In an effort to accelerate the adoption of smart grid products, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has formed a new committee to help standardize communications in smart grid devices.
The new CEA committee is pushing the Modular Communication Interface (MCI) designed to benefit manufacturers, utilities, service providers and consumers in providing a unifying technology that enables a range of consumer products to manage energy use and consumption.
Developed by the Universal Smart Network Access Port (USNAP) Alliance based on research from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the MCI specification will enable manufacturers of home energy management products and data collection devices to obtain energy information through system interfaces regardless of the communication technology used.
The USNAP Alliance will support the industry adoption of the MCI standard through certification and test programs; EPRI will conduct interoperability workshops to evaluate prototype devices and demand response programs.
"Consumers benefit from the selection of smart grid-ready products that can be used anywhere in the country. Manufacturers benefit because they can build standardized products capable of working in any service territory. Utilities benefit because this specification reduces the risk of stranded assets," said USNAP Alliance chairman, Jon Rappaport in a statement.
An open standard interface, the USNAP framework enables home area networks to connect to smart meters, energy gateways or other devices within the home. Large service providers such as ADT, Comcast, Verizon, Vivint, Alarm.com and AT&T currently offer products with USNAP capability connecting to security and energy management systems through plug-in communication modules.
While the CEA has a mixed record in green initiatives -- previously lobbying to slow down green IT growth and resisting a New York City e-waste law -- last year the trade group released a report highlighting the progress that electronics firms have made in reducing environmental impacts.
And in May, the CEA released a smart grid policy paper calling for dynamic pricing programs and consumer information to reduce real-time energy usage and improve awareness of consumption practices.
The CEA, which produces the International CES technology conference every January in Las Vegas, names several energy management technology providers among its members including Control4 Corp., GE, Intel Corp., LG Electronics and Universal Devices Inc.