ZigBee Smart Energy is a standard, easy and affordable way for communicating energy-related information, such as price, over ZigBee wireless home area networks. It is a global, open standard that facilitates the creation of interoperable energy-related devices from multiple vendors to monitor, control and automate the use of energy.

HomeToys Interview - ZigBee Smart Energy

Bob Heile | ZigBee Alliance

October 2008

HomeToys Interview - ZigBee Smart Energy

Bob Heile, ZigBee Alliance

ZigBee Smart Energy is a standard, easy and affordable way for communicating energy-related information, such as price, over ZigBee wireless home area networks. It is a global, open standard that facilitates the creation of interoperable energy-related devices from multiple vendors to monitor, control and automate the use of energy.  

Q1.  What is ZigBee Smart Energy?  

ZigBee Smart Energy enables wireless communication and automation between utility companies, the Smart Grid and common household devices such as thermostats, water heaters, pool pumps and appliances.  It improves energy efficiency by allowing consumers to manage their energy consumption more precisely using automation and near real-time information.  They will have the ability to buy these interoperable ZigBee devices from a large number of companies. Ultimately, ZigBee Smart Energy will stimulate social change in the way people understand, control, automate and maximize the consumption of energy and water.


Q2:  Why is ZigBee Smart Energy ideal for home energy management?

Many consumers are well aware of their electricity bills rising but may not realize that the cost of electricity can fluctuate widely and rapidly throughout a single day. Communicating price, and price fluctuations, can allow consumers to see huge savings by automatically reducing energy consumption.

ZigBee Smart Energy helps utility companies implement new advanced metering and demand response programs to drive greater energy management and efficiency, while responding to regulatory requirements for the use of open standards. ZigBee Smart Energy offers innovative electric, gas and water utilities support for advanced metering, demand response, load control, pricing, and customer messaging programs.  It provides communication and control for devices such as in-home displays, programmable communicating thermostats, water heaters, lighting, smart appliances, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, plus energy service portals and energy management systems. 


Q3.  What kind of devices is ZigBee Smart Energy being integrated into?

ZigBee Smart Energy profile is being built into many different devices. Electricity meter makers are building it into their solid-state meters. Inside the home, ZigBee Smart Energy devices can range from programmable communicating thermostats and smart appliances to displays small enough to fit on a refrigerator magnet and run off a small battery. Other devices might include generic control devices for appliances such as water heaters and pool pumps, or electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.


Q4: What information does ZigBee Smart Energy-enabled devices provide to help consumers make smarter energy choices?

ZigBee Smart Energy supports a wide array of communications between these devices.  Consumers will be able to respond to changing energy prices since ZigBee Smart Energy enabled devices can report multiple price tiers and price ratios in multiple currencies, handles real-time and historical information about energy consumed and energy delivered.   ZigBee Smart Energy also supports a number of demand response and load control commands issued by utilities to prevent black-outs and maintain service during peak-load periods that can occur in the summer. Consumers will have the ability to override events initiated by the utility at any time, so the control and management of energy consumption always lies in the hands of consumers. ZigBee Smart Energy enabled devices also support the display of energy consumption and billing information to consumers.


Q5.  Can or will the system be used to monitor and control a solar electric system?

ZigBee Smart Energy has the ability to enable monitoring and control of a solar electric system.  In fact, ZigBee Smart Energy enables manufacturers to develop entire ecosystems of products to work together at home to help consumers manage their electric consumption more efficiently.    


Q6. What can consumers expect from ZigBee Smart Energy in the future?

Consumers can expect to see more options, more control and more savings in their energy usage. And the savings from communicating the price of energy are real. At the end of 2007, Southern California Edison selected an advanced metering system that uses ZigBee to communicate price and control information. According to their business case, they are counting on that communication to produce $160 million in savings, roughly 40% of the system purchase price, through the reduction of peak energy consumption.   Consumers can expect to see these types of programs being implemented with utilities across the country.


Q7:  As a homeowner, how do I go about getting a ZigBee Smart Energy system installed in my home?

Have patience. ZigBee Smart Energy was just released to product manufacturers in January, 2008.  Many manufacturers are developing products that will work together.  This May, the ZigBee Alliance certified the first group of products from a wide variety of manufacturers.  Those products included equipment for utilities and end-consumers. We expect the number of consumer devices to grow as more companies finalize, certify and introduce products into the marketplace.  Many utilities have plans underway to roll out new ZigBee equipped smart meters that will play a key role in delivering the savings offered by ZigBee Smart Energy. Volume installation of these smart meters will grow throughout 2009.


Q8.  What are the opportunities for consultants and system integrators and how do they go about getting up to speed on these opportunities?

ZigBee Smart Energy provides unlimited opportunities to develop a cohesive home management system that takes advantage of ZigBee's low cost and low energy characteristics.  Consultants and systems integrators interested in utilizing the ZigBee Smart Energy profile can visit www.ZigBee.org/SmartEnergy to download the engineering specification and review the list of companies that have certified products.  They may also join the ZigBee Alliance and begin building relationships with the numerous Alliance members working in the energy space.


Bob Heile is a 25 plus year veteran in the field of data communications and wireless data. He is the Chairman and founding member of the ZigBee Alliance, chair and founding member of the IEEE 802.15 Working Group on WPANs, and is a founding member of 802.11. Before assuming the leadership of the ZigBee Alliance, Bob was doing Wireless Communications Consulting for several high profile companies. Before that Bob was with GTE/BBN responsible for Wireless Opportunity Business Development, with the mission of commercializing wireless ad hoc networking and wireless PAN technologies.  In 1990 he was a co-founder of Windata, Inc., an early developer of WLANs.  From 1980-1990, Bob was with Motorola Codex, as VP/GM of the company’s modem business. Bob holds a BA from Oberlin College, and an MA and Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University.

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