HomePlug powerline networking Archive

HomePlug now integrated in the power supplies for “triple-play” equipment

Articles

These French-language articles are both from France, which is one of the few countries which can boast a lively competitive ADSL2 or fibre-optic powered  “triple-play” Internet-service market. Here, these services are based around each service provider providing an Internet gateway device known as a Freebox, Neufbox, Box SFR or something similar, which I refer to as an “n-box”. These are connected up to an IPTV set-top box that is connected to the TV set and they are known as a Freebox Décodeur or Décodeur SFR or something similar.

neufbox Evolution : le CPL intégré dans l’alimentation – DegroupNews.com

FreePlugs: Free.fr (France – French language)

My comments

The HomePlug that is a power supply unit

Previously I have been observing the developments concerning HomePlug powerline networking and have seen some HomePlug devices in an interesting form-factor. This form-factor is in the form of a single-box combination device which works as a power supply for a piece of equipment as well as a HomePlug-Ethernet bridge for that device.

These devices would have three cables

  1. AC-voltage cable to plug into the AC outlet
  2. Low-voltage cable to plug in to the device in order to supply power to that device
  3. Ethernet cable to transmit data to and from the device and the HomePlug-Ethernet bridge in this box

A few companies like Netgear had tried these as “on-ramp” accessories for their routers but Free and SFR are taking off in their own right to use this as part of their “triple-play” environment where the TV set-top box and the modem are effectively part and parcel of each other in the home network. This is also achieved as a way of “idiot-proofing” these setups and avoiding unnecessary service calls.

Why not take this further

Bringing network printers to the HomePlug network

Quite a few network-capable inkjet printers that I have used or reviewed are using an external power supply rather than having the power-supply in the unit.

This is typically in the form of a power-supply “lump” similar to the typical charger unit that comes with a laptop. On the other hand, Lexmark and Dell use a power-supply module that plugs in to the printer and the AC cord plugs in to this module.

These setups could be used to provide HomePlug powerline networking capability to a printer as long as the printer has an Ethernet socket. This would provide a logical alternative to Wi-Fi wireless networking which is known to be unreliable at times.It is due to the fact that Wi-Fi it is based on radio technology which can be affected by metal furnishings, walls that are made of dense-material construction like double-brick or stone walls; or building insulation or double-glazing that uses metal foil to improve its insulation qualities.

On the other hand, manufacturers could simply integrate HomePlug powerline networking in to a SOHO printer design like the HP Envy 100 which has an integrated AC power supply without the need to create an extra socket for the Ethernet connection.

802.3af and 802.3at Power-Over-Ethernet – a perfect marriage with HomePlug

The 802.3af Power-Over-Ethernet standard and 802.3at high-power version of this standard uses the same Category 5 cable to provide power to a device as well as convey data between the device and the network. This is typically implemented with wireless access points, security cameras and IP telephones to provide a robust yet simple power-supply setup for these devices in business networks.

Here, a HomePlug-AV-Ethernet bridge could be integrated in to an 802.3af / 802.3at compliant power-supply module to provide a “one-cord” solution for connecting a device to a home network as well as powering that device from the AC power. The device would have to have an Ethernet socket capable of taking the Power-Over-Ethernet power; and this could appeal to a wide range of device classes like Internet radios, IPTV set-top boxes and electronic picture frames as well as the usual suspects like desktop IP telephones, Wi-Fi access points. Ethernet switches and security cameras.

Conclusion

This demonstrates that the use of power-supply integration can bring the reliable no-new-wires network that is HomePlug AV to more devices in a cost-effective design-friendly manner.

Send to Kindle

“Wi-Fi-ready” consumer electronics–what should you know

Article

Why you should avoid proprietary Wi-Fi dongles | Crave – CNET

My comments

Previously, I had written an article about using HomePlug to connect a TiVo device to your home network if you don’t have Ethernet connectivity near the TiVo device. This was after I had seen poor Wi-Fi performance from the TiVo-specified 802.11g Wi-Fi adaptor that a TiVo that was on show at a consumer-electronics show was connected to. This is infact the beginning of a trend by consumer-electronics manufacturers to differentiate their product ranges.

What does it mean if consumer-electronics is “Wi-Fi-ready”

Consumer-electronics manufacturers will place a range of network-enabled consumer-electronics products like flatscreen TVs or Blu-Ray players as “Wi-Fi-ready” or “Wi-Fi-enabled” units. These units will be cheaper than the products that have Wi-Fi functionality integrated in them and this fact is used as a way of differentiating between particular models or ranges.

When you want to use the “Wi-Fi-ready” TV or Blu-Ray player on your home network’s Wi-Fi segment, you have to buy a special Wi-Fi network-adaptor module from the consumer-electronics manufacturer through their retail front. Most such adaptor modules will come in the form of a USB “dongle” that plugs in to a specified USB socket on the device but some manufacturers may require that their technicians install the module in the set for you. This latter practice may be more so with TVs sold by some European manufacturers who are used to having add-on functionality modules available for installation by their technicians at a later date upon their customers’ request.

Of course, nearly all of these items of consumer electronics will have an Ethernet socket on them so you can connect them to an Ethernet network segment or a HomePlug networks segment with the appropriate bridge device.

The Wi-Fi dongles or modules

The dongles or modules are usually peculiar to a manufacturer’s products or may only work with a certain subset of their products such as those that are based on a particular design. They usually cost more than a USB-Wi-Fi network adaptor sold for general-purpose computers. As well, the modules, especially the dongles, may not give the same kind of Wi-Fi performance as a setup where the Wi-Fi functionality is integrated in the device.

It may also be worth paying attention to the price difference for the model that comes with Wi-Fi and the model that is “Wi-Fi-ready”. If the device of concern is a TV set, I would suggest that you compare the two models that have the same screen size and display technology. It is also worth asking if the retailer does sell the Wi-Fi module and how much for. This is because in some cases, the aforementioned price difference at the store may be less than the cost of buying this module.

What can you do with a “Wi-Fi-ready” device if you don’t have Ethernet at its location?

This same situation can also hold true if you wish to go for the cheaper “Wi-Fi-ready” model yet integrate it in to the home network in a “no-new-wires” manner.

I would suggest that you use a HomePlug AV setup to connect the “Wi-Fi-ready” device to the home network if you don’t have an Ethernet connection in place at the device’s location. This also includes situations where you may move the device to a newer location such as “pushing” the existing Internet-enabled “Wi-Fi-ready” TV to the secondary lounge area or bedroom.

Most of the HomePlug AV starter kits which comprise of two HomePlug AV-Ethernet bridges (a.k.a “homeplugs”) can typically cost the same as the add-on Wi-Fi adaptors. It is also worth knowing that if you pay a bit more, some of these kits even come with an integrated Ethernet switch which may be useful if you have two or three network-enabled video peripherals near the TV or are likely to connect the PS3 or Xbox 360 to the TV.

Other comments

One situation that I would fear most with consumer-electronics would be to use the optional Wi-Fi module technique used in the current crop of “Wi-Fi-ready” equipment to provide network / Internet connectivity to cheaper equipment at extra cost to the consumer.

Here, the equipment would have no Ethernet socket yet still show “network-function” teasers in its user interface and describe the functions in its user manual and marketing literature. But the user would have to buy a Wi-Fi or Ethernet module in order to link the device to the  home network before they benefit from network and Internet functionality.

Like with the Wi-Fi-ready scenario, the user wouldn’t be able to use cheaper or better-value hardware to network-enable their device, therefore end up paying the premium for network connectivity.

Send to Kindle

Consumer Electronics Show 2011–Part 3

Now we come to the issue of network-infrastructure equipment that will need to support the increasing demands placed on the home network by the previously-mentioned smartphones, tablet computers and Internet-enabled TVs.

Network Infrastructure

Network Connectivity

Some newer chipsets have appeared which will increase network bandwidth for the 802.11n Wi-Fi segment and the HomePlug AV segment. The current implementations may use manufacturer-specific implementations which won’t bode well with the standards.

The first new “call” is the 450Mbps 802.11n WPA2 WPS Wi-Fi segment which is being provided by most network makes for their midrange routers and access points. Access points and routers that work with this specification use three 802.11n radio streams to maintain the high throughput. The full bandwidth may be achieved if the client device is equipped with an 802.11n wireless network adaptor that supports the three streams but your existing devices may benefit due to reduced contention for the wireless bandwidth due to the access point / router offering three streams.

Most of the routers shown at the Consumer Electronics Show this year that support the 3-stream 450Mbps level for the 802.11n wireless network functionality also offered dual-band dual-radio operation to the same specification. Here, these devices could work on both the 2.4GHz band and the 5GHz band at this level of performance.

Some manufacturers were trying out the idea of a 60GHz high-bandwidth media network which may be based on a Wi-Fi (802.11 technology) or other proprietary scheme. This could lead to three-band multimedia routers and access points that use 2.4GHz and 5GHz for regular whole-home wireless networking and 60GHz for same-room wireless networking.

The second new “call” is the 500Mbps throughput being made available on high-end HomePlug AV devices. These powerline network devices may only achieve the high bandwidth on a segment consisting of the high-bandwidth devices that are based on the same chipset. Here, I would wait for the HomePlug AV2 standard to be fully ratified before you chase the 500Mbps bandwidth on your HomePlug segment. Of course, these devices can work with HomePlug AV segments.

The third new call is for midrange high-throughput routers to have Gigabit on the WAN (Internet) port as well as the LAN ports. This is more relevant nowadays as fibre-based next-generation broadband services are rolled out in most countries.

Everyone who exhibited network-infrastructure equipment offered at least one 450Mbps dual-band dual-radio router with Gigabit Ethernet on the WAN (Internet) connection as well as the wired-LAN connection. As well, most of these routers are equipped with circuitry that supports QoS when streaming media and some of them have a USB file-server function which can also provide media files to the DLNA Home Media Network.

Trendnet also offered an access point and a wireless client bridge that worked to this new level of 802.11n performance. They also demonstrated power-saving circuitry for Wi-Fi client devices which throttles back transmission power if the device is in the presence of a strong access point signal for their network. This was ostensibly to be “green” when it comes to AC-powered devices but would yield more real benefit for devices that have to run on battery power.

They also ran with the TPL-410AP which is a HomePlug AV Wireless-N multi-function access point. Another of those HomePlug access points that can “fill in the gap” on a wireless network or extend the Wi-Fi network out to the garage, barn or old caravan.

They also issued the TEW-656BRG 3G Mobile Wireless N Router, which is an 802.11n “MiFi router” that is powered by USB and works with most 3G / 4G modem sticks available in the USA. It is of a small design that allows it to be clipped on to a laptop’s lid or a small LCD monitor.

TP-Link had their 450Mbps three-stream dual-band dual-radio router with Gigabit on bot WAN and LAN Ethernet connections. As well they fielded a single-stream 150Mbps USB stick as the TL-WNT23N.

They also tried their hand with IP surveillance with the TL-SC4171G camera . This camera can do remote pan-tilt, and 10x digital zoom. It connects to the network via Ethernet or 802.11g Wi-Fi (not that much chop nowadays) and is equipped with an IR ring for night capture, as well as a microphone and speaker.

Netgear were more active with the 450Mbps three-stream routers with Gigabit LAN. Two of the models are broadband routers with Gigabit WAN, while one is an ADSL2 modem router which I think would serve the European and Australian markets more easily. The top-end model of the series has a USB file server function which works with the DLNA Home Media Network and also with Tivo “personal-TV devices”.

They also released the XAV5004 HomePlug AV switch which is the 500Mbps version of the their earlier “home-theatre” four-port HomePlug switch. Of course, they released the XAV2001 which is a compact “homeplug” adaptor which connects to the regular standards-based HomePlug AV segment.

They also have released the MBR1000 Mobile Broadband Router which works with 3G/4G wireless broadband or  Ethernet broadband. This unit is being provided “tuNrnkey” for Verizon’s new 4G LTE service.

Netgear have also fielded the VEVG3700 VDSL2/Gigabit Ethernet dual-WAN router with Gigabit Ethernet LAN, Cat-IQ DECT VoIP phone base station. This device, which is pitched at triple-play service providers also supports DLNA server functionality. As well, they also had a DECT VoIP kit available for these providers

As well, Netgear have tried their footsteps in to IP-surveillance for home and small business with a camera and an Android-driven screen for this purpose.

D-Link’s network hardware range include the three-stream 450Mbps routers with Gigabit WAN/LAN, a multifunction access point / repeater for the 802.11n network as well as a new DLNA-enabled network-attached storage range

As far as the MoCA TV-coaxial-cable network is concerned, Channel Master is the only company to release any network hardware for this “no-new-wires” network. It is in the form of a MoCA-Ethernet 4-port switch for the home theatre.

“Mi-Fi” wireless-broadband routers

Every one of the US cellular-telecommunications carriers are catching on to the 4G bandwagon not just with the smartphones and tablets but with the wireless-broadband routers.

Sprint have a unit for their WiMAX service while Verizon are fielding a Samsung LTE “Mi-Fi” as well as the aforementioned Netgear MBR1000 router.

Computer hardware and software

Monitors

Some of the companies who manufacture monitors are looking at the idea of “Internet-connected” monitors which have a basic Web browser in them so you don’t have to fire up a computer to view the Web.

CPU/GPU combo chips

These new processor chips combine a CPU which is a computer’s “brain” as well as the graphics processor which “draws” the user interface on to the screen. AMD and Intel were premiering the “Accelerated Processor Units” and the Core “Sandy Bridge” prcessors respectively at the CES this year.

Intel were trumpeting the fact that this technology could make it harder to pirate movie content but this is more about mainstream computing and small-form-factor hardware being behind this space and power saving processor hardware.

Sony had lodged a commitment to AMD to use the Zacate “Accelerated Processor Unit” in some of their VAIO laptops.

Other hardware

AMD haven’t forgotten the “performance computing” segment when it comes to processor chips and released the quad-core and 6-core “Phenom” desktop and gaming-rig CPUs.

Seagate have also made the “GoFlex” removable / dockable hard disks a standard by building alliances with third-parties to make hardware that works to this standard. Could this be another “VHS-style” alliance for dockable hard disks?

Microsoft also used this show to premiere their Touch Mouse which uses that same touch operation method as Apple’s Magic Mouse. Do I see an attempt for them to “snap at” Apple when it comes to “cool hardware” as well as software?

The Microsoft Platform

There has been some activity with the Microsoft Windows platforms now that set-top boxes and tablet computers are becoming the “order of the day”

One direction Microsoft is taking is to port the Windows Platform, which was primarily written for Intel-Architecture processors, to the Acorn ARM-architecture processors. The reason that this port is taking place is due to these energy-efficient RISC processors being commonly used in battery-driven applications like tablet computers. They are also popular with other dedicated multimedia devices like set-top boxes and TV applications.

As well, Microsoft will be working on a lightweight Windows build for TV applications like set-top boxes. This is although they have previously written Windows-CE builds for this class of device.

Microsoft also want to make a variant of the Windows Phone 7 for tablet computers and are starting work on the Windows 8 project.

Similarly, Somsung has demonstrated the second incarnation of the Microsoft Surface platform This one comes in a slimmer table-based form rather than a unit that is as thick as the 1980s-style “cocktail-table” arcade game machine.

Conclusion

The Consumer Electronics Show 2011 has certainly put the connected home on the map. This is due to affordable smartphones and tablet computers becoming more ubiquitous and Internet-provided video services becoming an increasing part of American home life.

It will be interesting to see what will happen for the other “pillar” of the consumer-electronics trade fair cycle – the Internationaler Funkaustellung; and how more prevalent the Internet TV, smartphone and tablet computer lifestyle will be in Europe and Asia.

Send to Kindle

Wi-Fi and HomePlug collaborate on the smart-grid aspect of the connected home

Articles

WiFi, HomePlug Collaboration Facilitates Interoperability of Smart Grid Applications -  SmartGrid.TMCNET.COM

Wi-Fi, HomePlug Alliances Collaborate On Smart Grid Apps – InformationWeek.com

Wi-Fi strikes alliance with mains networking tech – The Register (UK)

From the horse’s mouth

Wi-Fi Alliance® and HomePlug® Powerline Alliance Collaborate on Connected Smart Home – HomePlug Powerline Alliance

My comments

This news article is certainly placing the two main “no-new-wires” network technologies that exist in most home networks as being able to have their place in the “smart-grid” home-automation and energy-management scenario.

General home-network applications

From what I have read in this article and also from my experience with handling home networks, the Wi-Fi wireless technology and the HomePlug powerline technology are considered as established “no-new-wires” connection methods in this class of network. This is typified with most network-Internet “edge” devices being Wi-Fi wireless routers and nearly all laptops currently in use being equipped with some form of Wi-Fi technology. As well, most mobile-phone contracts that have been signed are for phones that are equipped with Wi-Fi technology alongside the cellular-phone technology.

Similarly, HomePlug AV has been considered as a data transfer medium for bringing IPTV to the main lounge area. This has become more so in Europe with the “triple-play” service providers who are using the home network to distribute TV. Here, they use a HomePlug AV connection to provide a network link from the network-Internet “edge” router to an IPTV set-top box in the lounge area to obviate the need for users to run Ethernet wiring to achieve the same purpose.

The main benefit of HomePlug is that it makes use of existing AC wiring including extension cords, which can become data+power cables. I have talked about this as a preferred solution with multi-building home networks where it is not worth the cost or effort to run Cat5 Ethernet cable to an existing outbuilding and Wi-Fi wireless wouldn’t work well with some buildings like “quick-assemble” garages or static caravans because of their metal construction.

Smart-grid applications

Both technologies would complement each other in the smart-grid space.

One main use for Wi-Fi would be smartphones and other programmable devices as consumer-facing energy monitors. Here, this application would capitalise on the installed base of laptops, netbooks, smartphones and tablet computers that have integrated Wi-Fi functionality as well as the Wi-Fi segment of the home network rather than having to reinvent the wheel.

As well, once manufacturers work on Wi-Fi chipsets that can work for a long time on two AA batteries or a regular “button-cell” watch battery, Wi-Fi could become a “sensor and control network” in its own right. Here, it could be feasible to use it as part of wireless movement sensors, thermostatic radiator valves, wireless room-temperature sensors and the like.

There is also a subset of the HomePlug technologies being developed to replace the role of the old X10 home-control system as data-transfer conduits for AC-wire-based home automation. This could lead to affordable home-automation systems that work hand-in-glove with the smart grid. Common application examples would include the ability to have appliances like washing machines, dishwashers, and pool-filter pumps come on when the off-peak tariffs apply or air-conditioners go in to “set-back” but with the fan running during a high-demand period where the utility wants to apply “load-shedding” measures.

Similarly, the management of electric-vehicle charging will be achieved through HomePlug technology as the primary data conduit for the command-and-control data. This will also be important for vehicles that are managed as part of a fleet and for countries that want to make sure that they tax the fuel that is used by road vehicles ostensible for maintaining the roads.

Conclusion

At least the new “smart-grid” applications are becoming another area where the dominant “no-new-wires” network technologies are able to have a foothold in and thus avoid reinventing the wheel with.

Send to Kindle

Devolo has raised the bar with a HomePlug AV WiFi-N access point by adding a 3-port Ethernet switch

Articles

German Language

Der Devolo dLan 200 AV Wireless N organisiert Ihr Heimnetzwerk – COMPUTER BILD

From the horse’s mouth

Web page for this product (Deutschesprachen, English language)

My Comments

Previously, Netgear had released an 802.11n wireless access point which can connect to an Ethernet network or a HomePlug AV powerline network. This is a product that I had commented on as being suitable for extending the coverage of an 802.11n wireless network or establishing the footprint of your home network in to an outbuilding or static caravan that you are using as part of the house.

Now, Devolo have answered Netgear’s effort by releasing a similar product in the European market which also has a 3-port Ethernet switch.  This unit, which sells in Germany for €109.90  has similar WiFi functionality to the Netgear unit, including WPA2 security with WPS push-button setup. As far as I know from the research I have done at Devolo’s Website, this unit doesn’t seem to support WPS-based quick setup for multiple-access-point wireless networks – the WPS function only works for setting up a wireless client to the access point. This function could be added to this unit through a firmware update.

The 3-port Ethernet switch would come in handy for a lounge area with an Internet-enabled TV, a Blu-Ray player and/or a games console; or an office set up in the garage or barn where there is a desktop computer and / or a network printer. It also can come in handy if you have to use this HomePlug AV access point with another HomePlug AV-Ethernet bridge to extend the coverage of your HomePlug AV powerline network to another building or caravan as I have explained here.

At least someone else has come up with another HomePlug AV wireless access point for the home network and have taken this concept further by adding a 3-port Ethernet switch rather than the typical Ethernet port found on this class of device.

Send to Kindle

New NETGEAR products for the home network

 NETGEAR Rolls Out HD Media Players, UTM and Powerline Products – SmallNetBuilder

My Comments

I have read the attached article and found that most of the devices had impressed me as devices that would work well in a home or small-business network. This was because of particular abilities that had made the devices unique rather than run-off-the-mill devices.

NeoTV network media players

NETGEAR NeoTV 550 network media player

NeoTV 550 network media player

This group of NeoTV network media players may be very similar to the other network media players  like WDTV Live that are appearing on the market. This is that they are capable of playing audiovisual media held on a USB memory key, camera card reader or external hard drive; or from a DLNA/UPnP-AV-compliant media server that exists on your network. But one of the models in this lineup, the NeoTV 550,  has eSATA connectivity and the ability to be a Blu-Ray Disc player when connected to an optional eSATA-connected Blu-Ray drive. This can benefit people who want to consider running this unit alongside their DVD player as a network media player but may take the plunge for Blu-Ray when they are ready.

At the moment, I am not sure whether this unit can work as a substitute DVD player if it is connected to an eSATA or USB DVD drive or a DVD is loaded in to a connected Blu-Ray drive.

HomePlug AV 802.11n access point

NETGEAR XAVN2001 HomePlug AV 802.11n wireless access point

XAVN2001 HomePlug AV 802.11n wireless access point

One device I am pleased to see on the scene is the XAVN2001 HomePlug AV 802.11n wireless access point which work like some of the 802.11g wireless access points that can connect to a HomePlug 1.0 Turbo segment. It is also available as part of the XAVNB2001 kit which includes the Netgear XAV2001 HomePlug AV-Ethernet bridge as well as this access point. Like these other access points, this unit plugs in to the wall and works as a bridge between an Ethernet segment and a HomePlug AV powerline segment as well as being an access point for a 2.4GHz 802.11n wireless network.

This device can work as a way of extending the effective radio footprint of an 802.11n wireless network with the use of an Ethernet or HomePlug AV wired backbone. On the other hand, it could bring an 802.11n wireless network and Ethernet network point in to an outbuilding or static caravan (trailer) in the manner talked about in my feature article “Multi-Building Home Networks”.

Quick extension-access-point setup with WPS

I had done further research about this access point through Netgear’s Web site and found that this unit uses WPS as a way of simplifying the creation of a multiple-access-point wireless-network segment. This kind of segment, also known as an “extended service set” makes use of multiple access points with the same SSID, network operating mode and security parameters so a portable device can move between access points with minimal user intervention. I have written a bit about the concept of using WPS as a way of simplifying setup of a small multi-access-point wireless network in an article I had posted last year on this site at its old location and had moved to the current location.

The user just has to hold down the unit’s ON-OFF button for a few seconds then press the WPS button on the WPS-ready wireless “edge” router to start the configuration routine. A few moments later, they are then able to move the access point to the area where the Wi-Fi network is needed and proceed to connect this access point to the Ethernet or HomePlug AV backbone which the wireless router should be connected to.

Conclusion

If more manufacturers can look towards making affordable and easy-to-use network devices, they can end up with equipment that will appeal to most users and have equipment that is out of the ordinary.

Send to Kindle

Feature Article – Understanding and Managing your HomePlug network

If you want to have your HomePlug network segment working properly for you and your needs, you will need to be able to manage it properly. This article talks about how to connect the HomePlug devices for best results and how to organise the devices in your HomePlug segment for privacy or improved network performance.

Understanding the typical AC supply

A mains “phase” typically describes a single standard-voltage AC circuit from the street transformer through to your premises. In a typical residential power service, where the general-tariff power passes through one electricity meter, all the power outlets are on the one phase. Most US residential installations have two phases due to the low standard voltage but HomePlug has been designed to work around these installations.

The electricity meter for a typical household AC supply is considered a “firewall” for the HomePlug network segment that operates on that supply because of the way it works. This may be a problem for a multi-building home network where there is another building like a bungalow that is metered separately.

Electrical accessories and the HomePlug network

For best performance, you should have the HomePlug devices plugged directly in to the power outlets. But this is not always feasible due to distance from the outlets or the number of outlets available near the device.

An extension cord can be used for a HomePlug setup as long as it is of the right type. For short runs up to 10 metres, you can use the regular domestic extension cord that is typically used for the vacuum cleaner or portable radio. You will need to use “tradesmen-grade” or “caravan” extension cords for longer runs. As well, daisy-chained extension cords may not be beneficial to the HomePlug signal.

As far as powerboards / power strips and “double adaptors” are concerned, make sure that the HomePlug device is connected to one without surge-suppression or line-conditioning technology. On the other hand, you could use one equipped with surge-suppression or line-conditioning technology if it has an outlet that is marked “HomePlug” and you plug the HomePlug device in to that outlet. You can also get around this problem by plugging your HomePlug device in to one of the outlets on a regular powerboard and plug a surge-suppressor powerboard which has your computer equipment in to another of the outlets of the regular powerboard. A recent-issue HomePlug-Ethernet bridge that has a built-in power outlet or one of the surge-suppressor powerboards which have integrated HomePlug-Ethernet bridge functionality can solve the problem very easily.

Managing your HomePlug network

The network is typically managed with software that is supplied with your HomePlug hardware. This is usually in the form of a configuration tool, typically a version of “PowerPacket” for most operating systems. In some cases, you may have to download the software from the device manufacturer’s Website. Infact, the Solwise website has most of the software available for nearly all of the operating systems.

On the other hand, some devices, typically HomePlug wireless access points and routers can be managed by logging in to a particular Internet address, similar to managing an Internet router.

A recent trend that has emerged is for HomePlug AV devices to implement “SimpleConnect” which uses push-button control to enrol devices to a HomePlug network segment.

HomePlug Device Identifier

This value is unique to each device and is known as a Device Password in a HomePlug 1.0 network. This information is typically printed on a label that is attached to the HomePlug device itself, alongside the MAC address for that device. It may also be attached to the device’s packaging.

HomePlug Network Segment Identifier

This identifier, usually set to “HomePlug” but can be set by the user to a different value, is known to the devices that are part of a HomePlug network segment. It is typically known as a “Network Password” for both the HomePlug 1.0 or “Private Network Name” for some HomePlug AV networks and can allow multiple HomePlug network segments to exist on the one mains phase.

Configuring a Network Segment To A Particular Identifier

You will have to obtain the Device Identifiers from each of the HomePlug devices that are to be part of the Network Segment that is having that identifier. Then, make sure that they are plugged in to the AC supply and can be seen by the HomePlug device you are doing the configuring from. This can be checked using your configuration software that has come with that HomePlug device.

Add all the devices to your network by entering their Device Passwords in to the configuration software. Then go to the “Privacy” or similar option and set the Network Password for all devices that are on your network to make the segment

If the devices use HomePlug AV SimpleConnect, you just need to press the button on the device which is a member of the segment you want to enrol your other device in, then press the button on the device that is to be enrolled.

What you can do

“Pushing out” a HomePlug installation

As I have mentioned before in my feature article on multi-building home networks, you may have to “extend” your HomePlug network if you can’t get proper network operation on some of the mains circuits such as in remote buildings.

This involves creating two different HomePlug segments, with each segment having at least one HomePlug-Ethernet bridge on the same mains service. Then the Ethernet connection from a bridge associated with one HomePlug segment is connected to the Ethernet port on the bridge associated with the other HomePlug segment. These can be connected directly or via an Ethernet switch so one can run network devices from the Ethernet link.

The above setup would then have to be deployed halfway between the HomePlug devices that are trying to communicate such as in an outbuilding nearest the main house like a garage.

HomePlug AV and 1.0 in the same premises

HomePlug 1.0 and AV can exist on the same mains service but will work as separate network segments in a manner which doesn’t compromise their bandwidth. The separate network segment issue can be mitigated with a Ethernet bridge device from each technology connected to each other or to the LAN ports of a router or Ethernet switch.

Conclusion

Once you know how to understand and manage the HomePlug powerline network, you can gain a lot more out of this technology and make it work well in your building.

Send to Kindle

HomePlug in the commercial or institutional environment

Often HomePlug powerline networks are, by the name of the technology, pitched at residential networks, typically single-dwelling homes. But can a HomePlug powerline network, whether a v1.0 Turbo or an AV network exist in a block of flats, a shop or a small office?

There are many applications for the use of a HomePlug in the commercial or institutional environment. One would be to set up a network printer or other network-enabled device in a manner that allows the location to be changed at a moment’s notice. This would be of importance for equipment likely to be on the shop floor for example.

Another application would be to set up a multiple-access-point wireless network to extend the coverage of the wireless hotspot in your café or bar. One of the HomePlug wireless access points can easily do this job especially on a temporary setup or setups where you need to remove the access point at night as a security measure.

You may also want to use HomePlug for establishing a temporary network as part of an event that you host at a town hall, school assembly hall or other community facility, thus avoiding extra cables or unreliable wireless networks. Then there is the ability to try out computer-equipment locations for a certain amount of time before you have the electricians pull the Ethernet cabling to the final location.

An example of this kind of setup

At the moment, Devolo, a German company who manufactures HomePlug network devices, have “taken the bull by the horns” in its home market. They have run a German-language Web portal, about using HomePlug as a solution for establishing computer networks in schools. On this page, there are examples of three schools who have established HomePlug network segments that are known to be in full service.

AC power issues

The main issue is that AC power supplies which supply most of these locations aren’t similar to the typical residential AC power supply. These supplies typically involve a “multi-phase” wiring plan that is typically set up for larger motors or other large loads. This shouldn’t be really of concern for setups covering a flat, small shop or office because most of the power wiring is similar to that of a regular house. In the case of shops and other premises that have special equipment like large commercial refrigeration setups, the special equipment is typically wired to its own group of phases while the ordinary power outlets are wired to a single phase, in a manner similar to a domestic setup.

Similarly the large motors like those that typically drive commercial refrigeration / air-conditioning or lifts and escalators can yield interference as they are used. Similarly, arc welding and similar work equipment can increase the amount of interference in the power line. Another issue to remember is that there is very little chance of a HomePlug segment working if you plug any of the HomePlug devices in to one of those three-phase – single-phase powerboards used primarily to run large clusters of standard lighting or cooking equipment from a three-phase outlet. This is usually due to the use of transformers and different phases in these installations.

Testing a HomePlug network segment

When you set up a HomePlug powerline network segment in any of these premises that you haven’t dealt with before or where significant work has been done, you may have to do a test run at the locations you intend to set up your installation at before you run the installation full-time.

You could run the “PowerPacket” utility that comes with most HomePlug-Ethernet bridges to observe the link quality of your HomePlug segment and the existence of the other HomePlug devices that you have plugged in at the locations you want to use. The latter observation can be useful if some of the ordinary power outlets in the premises are wired to different phases. You can also observe changes in link quality when any of the heavy motors are in operation such as whenever someone is using the lift or the refrigeration compressor that serves the commercial refrigeration installation comes on.

Another test would be to do a simple network-based file-copy between computers connected to the HomePlug devices and time that copy process for actual throughput measurement.  At this time, it may be worth looking for changes in network behaviour when any of the heavy motors are in operation as in the situations described above.

But before you do these tests, make sure that the HomePlug equipment you intend to deploy in the commercial environment works properly at your home or at a location where you know from experience this kind of equipment has worked. Also, make sure that you can return the HomePlug equipment to whoever you bought it from if it doesn’t work or be able to buy the equipment “on approval”.

Other setup issues

Another good practice with deploying HomePlug in these locations is to set up an installation-unique Network Password for the installation. This can be easily done with HomePlug AV devices that have “Simple Connect” push-button setup because the HomePlug AV devices work out a unique code for that installation. On the other hand, you would have to use the setup software like PowerPacket to align all the devices (which have the Device Passwords physically on them) to the same Network Password. This allows your HomePlug network segment to work in a secure fashion.

Once you have used HomePlug in these kind of setups, you can be able to know what it can and cannot do in a particular location and defeat the common limitation of HomePlug being just for the home.

Send to Kindle