Frequently Asked Questions

General

What is USNAP?

USNAP (Universal Smart Network Access Port) is a simple, cost effective, standard (ANSI/CEA-2045) that enables any HAN (Home Area Network) or DR (Demand Response) standard, present and future, to communicate with utility systems, energy gateways or other devices within the home.

This standard functions similarly to the popular USB standard for attaching hardware devices in a computer. USNAP defines a standard connector, PCB interface and serial interface enabling consumer products to support a variety of communication protocols.

Why do we need another standard, doesn’t something already exist?

With the industry is already overwhelmed with communication standards, and new protocols are still in development. It is unlikely that the industry will adopt a common set of communication standards. The ANSI/CEA-2045 standard solves this problem, allowing manufacturers to offer a family of Smart Grid “ready” products, that can easily integrate and interoperate regardless of the communications standard in place, or in development. Products can either be fitted in the factory or in the field, utilizing USNAP certified modules that support the desired protocol.

Who is supporting / using USNAP?

The USNAP Alliance is an open industry forum backed by a growing list of key industry stakeholders representing utilities, appliances, consumer electronics, HVAC and other home markets. Please continue to visit our website for an updated list of active members and certified products.

Where does the intelligence exist: in the module or device?

The Smart Grid itself is based upon the principle of distributed intelligence; therefore both USNAP modules and energy-aware devices will possess significant functionality. The functionality of the USNAP module is designed to enable communication between intelligent devices and systems.

What about security?

Security is managed by the particular communication standard used in the module using the native security of the communication network. For example, Zigbee uses IEEE 802.15.4’s security model including access control, data encryption, frame integrity and replay prevention.

What will the USNAP organizational structure look like?

The USNAP Alliance is member-based organization, consisting of Contributor Members, Influencer Members, and Liaison Members. Committees are currently being assembled to address product device classes, interoperability testing and market awareness.

How can we learn more about USNAP?

The best way to learn more about USNAP is to visit www.usnap.org.

Manufacturing

How much more will it add to the cost of a product?

While the additional component cost for the USNAP hardware is estimated to be less than $0.10 for the connector and related plastic packaging (optional), the overall cost to build and deliver products should be significantly reduced. The most significant module cost continues to be the communication chip and related circuitry required to support a particular communication protocol. Device manufacturers will benefit from this standard by being able to offer a family of products that are protocol independent, rather than supporting duplicate products for each supported protocol. The communications vendors will benefit from being able to build a very few radios at much higher volumes, while being able to support a large ecosystem of Smart Grid devices.

When can we see the USNAP licensing agreement?

The simplest way to handle licensing or any intellectual property required is to join the USNAP Alliance.  This covers all intellectual property licensing.

Where can we see the USNAP specification?

The USNAP Specification is now part of the ANSI/CEA-2045 Standard is available from the CEA here.  An abstract of the Standard is available here.

How will USNAP support new features in white goods (appliances)?

The USNAP interface is an ideal solution for enhancing products in the field. Every product containing a USNAP interface can be a member of a network. Depending upon the network configuration, the product can be updated or upgraded in the field. Not only can new features can be downloaded to the product, but also service personnel can query the product remotely for troubleshooting. Products can even be programmed to send out alerts to consumers or service providers regarding maintenance issues before the problem becomes critical.

Utilities

How will USNAP support legacy appliances?

Legacy appliances can be addressed in two categories, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

  • Millions of legacy load control devices exist as byproducts of older (mostly 1-way communications) Demand Response (DR) programs. These devices may be either replaced by, or integrated with, new 2-way communicating USNAP modules, potentially eliminating the unnecessary stranding of millions of dollars of valuable utility assets.
  • Tens of millions of legacy appliances (devices without intelligent energy aware features), from hot water heaters to pool pumps, can now be connected to energy management systems, forming a responsive network of energy consuming devices. These device networks can be turned-off or cycled in response to critical peak pricing and demand response signals provided by utilities, as well as to threshold settings determined by individual consumers. The USNAP based module would likely be installed to the power wiring of the appliance by a qualified electrician. Such modules may provide on/off control, cycling, status, remote monitoring & control, and energy measurement providing useful information to both consumers and utilities.

How will USNAP modules interface to simple appliances such as water heaters?

Simple appliances, such as water heaters, will support two possible scenarios. For those products already installed, a USNAP enabled load control module can be installed directly in-line to the power cord attached to the water heater. This will allow on/off control of the device, and perhaps, energy measurement if the additional circuits are provided. In the case of new water heaters, adding a USNAP interface directly into the unit would enable the product to connect to any energy management, demand response or conservation program, regardless of the protocol used. Consumers will ultimately be able to acquire the communications module compatible with their existing system and insert it into the product without requiring a professional installer.

Technical

What protocols are supported by the USNAP standard?

Modules are available or in development for any communications protocol or standard commonly in use for energy management.

What will the pin-outs be for the USNAP connector?

The USNAP interface is available in two different form-factors.  One is a DC-powered interface, and the second is AC-powered.

The DC-powered connector is a micro-SATA connector, as specified in the ANSI/CEA-2045 documentation. The current USNAP connector supports 10 lines in the following configuration:

DC Interface Connector 

The AC-powered connector supports 3 RS-485 signal lines, 3 power lines and a vendor-specified line, as follows:

AC Interface Connector

How much of physical area are you going to define?

See diagram below for specific dimensional details of the existing ANSI/CEA-2045 design. Other physical layouts are discussed elsewhere.

 coming soon.

Can USNAP work with power line protocols?

USNAP modules will likely support popular power line protocols such as LonWorks and HomePlug, but further investigation is required. At a minimum, there will be USNAP modules that bridge to popular power-line standards.

Can USNAP work with cellular data protocols?

USNAP modules will likely be developed to support cellular data protocols. At a minimum, there will be USNAP modules that bridge to popular power-line standards.

How much memory will be required to support USNAP firmware?

The USNAP DC interface is a lightweight protocol based on an industry-standard SPI-compatible serial interface. The memory required is available internally in most inexpensive micro-controllers.  For the AC interface, the industry-standard RS-485 interface provides a well-supported and efficient option.

Will USNAP have to reinvent each device class as ZigBee & other protocol standards have already done?

The USNAP interface is a lightweight protocol based on an industry-standard SPI-compatible serial interface. The device classes used in USNAP are high-level and abstract.  AS a result, device classes are very broad, and should not require redefinition.

How does this relate to the work underway through ANSI C12.22?

The ANSI C12.22 standard is a complimentary technology to USNAP and is designed to achieve a different goal. ANSI C12.22 provides TCP/IP access to ANSI C12.19 tables in smart electric meters. The C12.19 standard is large and complex, and provides very specialized, detailed and flexible management of all aspects of electric metering. USNAP modules can be used to provide the interconnection over which ANSI C12.22 signals may be carried to devices which can interpret them.

Do USNAP modules interoperate physically as well as electrically?

All USNAP modules will support a similar form factor, making them physically interoperable across participating manufacturer’s devices and communications protocols. Think of this as PCI or USB for devices, whereby the physical package is compatible across all products.

Testing and Certification

How does the USNAP organization intend to address interoperability testing?

The USNAP organization is dedicated to ensuring product interoperability. The Certification Working Group is developing testing processes and conformance guidelines for ANSI/CEA-2045, and will begin testing by the second quarter of 2016.

Will there be a cost to test products?

There will likely be a cost associated with interoperability testing, but the goal is to keep the cost as low as possible. The USNAP organization is committed to reducing product development, integration, interoperability (testing included), deployment and support costs.

Is certification of the module provided?

A USNAP certification program will be implemented to ensure compatibility among third party products. The certification program is currently being defined by the Certification Working Group.

What has been done to-date as far as testing and certification?

A Certification Working Group has been performed to define testing and certification requirements. We encourage companies to join USNAP if they are interested in participating in this program.


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