Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Home Plug and Play(TM) Specification

Kurt Kyvik | Intellon

HTINews Article

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Home Plug and Play(TM) Specification
Submitted by Kurt Kyvik, Intellon

Q1: Why is the Home Plug and Play (HPnP) specification so important?

A1: Until now, the entertainment, convenience, comfort, safety, and security benefits of home networks have only been available through very expensive, custom designed and installed home control and entertainment systems. The HPnP Specification seeks to bring these benefits to the mass market by providing manufacturers of home electronics and home controls with the information necessary to build products which will work together without custom installation or programming.

Q2: Why is this significant?

A2: The "plug and play" concept is key to establishing a broad market for home networks. It is critical that consumers be able to purchase network ready products at familiar retail outlets, take them home, plug them in or have them professionally installed, and immediately be able to enjoy the benefits of the product. It is also important because it allows the consumer to upgrade or add other products to the network as time and budget allow, one product at a time.

Q3: What does the Home Plug and Play Specification contain?

A3: The HPnP Specification details a set of behavioral characteristics for products and systems within the home that will allow them to take actions based upon the state of the home. For example, the specification identifies different conditions within the home such as "occupants away" or "occupants home and asleep" to allow home systems to take appropriate action like arming the security system, shutting off interior lights, or setting the temperature. The specification also includes information for developing Windows 95 PC-based applications for home control.

Q4: How does the HPnP Specification compare with current standards activities like EIA-600 (CEBus Standard) and IEEE-1394 (Firewire)?

A4: The HPnP effort began as the common desire of a few companies to define the elements necessary to establish a network within the home for control and communications. It is not currently a formal standards activity, but an industry coalition with the goal of expanding the market for intelligent networked devices in the home.

Each of the efforts to establish standards for intelligent networked devices in the home have focused on the lower level technologies and protocols. The HPnP specification provides a higher layer of interoperability rules not addressed by current standards activities. The specification utilizes the Common Application Language and Context "models" for products from the EIA-600 CEBus Standard, but it is independent of any specific transport protocol. The goal for the specification is also to accommodate control and data communications. Most of the current standards activities address control or data communications, but not both.

Q5: How will the HPnP Specification be made available to industry?

A5: An enormous amount of effort has already been put into developingthe specification to its current level by the original HPnP Task Force. This effort will continue as they join with the CIC Interoperability Technical Committee to complete the initial draft of the specification. A provisional specification is scheduled for completion in April, 1997 for presentation and discussion at the CEBus Developers Conference. The specification will be updated based upon the proceedings of the conference and will be published shortly thereafter. The CIC will also host periodic interoperability demonstrations or "plugfests" to provide a forum for manufacturers to gather and test product interoperability.

Q6: Why did the HPnP Task Force join efforts with the CIC?

A6: Because the goal of the task force was to enable the mass market for intelligent communicating devices in the home, they recognized that it would be necessary to garner broad support from a number of different industries. The CIC represents the leading providers of consumer electronics and home systems. By joining efforts with the CIC, the task force is able to address the leaders in security, environmental controls, energy management, consumer electronics, wiring devices/lighting controls, computers, and software. The CIC also represented the organization with the greatest knowledge and experience in the development and delivery of networked products for the home. This will allow the most expedient delivery of a complete and comprehensive specification.

Q7: Who is the CIC?

A7: The CEBus Industry Council (CIC) is the international trade organization of developers and manufacturers of intelligent products for home networks. CIC is a non-profit membership organization. CIC's sponsoring members include many well known industry giants such as: Ademco (Div. of Pittway); AMP Incorporated; AT&T; Compaq Computer; Hewlett Packard Company; Honeywell; IBM; Intel Corporation; Leviton Manufacturing; Lucent Technologies; Microsoft; Molex Inc.; Panasonic Technologies Inc.; and Thomson Consumer Electronics. These are joined by other key industry players such as: ABB Powers T&D Company Inc.; American Meter Company ; Electronic Industries Association; Domosys Lab Corp.; Intellon Corporation; Interactive Technologies, Inc.; Landis & Staefa; Ontario Hydro Technologies; Pacific Gas & Electric Co.; Public Service Electric & Gas of New Jersey; Smart Interface, Inc.; and USTec.

Q8: How will the HPnP Specification benefit consumers?

A8: Consumers will be able to enjoy all of the benefits of integrated home control and entertainment systems which have previously been the exclusive domain of the very wealthy. However, instead of purchasing a custom designed and installed system, the consumer will be able to buy network ready products at familiar consumer electronics retailers, department stores, and home improvement centers. They will be able to simply install the products into their home by plugging them into the wall and they will work together. If the consumer has a home PC, it will add another dimension of functionality as a "manager" of the other systems in the home. The consumer will also be able to start with a few products on the network and add new ones as they desire, it won't be necessary to make a large initial investment in equipment.

Q9: How will the HPnP Specification benefit retailers?

A9: The HPnP Specification will create new product categories for intelligent communications and control devices in the home. It will also create pull through sales of high margin accessories to major purchases such as big-screen TV's or PC's. New installation and service opportunities - such as DSS and home theater - will be created by consumers desiring professional installation and setup of networked products. Additionally, intelligent HPnP products will be able to notify the consumer and the retail service center when they require maintenance or repair, generating new service revenue opportunities.

Q10: How will the HPnP Specification benefit manufacturers of home electronics and controls?

A10: By establishing the guidelines for interoperability, the specification will help expand the consumer electronics market by introducing new categories of control and communications products and by enhancing existing products with new network ready features. Because it is transport protocol independent, the specification also mitigates the manufacturer1s risk of choosing the technology for adding network communications capability.

Q11: Can Others participate in the development of CIC's HPnP Specification?

A11: CIC is a non-profit membership organization. CIC's members are those companies addressing the market for intelligent communicating products within the home. Companies interested in developing interoperable products are welcome to join CIC as members and participate in CIC's Interoperability Technical Committee. CIC membership information is available from CIC's INTERNET Web site via http://www.cebus.org, or by calling CIC at 317-545-6243.

Q12: Can other trade organizations work with CIC?

A12: Yes, CIC's mission includes serving other industry groups whose members develop or use intelligent networked products in the home. In this capacity, CIC has working relationships with the Security Industry Association (re: home security products); the Automatic Meter Reading Association (Utility metering products); and, the Consumer Electronic Manufacturers Association. Additional working relationships with other Trade Organizations such as IEEE-1394; and the Infrared Data Association; Video Electronic Standards Association [VESA]; and others are maintained through CIC members that serve on technical committees within these organizations.

These and other liaison efforts will continue, and be expanded, as CIC's HPnP Specification is refined and released.

Q13: When will HPnP capable products be available to consumers?

A13: Products are currently under development by CIC members. However, CIC does not comment on the product plans of its members. Individual companies may choose to comment on their own.


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