, environmental sensors, security systems, building comfort systems, lighting, and more. Thanks to HD-PLC’s multi-hop technology, any node can act as a repeater to extend network range and robustness. This network can scale to support up to 1024, distributed across the building, using any wiring available.

 


 

Support High-Bandwidth Applications

Originally developed for multimedia networks in residential applications, HD-PLC supports blazing-fast megabit data rates (up to 240Mbps, PHY) over powerlines and other physical media. It has since been enhanced with industrial-grade robustness mechanisms to ensure reliable operation in smart building systems. These characteristics make it well-suited for IP camera networks.

The left side of the network diagram shows a standard CCTV surveillance application using HD-PLC CCTV-IP cameras. HD-PLC uses IP-based communications (IPv4 or IPv6 multicasting) to encapsulate packets as UDP messages. This means that IP cameras are able to draw power from the main supply and also use it to transfer high-definition video to the central surveillance station. This simplifies the deployment of IP-based CCTV systems, since you don’t need to install new wiring to support the bandwidth required by these cameras.

Develop Faster, Smarter LON Systems

In 2017, LonMark adopted HD-PLC as the new standard for high-speed wireline networks. Compared to the previous LonWorks solution that was limited to 78kbps over twisted-pair and just 5.4kbps over power line, HD-PLC brings a significant speed advantage to wired control networks. Now system designers can get the cost savings of using existing wiring infrastructure along with the bandwidth they need to build smarter systems.

The right side of the network diagram illustrates a typical LON building automation scenario. The backbone for this network is provided by the main power line, to which a variety of standard LON systems are attached. HD-PLC is fully compatible with LON, and all of the devices are able to behave exactly as they would in any other LON system.

At the top of the diagram is the LON network server (LNS) with SCADA and BMS clients. LonMaker for Windows is another client that one might use in this network to manage installation and maintenance software. These clients are easily connected to the powerline backbone using an HD-PLC/Ethernet adapter.

Connected below the LNS database are HD-PLC LON nodes. These can be connected directly to the powerline, as in Section A. Alternately, they can be connected to an Easylon® HD-PLC router from Gesytec (Sections B and C), which enables seamless translation from HD-PLC LON to other LonWorks channels like the familiar TP/FT-10 physical layer.

In this smart building network example, HD-PLC replaces the existing LON/IP backbones, which require costly Ethernet cabling. By using the same wiring infrastructure used for power distribution, HD-PLC greatly reduces installation cost. It also improves system reliability, since the backbone is now independent of other IT equipment like Ethernet switches.

Simplify Network Deployment and Management

System integrators appreciate the simplicity of HD-PLC. Its built-in multi-hop technology takes the guesswork out of network planning and design by providing the plug-and-play simplicity of a mesh network. 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.

MegaChips HD-PLC solution comes with Network Manager software that makes it easy to configure, monitor, and manage complex networks. The bottom of the network diagram shows how the installation laptop can be connected using an HD-PLC/USB adapter to easily manage the network. Simply plug the HD-PLC/USB adapter into any power outlet, and you’re instantly able to connect to the building automation network.

Getting Started with HD-PLC

It’s easy to upgrade to megabit data rates; build larger, more robust IIoT networks; and meet new cybersecurity demands with MegaChips’ HD-PLC SoC with Multi-hop. Combining a state-of-the-art analog front-end (AFE) with baseband, physical (PHY), and media access control (MAC) layers into a single compact package, the MegaChips solution enables you to reliably deliver high-speed, bidirectional, IP-based communications over any wiring.

MegaChips provides all the design resources and tools you need to quickly develop and deploy products with HD-PLC. Evaluation kits give you the hardware, software, and documentation to get started. An SDK is also provided with sample firmware and command programs, as well as tools for power control, channel monitoring, and more. And when you’re ready to deploy, MegaChips’ Network Manager makes it easy with an intuitive interface for configuring, monitoring, and managing networks.

Need to get to market even faster? MegaChips has partnered with Gesytec, the leading supplier of LON interfaces, to give you a market-ready HD-PLC module complete with Gesytec’s Easylon Protocol Stack (EPOS).

At the heart of the HD-PLC module is a standard MegaChips EVK running the HD-PLC and LON stacks. To this, Gesytec has connected an ARM Cortex M0-based CPU board to provide additional I/O and run the application-specific code. This simple partitioning enables you to run your application without interfering with device communications. It also gives you the flexibility to choose the right CPU for your application.

The module includes a license for Gesytec’s Easylon IP, a full-featured LON protocol stack that makes integration into LonWorks environments a breeze. Thanks to the proven EPOS LON stack, the HD-PLC LON Platform acts as a standard LON device that can be managed by the LON tools you already know and love, including LonMaker for Windows and other third-party software.

Additional infrastructure devices, such as phase couplers and range extenders, are available as off-the-shelf products from Gesytec and other vendors to facilitate the design of advanced HD-PLC smart building networks.

Ready to Upgrade to HD-PLC?

Order your evaluation kit today—and discover how easy it is to build smarter, faster, more robust smart building networks with MegaChips.

 

BACnet, LonWorks, and HD-PLC: Choosing the Best Open Protocol for Your Building Automation System

- Thursday, February 22, 2018

The smart building market is evolving quickly. As it does so, facility owners and system integrators need an open protocol for integrating diverse building automation systems (BAS) into a single, comprehensive building management system (BMS) that meets the performance, flexibility and cost requirements of applications today and tomorrow.

Selecting the right open protocol starts with knowing the history, key technical distinctions and ongoing development of available approaches. But it doesn't end there. One must also understand how smart buildings themselves are changing network architectures and placing new demands on the protocols used therein.

Originally developed approximately 30 years ago, BACnet and LonWorks inspired intense debate amongst building automation professionals in the first decade of the 2000s (the infamous “Protocol Wars”). In the end, there wasn’t a clear winner, and both protocols have enjoyed widespread adoption across HVAC, fire, security, and other building automation systems.

Chances are, your building already employs at least one of these protocols, and you face a difficult decision in deciding whether to extend it or integrate another protocol to meet your future needs. This article will take a look at both of these open protocols, as well as a new one (HD-PLC) that brings a range of benefits to modern smart building control networks.

BACnet

BACnet, short for Building Automation and Control Network, is an open protocol that was developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers for building automation and control equipment in the early 1990s. It became an American National Standard (ANSI/ASHRAE 135) in 1995 and an international standard (ISO-16484-5) in 2003.

 

Given its origin and support by ASHRAE, BACnet has enjoyed the most success in programmable controllers for air conditioning systems, ventilation systems, fume hoods, pumps, and valves. It is also found in lighting, safety and security, and other building automation systems. BACnet is supported by more than 800 manufacturers across hundreds of devices, with millions of installed devices worldwide.

A key distinguishing feature of BACnet is its top-down approach to control networks. Based on a client-server model, BACnet defines a tiered architecture optimized for workstations and head-end computers that need to process and communicate large amounts of data. One of its strength is the standard object-oriented model it uses to represent the functions of devices. Functions such as analog and binary inputs and outputs, alarms, and schedules are represented as “objects” (e.g., an analog input object), each of which has a set of standard properties like present value, alarm thresholds, etc.

Following the client-server model, building automation systems use “service requests” to access a property or request an action from a BACnet object. Service requests are the standardized way that BACnet devices get information, issue commands to perform certain actions, and communicate events to other devices. The protocol defines a standard set of objects, but vendors are free to add new properties to existing object types or create new objects types and add functionality to their devices. This enables manufacturers to differentiate their products, but it can create problems for end customers who may now find themselves locked into a proprietary solution.

Another key consideration for BACnet is that it only uses four of the seven layers of the OSI model, primarily operating in the management and automation layers. Because of this, BACnet systems do not require their own transmission technology and system integrators are free to choose amongst five options to optimize network price and performance. The fastest (and most expensive) is Ethernet, offering speeds up to 100Mbps. Next is ARCNET with speeds up to 2.5Mbps over coax, twisted-pair or fiber optic cables. BACnet also defines an MS/TP network for twisted-pair implementations under 1Mbps. Lastly, it supports LonTalk over a variety of media, as well as point-to-point over phone lines or hardwired EIA 232 connections.

BACnet provides considerable flexibility to facility owners and system integrators—but this comes at a cost. Meeting the bandwidth demands of modern smart building applications typically requires the deployment of costly new wiring infrastructure. With the installed cost of Ethernet estimated at $300 per linear foot, this can significantly impact project budgets. Additionally, BACnet’s top-down approach to control networks necessitates the use of costly gateways to translate between the protocol used at the workstation level and other protocols used at lower levels.

LonWorks

A distributed control system built to enable communication between intelligent devices, the LonWorks platform employs a flat system architecture to reduce the overall cost to implement, manage and maintain building automation systems. The system comprises the LonTalk communication protocol, a dedicated controller (Neuron Chip) and a network management tool.

Developed in the late 1980s by Echelon Corporation in conjunction with Motorola, LonTalk became an ANSI standard (ANSI/CEA 709.1) in 1999 and an international standard (ISO/IEC 14908-4) in 2005. It is supported by hundreds of manufacturers and, as of 2010, approximately 90 million devices were installed globally with LonWorks technology. Products and applications using this technology include HVAC systems, street lighting, smart meters, train control systems, safety and security systems, and even infant monitoring.

 

The LonTalk protocol defines a set of rules to manage communications within the control network. Because of the complexity of the LonTalk protocol, Echelon developed its own communications controller (Neuron) optimized for the protocol. The benefit of this approach is that it simplifies system development and frees the rest of the system to focus on applications processing; however, it also restricts system designers to a limited number of Neuron vendors, adding to the cost of system development.

LonTalk is supplemented by a second protocol (LonWorks) that defines the content and structure of the information that is communicated. LonWorks describes a distributed control network operating on a peer-to-peer basis, enabling any device to communicate with any other device on the network and/or employ master-slave communication among intelligent devices. This enables a flat system architecture that is well-suited for modern smart building applications.

The LonWorks platform supports a wide range of physical media, including free-topology twisted-pair, powerlines, fiber optic cable, and coax. The most popular channel in building automation systems is FT-10, which defines a free-topology twisted-pair profile capable of delivering 78kbps over up to 500m of low-cost twisted pair. A powerline channel is also available for low-speed applications (5.4kbps or 3.6kbps, depending on frequency). For high-speed applications, the LonWorks platform uses an affiliated IP tunneling channel with tunneling routers and IP-based LonWorks/IP nodes. This facilitates the integration of new and previously deployed networks with other IP-aware applications and remote network management tools.

Like BACnet, one of the biggest challenges facing the LonWorks protocol in recent years is meeting the performance and cost demands of modern smart building applications. Although the protocol offers many advantages, developers today increasingly struggle to meet the bandwidth demands of new applications with the low bit rates available over twisted-pair and powerline. In practice, this means that powerline has become obsolete in all but the simplest control networks. In its place, system integrators have had to run new wiring and deploy a vast network of costly switches, routers, and repeaters to deliver the throughput demanded by their applications.

LonMark recently addressed these concerns by adopting HD-PLC as a new high-speed communications channel for large, multi-node smart building networks.

HD-PLC

Originally developed by Panasonic 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 any wire (powerlines, twisted-pair, and coax).

In 2010, the HD-PLC protocol was ratified in IEEE 1901, the first global standard for powerline communication (PLC) for applications such as multimedia home networking, AV and smart grid. In 2016, HD-PLC was enhanced with a unique multi-hop technology adopted by HD-PLC Alliance and ratified in the international standard ITU-T G.9905. Multi-hop extends the communication range of HD-PLC and adds industrial-grade robustness by enabling each node to act as a repeater so that data can “hop” from one device to another. With multi-hop, one master device can connect to as many as 1024 terminal devices and support communication over distances up to several kilometers.

 

In addition to its range and robustness advantages, the HD-PLC protocol brings significant performance and cost advantages to smart building networks. System integrators finally have a solution that enables them to meet the bandwidth demands of modern IoT applications using their existing wiring infrastructure: powerlines, twisted-pair and coax.

HD-PLC solves the problems inherent to PLC by applying advanced, broadband communication techniques and utilizing wider bandwidths at higher operating frequencies to achieve a better channel for communication on powerlines. Smart building networks benefit from fast megabit data rates, integrated security, and robust, bidirectional IP-based communications. Meanwhile, system integrators gain the ability to quickly deploy large systems without time-consuming network planning or costly devices like switches and routers, thanks to HD-PLC’s built-in mesh networking functionality.

This is just a brief introduction to the benefits of HD-PLC. Download our whitepaper to learn more about HD-PLC and how it can help you break through bandwidth bottlenecks and cost barriers in your smart building application.

Let Us Know What You Think

Have you used any of these protocols? Please comment below to share your experience and recommendations for modern smart building projects.

Michael Navid
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.