NTS News Center

Latest News in Testing, Inspection and Certification

NTS News Center - Latest News in Testing, Inspection and Certification

“The Jetson’s” Home is Closer Than We Think

Home-automation (1)When it premiered over 50 years ago, “The Jetsons” gave an idealized view of the world in 2062. Many of the “modern conveniences” that were so common for the fantasy future of George, Jane, Judy and Elroy, are now becoming part of our everyday lives, such as flat screen TVs, video calls, and interactive news. With the latest in home automation technology, we’re getting closer to “The Jetsons” future by the day.

Home automation uses smart technology to make your everyday appliances and devices into something more. For example, a door that lets you know it was left unlocked or a dryer that sends a text when your clothes are dry. Some new thermostats can also connect with your smart meter and the smart grid to save money by running the air conditioner less on hot summer days. All of these devices are forming what is now referred to as the “Internet of Things” (IoT).

IoT can be loosely described as a concept where everyday objects have network connectivity allowing them to identify other devices to send and receive data. These objects not only respond to your direct control but also adjust to their environment automatically.

As a part of ZigBee certification we regularly test many of these home automation devices to make certain they meet the necessary standards before they go to market. We are also the selected test lab for the iControl OpenHome Partner Program, testing a wide variety of security and home automation products including smart door locks, light controls, thermostats, and smoke sensors, bringing the Internet of Things into the home.

As was said in General Electric’s Carousel of Progress at the 1964 World’s Fair, “Progress is not just moving ahead. Progress is dreaming and working and building a better way of life.

For additional information about ZigBee certification, the iControl OpenHome Partner Program or any other testing needs, contact the NTS Advanced Technology group at testinglab@nts.com or visit us online at http://www.nts-at.com/

The Smart Grid, From Analog to SEP 2.0

During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January, he remarked that “one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy,” and that it’s not just increasing energy production, but also partnering with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. For the past several years, NTS has been assisting manufacturers and utilities in reducing energy consumption via our work on the smart grid.

The smart grid, in short, is a modernization of the electric grid that has changed little in concept since the days of Thomas Edison. The smart grid updates the electric grid with two way communications allowing for more efficient use of power. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the U.S. government funded over $3.4 billion to a broad range of technologies to help America move towards energy independence, including updating the nation’s electrical grid.

For decades the average home or business has used the old-fashioned spinning wheel electric meter requiring a monthly visit by the meter reader. A couple weeks later, you receive a bill in the mail telling you how much electricity you’ve used. By replacing these old-fashioned meters with smart meters, your energy usage is sent back to the utility a few times per day. With a home automation device utilized by a multi-system operator (MSO) like Comcast or AT&T, you can proactively control your energy usage with up-to-date information on the energy you are using now – not a month from now.

Smart Meter

Analog meter (left) and modern smart meter (right)

The ZigBee standard provides a low-powered, low-cost wireless communications “mesh” network to connect your smart meter, in-home display and other devices throughout your home. Using the ZigBee Smart Energy Profile, these devices can become part of a “Home Area Network” or HAN. In the most common use scenario, a smart meter outside of the house provides electric usage information to an in-home display, allowing consumers to identify how much energy they are using and make informed decisions about adjusting their energy use. The ZigBee standard used for these devices allows for plug-and-play interoperability between devices support the standard.

ZigBee is currently moving to a new version of the Smart Energy Profile standard version 2.0 (known as SEP 2.0) which adds additional features, including support for other types of communications, like Wi-Fi, PLC, and Bluetooth, IPv6 addressability for cyber security, and support for Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) charging. As is often the case with a major upgrade of this type, older devices which support the SEP 1.x version of the standard may no longer function correctly with upgrades.

Ultimately, this will be beneficial in terms of additional features, such as added security, but it requires analysis to determine what’s needed from a utility’s perspective to transition. This applies not only to their equipment, but to devices being used by their customers. How will we make the transition to support the latest version of the specification? Below are a few options:

  1. Offer incentives for consumers to trade-in their old devices for new devices that support SEP 2.0
  2. Remote upgrading of devices to support SEP 2.0 (depending if the devices support either proprietary upgrade options or so called over-the air [OTA] upgrades)
  3. Use of a gateway to translate communications from SEP 1.x to SEP 2.0 (e.g., SEP 1.x smart meter with a SEP 2.0 in-home display or thermostat)

NTS is an authorized ZigBee certification lab and performs testing on these devices to make sure they communicate correctly and interoperate as designed by the standard. In addition to certification we work closely with utilities, such as the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), prior to a new deployment to make sure that the devices being used in the home (such as in-home displays and thermostats) work properly with the entire network, including the back-end equipment used by the utilities (known as end-to-end testing). We also verify devices work properly after deployment, so that manufacturers can make sure their new devices work properly on the whole network prior to the utility authorizing their use.

It’s important for utilities to consider their SEP transition and upgrade options before any large-scale HAN deployments to avoid stranding assets, and just as important, avoid annoying their consumers.

For the latest smart grid news, follow the NTS Advanced Technology group online:





For additional information, contact us at testinglab@nts.com

NTS to Certify Devices for iControl Networks’ Connected Home Software Platforms

NTS has been selected by iControl Networks as the test lab to perform certification testing for the iControl OpenHome Partner Program. We will be responsible for the execution of test plans developed by iControl to ensure that all ZigBee-enabled devices meet carrier and service provider standards for robust operation on iControl Platforms.

iControl_Monitor“The iControl OpenHome Partner Program integrates devices from top-tier consumer electronics companies into a central, standardized platform that gives consumers a truly connected home at the touch of a button,” said Jason Domangue, vice president of ecosystem development at iControl.

iControl Platforms communicate with a wide variety of security and home automation products including smart door locks, light controls, thermostats, and smoke sensors, bringing the Internet of Things into the home.

Device developers interested in joining the OpenHome Partner Program can sign up for a device integration kit on the iControl website. Certified devices will become available to iControl’s service provider partners to offer to their customers around the globe.

NTS Creates Comprehensive Smart Suite Certification Testing for Smart Energy Devices

Covers new areas required by utilities but outside normal certification requirement

NTS is now offering a comprehensive certification program for Smart Energy devices that includes new areas identified by major utility companies as vital for new products in Smart Grid networks that are not covered by existing certification testing.

The new Smart Suite Certification Program, which extends NTS’ leadership in the growing Smart Energy certification testing market, is divided into three parts, each focusing on key components that are highly important in the selection of Smart Energy devices for utilities:

  • iSmart – The NTS iSmart Certification focuses on interoperability testing to verify that these devices will function correctly with other devices. Testing covers negative, corner, functional, and other test cases not covered by standard certification testing.
  • rSmart – The NTS rSmart Certification focuses on the RF (radiofrequency) performance of Smart Energy devices. Testing covers transmission and receiving power, robustness to interference, and the impact of building materials on the performance of these devices.
  • sSmart – The NTS sSmart Certification focuses on the security of these devices. Testing covers validation of trust center and security keys to make sure that communications via the protocol are secure.