Kenneth Wacks - Conferences
email kenn@alumn.mit.edu
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HOME SYSTEMS / IoT:
DIGITAL MEDIA NETWORKS:
BUILDING SYSTEMS:
What is the Internet of Things?
HOME NETWORKS:
ENERGY MANAGEMENT:
GRIDWISE® ARCHITECTURE COUNCIL:
Home and building systems have generally been organized around applications (lighting, entertainment, comfort, safety, etc.) with a controller to manage the devices, user inputs, and remote access. It is possible to deliver new services facilitated by IoT while maintaining the benefits of application control. IoT does not replace an organized and well-structured system design. For IoT to become a useful adjunct to homes and buildings, engineers should adhere to the basic principles of disciplined and organized system design.

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Some IoT proponents propose that all network devices communicate via the Internet Protocol (IP). However, in practice home and building devices communicate via a local network using a variety of non-IP communication protocols specialized for the operating environment, speed, and product cost-targets. There are benefits and risk in designing all devices to operate on an IP networks. Key risks impact data security and customer privacy resulting in chaos if boundaries and priorities are not established.

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Home and building systems consist of interconnected sensors, actuators, controllers, and user interfaces to support applications such as lighting and energy management. These system components constitute a network of communicating things. The new buzzword in the industry for these connected devices is an “Internet of Things” even if the Internet is not used for communications. So the Internet of Things should more accurately be called the “Network of Things.” Regardless of whether the Internet of Things is technically correct terminology, we should welcome new entrants to the home automation industry.

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Telecommuting or working from home is not new, but has been limited in practice. Expansion of telecommuting would benefit the company, the quality of life for the employees, and society. Provisioning of real-time high speed Internet access and high-quality video conferencing at home is important for the employee to interact remotely with supervisors, peers, subordinates, and client. A corporate strategy for supporting offices in the home can make a significant contribution to the success of the organization.

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Manufacturers of appliance and consumer electronics are constantly seeking new products that can command higher margins in a very competitive market.  These manufacturers are investigating product opportunities in home systems that enable new consumer features by interconnecting appliances, sensors, and control panels.  The home systems industry has been developing since the mid-1980s.  This industry is now emerging as a major market segment for appliances and consumer electronics makers.  The hallmark of this industry segment is the transition from stand-alone appliances to systems made possible by a home network. The home network enables the communications of commands, control, data, audio, and video among devices via wires or wirelessly.

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In January 2013, the “Modular Communications Interface for Energy Management” was approved as an American National Standard. This standard specifies a modular communications interface (MCI) for energy management signals and messages to be exchanged among customer devices. These devices might include consumer products such as sensors, thermostats, and appliances; and energy-related equipment such as an energy management hub, an energy management controller, an energy management agent, a residential gateway, and an energy services interface.

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This article is based on an interview by Utilimetrics News. Dr. Wacks was asked to comment on the progress toward developing home area networks that will enable consumers to participate in electricity demand-management programs. He has seen interest in such programs come and go since the 1980s. This time, the interest might be more permanent.

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This article explores the home network. A home network forms the basis for an emerging industry called home systems. The business potential for a home systems industry started to attract major manufacturers and organizations about 20 years ago. The impetus for significant growth has been the recent proliferation of broadband access to the Internet. Once consumers pay for high-speed service via cable or DSL (high-speed data via telephone lines), they want access from more than one location in the house. The solution is a home network implemented with an organized set of cables call "structured cabling."

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It has been about 20 years since manufacturers in the consumer electronics industry started to explore the business potential in home automation. Until then hobbyists had been jury-rigging controls for various home applications, such as lighting and entertainment. About a billion dollars has been invested in developing networking technologies and components for home systems, yet we are constantly on the verge of significant market growth, but not quite there. Why?
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Services ranging from Internet Access to entertainment to home automation depend on a connection between the home and the outside world. This connection is provided by a residential gateway. A world standard is being developed for the residential gateway, informally called HomeGate. This paper introduces HomeGate by first explaining the role of the residential gateway and the value of specifying a standard gateway.

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A fundamental tenet of communications is that perfect signal transmission is nearly impossible. Electrical noise in wires or radio signals is fundamental to the physics of materials because of the random vibrations of molecules. The universe is filled with radio signals from stars (especially the sun). Communication signals compete with this background noise to be detected. Much research in communications has focused on the signal-to-noise problem: how to overcome electrical or radio noise so a communications signal can be received over a long distance. This paper explores methods that come close to achieving perfect communications.

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The analog-to-digital transition has had a profound impact on broadcast television picture quality in terms of resolution and shape. The results can be stunning compared to a mediocre analog show, or can be annoying with artifacts and a distorted image. The optimal viewing experience with a high-definition television (HDTV) depends on the source material, the broadcaster, the broadcast channel, the TV connection, and the television setup. The result is that HD is not always as good as it could be or as good as the program director created in the studio.

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Most movie sets have poor acoustics. Singers usually record their movie vocals with accompanying music before filming. During filming, the recording is played back while the performer acts and sings. The actor must lip-sync precisely for a believable performance. In Les Miserables the director wanted to capture more of the actors' emotions during both dialog and vocals. Therefore, he had the actors sing on set and recorded their vocals for the soundtrack. The sound quality of the singers and the orchestra were captured with exceptional fidelity.

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Television delivered via the Internet has begun, and the changes will be profound. For many years we have been able to listen to radio broadcasts from around the world via the Internet. Why not watch TV programs via the Internet? The term OTT (Over-The-Top) video refers to video delivered outside the package of channel lineups offered by the cable or fiber operator. This has serious implications for the business model of these operators. This article explains the new choices being offered to consumers for accessing video.

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This article reports on practical issues encountered while planning, installing, and optimizing the home theater experience. The good news is that the home theater experience is great!  However, there were technical challenges that could discourage do-it-yourself (DIY) installations.  Many of these technical issues are the result of confusing product designs and a plethora of connection options for audio/video (A/V) components.

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Regulators and appliance makers are seeking a simple method to deliver energy management data from a power utility or energy service provider to consumer products. These data may include electricity prices or event notices about energy shortages. The Home-to-Grid Domain Expert Working Group (H2G DEWG) at the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP), led by Dr. Wacks, has proposed a data transmission method using an FM sub-channel available to all FM radio stations. Digital data are broadcast to special receivers that may be embedded in appliances or in an energy management controller. There are provisions for authenticating that the data originated from the utility to ensure cyber security. The use of FM broadcasting provides universal real-time coverage throughout the country with messages that can be tailored to each geographic region.

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A smart grid is an integrated system of systems such as generators, transmission towers, distribution lines, and meters. To make the grid smart, these systems must interoperate.  This means that systems developed independently, possibly using different and incompatible technologies, must be made to work together to keep the lights on. Interoperability and conformance are of key importance for successful smart grid deployments to ensure seamless integration.

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Utilities started to develop various techniques for demand-side management (DSM) of energy in the 1990s. However, a few years later most of the innovative DSM programs were abandoned and utilities refocused on financial transactions such as mergers and acquisitions. Reality returned following the Enron-induced crisis in California where wholesale price manipulation widely affected consumers and resulted in a major utility bankruptcy. The U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 is mandating that utilities revisit energy management with appropriate equipment and tariffs. This article examines the goals and technologies being developed for effective management of electric energy.

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Smart meters are an integral part of electric smart grids. The public press has been reporting stories about smart meters such as health issues and potential privacy compromises. The good news is that these problems either do not exist or are readily manageable. In this article Dr. Wacks provides some background about the objectives and challenges of installing smart meters.

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The objective of a smart grid is to integrate the elements of an electric power system for enhanced reliability. These elements extend beyond the meter into buildings and homes. This paper examines the impact on homes by introducing the projects of the Home-to-Grid Domain Expert Working Group created by the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology and the GridWise Architecture Council.

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Multimedia is being integrated into a diversity of commercial settings. These applications require an integrated infrastructure for distributing audio, video, and control from sources such as videodiscs, media servers, broadcasts, and Internet streams to displays. This paper describes HDBaseT™, a technology for distributing high-quality multimedia in commercial buildings that is cost-effective and easily installed without special cables, connectors, or additional training.

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Building control systems have been evolving slowly since the introduction of the thermostat in the 1880s. A diversity of applications has been developed independently for building services such as comfort control, energy management, lighting, public address, signage, security, elevators and escalators, and power management. Many of these use different communications resulting in attempts at interconnecting building automation systems like mixing “apples and oranges.” This paper examines how will the building automation industry is attempting to achieve interoperability.

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Since buildings account for almost two-thirds of national electricity consumption, smart grid programs should have a significant impact on building, but not yet. For now, building managers are focusing on energy conservation measures and just starting to learn about smart grids. Dr. Wacks was chosen to manage a CABA research project on this topic plus an investigation into adoption of designs for net-zero energy buildings.

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Intelligent Buildings Roadmap 2011  (view)
In 2010, CABA launched a research project to revisit intelligent buildings. A focus of this investigation was the impact of smart grid developments on building operations, performance, and energy conservation. This project also included water conservation. This paper summarizes the Intelligent Buildings Roadmap 2011 that was completed in December 2010. Dr. Wacks managed this project for CABA.

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Virtual Travel via Telepresence  (view)
As the data throughput rate of the Internet continues to increase, applications are moving beyond text and graphics to multi-media. Meeting via the Internet is emerging as an application that will profoundly change business use of the Internet. Telepresence is a method for conducting business meetings among participants who are not physically present using audio and video equipment that simulates a live meeting. Telepresence can also facilitate new organizational and collaborative work methods without travel.

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Integrating Renewables into Smart Grids  (view)
The traditional electric utility consists of a few generating stations supplying power to millions of customers through a radial (tree-like) grid of long-distance transmission and local distribution lines. The introduction of renewables (such as wind and solar) and storage may result in a very different energy system. Consumers may become prosumers as they produce energy and sell the excess to their neighbors and to a community microgrid. The tools for this sales-process and for moving power locally will be based on Transactive Energy. Ascertaining costs in a distributed grid is a pre-requisite for creating a market for distributed energy resources (DER).

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The Impact of Transactive Energy on Appliances  (view)
Renewable energy resources such as wind and solar produce power that varies with the weather and time-of-day. Sometimes more power is produced than can be used locally, so some utilities buy the excess power and allow it to be fed onto the electric grid. As renewable production reaches about 30% of total power needs in a region, renewable sources could impact the business of utility power production and the technology of power distribution via the grid. The GridWise Architecture Council, a committee of 13 smart grid experts appointed by the United States Department of Energy, is proposing Transactive Energy as a new business and technology approach to managing the proliferation of renew-able power generation by customers, while maintaining grid stability.

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Transactive Energy for Balancing Smart Grids  (view)
Renewable energy resources such as wind and solar produce power that varies with the weather and time-of-day. Sometimes more power is produced than can be used locally, so some utilities buy the excess power and allow it to be fed onto the electric grid. As renewable production reaches about 30% of total power needs in a region, renewable sources could impact the business of utility power production and the technology of power distribution via the grid. The GridWise Architecture Council, a committee of 13 smart grid experts appointed by the United States Department of Energy, is proposing Transactive Energy as a new business and technology approach to managing the proliferation of renew-able power generation by customers, while maintaining grid stability.

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The GridWise Vision to a Smart Electric Grid  (view)
The GridWise Architecture Council view expands the domain of the electricity system to include end-devices and incorporates information technology (IT). IT is expected to revolutionize planning and operation of the power grid just as it has changed business, education, and entertainment. Dr. Wacks was asked by the GridWise Architecture Council to lead a working group at NIST to write a report about the goals and structure of a demand response system for residential customers. An overview of demand response is included in this paper.

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The U.S. Government Approach to Smart Grid  (view)
The development of a smart grid has been an evolving process of enhancing the existing electric grid. In the early 1990s, there was a realization that there might be limits to growth in the supply of electricity. Among the public concerns were siting of generator plants and transmission lines, nuclear power risks, and an emerging green movement. Public regulators urged utilities to consider integrated resource planning that included both supply and demand. Smart grid activities of the Departments of Energy and Commerce are highlighted, including the establishment of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel.

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Kenneth Wacks, Ph.D.     +1 781 662-6211