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Special Feature The

Special Feature The Smart Home Connected at last Home networking comes of age at IFA 2010 Until recently, the idea of home networks was appealing in principal but difficult in practice. People found them cumbersome to set up and difficult to use, with the result that their evolution has been slow. But times are changing and home networking is going mainstream. Most major TV manufacturers now offer direct Internet access, and a few are even developing more highly evolved home-network infrastructures. Loewe MediaNet allows easy access to Internet content via the TV Digital recording with the integrated Loewe DR+ hard disk has been a highlight in the German premium manufacturer’s product portfolio for some time now. Loewe has brought a new innovation to IFA: Loewe DR+ streaming, which allows the video recording to ‘follow’ the user to any room. The Loewe MediaPortal pools the advanced multimedia functions and now also has a redesigned user interface. The MediaNet function allows the integration of online content into the home-entertainment system. Loewe MediaNet allows easy access to a broad variety of Internet content via the television screen, including videos, music, news, radio from the Internet – or even simply for online surfing. And all of this can be operated via the remote control. The built-in LAN interface allows access to pictures, music and videos from the home network via MediaHome. Meanwhile, Spotify and Sonos ( spotify) are setting the pace in sound. Spotify is coming into every room in the home, wirelessly, via the award-winning Sonos Multi- Room Music System, it has been announced at IFA. With a free Sonos software update, available later this month, all Sonos customers in Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK will have instant access to more than eight million songs and all of their playlists on Spotify. But there is a downside to all this connectivity, according to the Internet security specialist Kaspersky Lab. Internet-enabled television sets and networked houses are of particular interest to cybercriminals, warns Kaspersky Lab, which is at IFA to flag up the dangers posed by the latest technological advances in CE. It is estimated that almost 40% of all German households have expressed an interest in linking their TVs, stereo systems, computers and mobile phones. “Networking devices and systems are currently extremely fashionable,” said Axel Diekmann, Kaspersky Lab’s Managing Director of Central Europe. “As these services become more integrated, the dangers of the Internet will, in future, be transferred from the office to the living room. This brave new world is also a playground for cybercriminals.” But one thing is sure. The home network will continue to evolve in exciting ways in the years to come. 28

Special Feature The Smart Home The age of clever energy Smart grids set to move from research to reality By Joanna Stephens Smart grids aim to optimise energy usage through communication between devices in the home or office and the actual electric grid itself. Integration of these end-use technologies poses a significant challenge beyond the development and enhancement of the technologies themselves. Building a smart grid is an incremental process of applying information and communications technologies (ICTs) to the electricity system, enabling more dynamic real-time flows of information on the network and greater interactivity between suppliers and consumers. These technologies can help deliver electricity more efficiently and reliably, and from a more complex range of generation sources, than is possible today. Smart grids are based on the fundamental principle of optimising the use of infrastructure to minimise costs and environmental impact. ‘Observability’ is a key factor. It should be possible to view a wide range of operational indicators in real-time, including where losses are occurring, the condition of equipment and other technical information. While many of these functions can already be done by the higher voltage transmission networks, it is largely absent from low-voltage distribution equipment. Controllability is also key. It should be possible to manage and optimise the power system to a far greater extent than it is today. This can include adjusting demand for electricity according to the available supply, as well as enabling the large-scale use of intermittent renewable generation sources in a controlled manner. Smart grids are also intelligent. They are able to make certain automaticdemand response decisions. They will also respond to the consequences of power fluctuations or outages by, for example, being able to reconfigure themselves. Finally, they are fully integrated. Smart grid components must work with existing systems. They must also be compatible with other new devices, such as smart consumer appliances. A digital communications infrastructure is central to building greater intelligence into the network. In addition, a new layer of monitoring, communications and control software must be integrated into existing systems, as well as additional hardware, such as sensors, monitors, communication devices and smart meters. A smarter Europe According to the UK’s Electricity Networks Strategy Group, several projects currently under way in Europe: • Amsterdam, Netherlands: various domestic and commercial capabilities aimed at cutting emissions • Various European: FENIX — virtual power plants (VPP) to aggregate distributed generation • Denmark: cell controller pilot — uses layered control hierarchy and distributed agent technology to manage variable generation • Skegness, UK: dynamic line rating — increases the capacity of existing connections in order to manage wind-generation excess • Mannheim, Germany: co-ordination of information, consumption and generation; customers are able to modify consumption based on prices • Germany: MEREGIO (minimum emission regions), designed to optimise spinning reserves, provide DR and real-time pricing, and reduce losses IFA International • Saturday, 4 th & Sunday, 5 th September 2010 29

IFA International