Last year the buzz was about the emergence of home networking and the connected home. Now, the connected home vision is moving into reality with the creation and deployment of products that are built upon industry accepted specifications covering the major mediums including phone line, wireless, and powerline.

The HomePlug Power Alliance, an industry consortium of companies including Cisco Systems, Cogency Semiconductor, Intellon, Motorola, Panasonic, RadioShack, and Texas Instruments, recently announced the first in a series of products that are built upon the HomePlug 1.0 specification, formally released in June 2001.

HomePlug 1.0 Specification

DIY Home Automation at SmartHomeUSA
Validated by extensive field trials in 500 homes in North America, the HomePlug 1.0 standard is the only high bit rate specification to support a variety of power outlet-based consumer products. The field trials, which began in February of 2001 and were completed in May of 2001, resulted in performance consistent with, and in many cases exceeded, the prerequisites set in the Marketing Requirements Document (MRD). The requirements defined in the MRD included Ethernet class speed, QoS for multimedia applications, and security built-in. HomePlug member companies that participated in these field trials included Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Cogency Semiconductor, ConEdison, Conexant, Enikia, Intel, Intellon, Motorola, Panasonic, RadioShack, Sharp, SONICblue, Telewise and Valence Semiconductor. Similar field tests are planned for the European, Japanese and Korean markets during 2002. Because of HomePlug’s active membership base, coupled with a ventured interest in supporting home networking across the powerline medium, the Alliance developed a certification and compliance program in November of 2001 to verify that HomePlug products from different manufacturers will interoperate with each other. Products that are verified as compliant will receive the HomePlug Certification Mark. The HomePlug Alliance is confident that the joint development of the 1.0 specification, and the compliance and certification program, will ensure that all HomePlug products work seamlessly together.

Dramatic Home Networking Growth Predicted

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, HomePlug members showcased their products, which they believe is the first step in deploying consumer devices that utilize a single plug for power and connectivity. Some market analysts have hailed this new HomePlug standard and the introduction of compliant products as the boost that home networking has been seeking. In fact, Cahners In-Stat/MDR recently said the arrival of HomePlug is set to breathe new life into the powerline home networking market, helping to propel it from under $18 million in 2001 to nearly $190 million in 2002. Cahners analysts even predicted that the home networking equipment market would be worth $706 million (U.S.) by 2006.

Those analysts also believe that HomePlug has an advantage over other home networking mediums, such as phone lines, because of the higher ratio and availability of power outlets over phone jacks, the increased reliability of powerline home networking over wireless standards, the cost effectiveness of deploying powerline technology, and the ease with which it may be installed. Additionally, while HomePlug does not provide the mobility of wireless solutions, wireless performance often falls off with distance, making it difficult to provide whole house coverage. During the field tests, the HomePlug specification provided more than 99% coverage in the 500 homes tested.

HomePlug specification products also protect data by utilizing powerful DES encryption, which makes hacking into a HomePlug network virtually impossible. In addition to robust security features, the HomePlug network is also faster than competing technologies at 14 megabits per second (Mbp/s) versus the 11 Mbp/s speed associated with 802.11b or 10 Mbp/s speed common with Ethernet networks.

Evolution of Consumer Devices

With this type of explosive growth, married with the convenience of networking any device through existing powerlines, HomePlug member companies are excited about delivering devices and applications that meet consumer needs. One of the big themes that came out of CES this year was introducing consumers to these new networked appliances and helping them understand the real-life applications associated with power outlet networking. Given the declining costs in broadband services and the introduction of “smart” appliances, the power outlet home networking connection for consumers is becoming easier and easier.

To support this first step in consumer education, HomePlug had a variety of products to demonstrate at this year’s CES, including demonstrations from HomePlug member companies such as Asoka, Cogency Semiconductor, Conexant, DS2, Intellon, Linksys, NetGear, Phonex Broadband and Valence Semiconductor. Several companies unveiled HomePlug Compliant products such as bridging and routing devices and network interface cards. To prepare consumers and retailers for the rollout of HomePlug compliant products, the Alliance plans to focus on continuous marketing and education to retailers and consumers so they can understand the dynamics and benefits of a powerline connected home.

Companies interested in joining the HomePlug Powerline Alliance should contact HomePlug at .

About HomePlug Powerline Alliance

HomePlug Powerline Alliance, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation established to provide a forum for the creation of specifications for home powerline networking products and services; and, to accelerate the demand for these products and services through the sponsorship of market and user education programs. Currently, HomePlug is comprised more than 75 industry-leading companies.

About the author

Graham Wilson is the chair of HomePlug’s Marketing Working Group. Additionally, he is the Director of Marketing for Cogency Semiconductor Inc. and can be reached at