The smart grid-smart home nexus needs standards for communications and interoperability to emerge before appliance makers, consumer electronics manufacturers and IT players can start rolling out energy-smart household gear en masse. One of those potential new standards, U-SNAP (Utility Smart Network Access Port), took another step towards commercialization on Friday with the release of its 2.0 specification (PDF). The U-SNAP Alliance membership roster includes Google, General Electric, Comverge, Trilliant, 4Home and smart meter maker Sensus, and wants to be a USB-like standard for switching different communications modules – such as ZigBee, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave and FM radio – in and out of mass-market gear like smart appliances and home energy dashboards. That would mean that new communications technologies could come into the home as a module, without having to replace all the hardware. As for real-world application of the U-SNAP model, some alliance members are moving faster than others — while Radio Thermostat plans to have U-SNAP modular thermostats on the market in 2011, GE plans to keep its smart appliances and Nucleus home energy management hubs in utility projects and “retail trials” through next year, and hasn’t made any specific commitment to using U-SNAP.
In the race between ZigBee and Wi-Fi to network energy-smart homes, ZigBee has so far taken the lead, but that doesn’t mean Wi-Fi is giving up. Here is how the two technologies place in the race for the home energy management market.