Virtually all smart meters being installed in the US come with a second built-in radio — the Home Area Network interface — that can send information to one or more devices in the home. This is separate from the other radio in the meter that sends data back to the utility.
But in most places, including California, this HAN interface is not yet “live”. This means the meter is equipped to transmit or receive data to devices in the home, but it cannot do so until either:
- The utility starts transmitting data to home devices via the HAN interface
- OR: A device in the home starts sending messages to the meter requesting data.
Here’s how this process gets rolling…
In either case, the utility must enable HAN communication by authorizing a password between the HAN in-home device and the meter. This is very much like a password protection for a home wi-fi router, except that the utility controls this password (not the homeowner).
What kind of data will be shared via HAN? Utilities are required to be able to send usage, price, and cost data from the meter to devices such as in-home displays. IHDs are specialized devices that receive the data from smart meters and display it in the household on a small LED or LCD screen. IHDs are available today.
Also, other smart household devices (appliances and thermostats) will be equipped with radios to communicate with the meter’s HAN radio. So far, only a few experimental HAN-equipped refrigerators, washers, dryers, dishwashers, and water heaters are available. However, several HAN-equipped smart thermostats are commercially available today.
Bringing HAN to your computer or smartphone. Your home router could one day include both a wi-fi radio and a HAN radio. This would allow your smart meter to talk directly to your home computer or smartphone. Then, if you also have a smart thermostat or smart appliances at home, your computer could control those devices appliances. Or, more likely, you could use your computer or smartphone to program your appliances to operate automatically based on your preferences for time of operation and, perhaps, power prices.
Belkin already makes a wi-fi + HAN router, and Cisco says it will make one.
In Texas, HAN radios in smart meters have gone live — and the number of installed devices is ramping up slowly. Texas has installed a couple million smart meters, but so far only several hundred HAN-enabled devices have been installed. Next year, Best Buy plans to sell HAN devices to Texas consumers.
So: Keep an eye on Texas!