All posts tagged: Smart Grid

Making your Home Smarter: Automation

The convenience and security of home automation are undeniable, and more and more people are
LX can make your home smarter through automation
using it. Not only that, a smart home can be an energy-efficient one, as you have more control of your appliances. It is always nice to have your lights automatically dim as you leave your room or play your favourite song just by clapping your hands. Home automation might cost a bit to install but the benefits are worth the investment. 

Defining a “Smart” Home

A smart home incorporates a network that connects appliances and devices. This network allows anything that utilises electricity to
communicate with each other and respond to your commands. Controlling the devices could be done using a computer, wireless controller, or by voice. The system can be similar to a personal assistant who awaits your every beck and call. Lighting, home theatre, security, temperature regulation and entertainment are the most common systems to be automated.

A Short History of Home Automation

It was just a few years back when only society’s well-off could afford an automated house. But now, the developments in electronics technology have paved the way for much cheaper systems, enticing more families to convert their abode to smarter homes. How did smart homes begin?

It was in 1975 when Scottish company Pico electronics created X10, the technology that gave birth to home automation. X10 allowed compatible appliances and devices to “talk” to each other using the existing electricity connections inside a house.

Receivers are installed in the appliances and devices, and a remote control or keypad acts as the transmitter. Pressing the remote control sends out data wirelessly, encapsulating simple codes like 0010 for “on” and 0011 for “off”. The X10 was revolutionary during that time although it has its limitations. For instance, communication among the devices using electrical wires can be unreliable – the signals are heavily attenuated by the 120/240 volt system that is used in American homes.

More technologies emerged since then, all trying to overcome the limitations of the X10. Z-wave and ZigBee moved away from using power lines and used a special frequency channel for sending out radio waves. Both technologies used low-power and low-cost modules that are connected, following a mesh topology. Being low-power allowed ZigBee modules to be manufactured in small sizes and use smaller batteries. Mesh networking provides reliability and a more extensive communication range.


Choosing the right automation software is very important. Modules follow the same technical standard and they all work the same, but programs do not. You must choose a program based on ease of use. Activhome is recommended for beginners, as the user interface is simple to follow. You can control your appliances through your computer using it. If you want more customization, then Powerhome could be for you. This program allows you to create timed sequences as well as routines that fit your preference.

Adding other systems would require new programs. For example, if you choose to add a weather monitor, you will need Virtual Weather Station. This program allows your automation software (e.g. Activhome) to communicate with your climate sensors.


The server, interface and modules are the hardware of your automation system. The server acts as the brain of the system and will always include controllers, timers and computers. Servers have become more intelligent over the years and may now accept commands from smartphones. E-home Automation products are examples of systems that can process commands from Apple’s iPhone. Interface refers to the connection between the different components of the system, while modules receive the commands for the devices.

Smart Grid and the Future

The term “smart grid” refers to a node in a network of electrical systems that can analyse behaviours and do actions based on what it sees as necessary to maintain the efficiency of the system. The ability to control home appliances and lighting is viewed as an integral addition to the smart grid as it is being rolled out in a few countries.

A combination of home automation systems and smart grids will pave the way for better energy management in the future. A possible application could be turning on the air-conditioning system using the high power derived from a solar panel on a hot day. Smart grid technology will also evolve just like home automation so that this so-called “green automation” can be utilised in more homes.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.

Muhammad AwaisMaking your Home Smarter

Factors driving the need for smart power grids

Electric power systems constitute fundamental infrastructures in of modern society. Often continental in scale, electric power grids and distribution networks connect the generating stations to virtually every home, office, factory and institution across the country. Increased bulk power transactions and large scale integration of renewable energy sources are posing challenges to high-voltage transmission systems.Environmental constraints and energy efficiency requirements also have significant effects on the design and operation of power transmission infrastructures. To address these challenges, power grids worldwide are undergoing a revolutionary transition to the so-called “Smart Grid”.

Smart Grids are designed to imbibe intelligent processes and methodologies to the power grids to improve their flexibility, reliability and overall efficiency.The electric power grid can be defined as a large system of high-tension cables that connects the power plants to consumers across a region. The grid is responsible for transmitting the generated power to the end-user. The electricity produced at power plants is usually “stepped up” to high voltages before it is transmitted through the grid. At a substation near the consumer, the power gets “stepped down” to voltage suitable for household and commercial use.

The beauty of the grid is that power can be bought and sold across vast expanses. Since the storage of electricity is very difficult, power grids support an optimal distribution of electricity allowing for a more balanced supply-and-demand equation. Also, minor transmission failures in one section of the grid can also be compensated for by using electricity available in another section of the grid.Due to expanding demand, higher fuel costs and pollution-related issues, there has been a recent push to develop smarter electrical grids that are more efficient, cost effective and robust. The introduction of renewable energy systems such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal generation facilities also entail the use of complex power management techniques in the grid. Since the power generated from the renewable power systems heavily depend on environmental factors, the power grids need to have sufficient “intelligence” to switch the transmission on/off based on the power generated.

The Smart Grid
The Smart Grid is achieved by incorporating digital technology to power grids to deliver electricity from power plants to consumers in a more intelligent, efficient, and transparent way. The basic concept of the Smart Grid is to add monitoring, analysis, control and communication capabilities to the power in order to maximise the throughput of the system while reducing the energy consumption. As all systems are automated and metered, they track when and how much electricity is used. By analysing and reporting all critical usage and health statistics, Smart Grids help system engineers to better manage loads and effectively cater to power demands.

Smart Grid Architecture
Smart Grid architecture relies on embedded technology to manage an energy system and automatically track usage. The conventional power grid management was carried out manually by disparate teams situated at each section of the grid, i.e. power plant, substation etc.  The information available to these teams was mostly limited to their subsections alone and information about demand and outages were usually communicated through phone calls or fax messages.

In sharp contrast, Smart Grids allow for seamless transfer of information across the entire power grid. Embedded systems deployed at various points of the grid, from power generation to end-user consumption, help in analysing the critical characteristics of the system and also communicate it to other systems attached to the grid to achieve excellent energy management capabilities. Embedded systems are computers that can be integrated or “embedded” into a larger electrical or electronic equipment, to allow the equipment to have the necessary “intelligence” to function automatically. The use of embedded technology also allows the deployment of centralised Smart Energy Management Software to control the power available across the entire grid.

Interfacing with Electrical Appliances
Embedded systems are ubiquitous and are finding its use in almost all kinds of consumer and commercial equipment. Thus, a power delivery network built on embedded technology can far easily be interfaced with such equipment. This can ensure flow of electricity as well as information between the power plant and the equipment. The combined intelligence of the interconnected devices, coupled with automated control systems, can permit real-time power transactions and seamless interfaces among people, buildings, industrial plants, generation facilities and the electric network.

The information received from all the interconnected applications will enable the centralised energy management software to create an efficient power generation and transmission plan. An “intelligent” electric grid will also facilitate the proper delivery of electricity from renewable power systems such as wind, hydro and geothermal power plants that are often located at remote regions, far off from load centres. Additionally, interconnected systems will also enable faster detection of outages, correction of faults and quicker restoration of power supply. This will also improve the reliability of the grid and ensure security of the region as well.

The Smart Grid can be considered as a futuristic extension to the power grid and aims for better and efficient power management and consumption. Intelligent embedded power grids can create value up and down the chain – from efficient production of electricity in power plants to optimal supply and distribution of power to match the usage patterns of the end-users. The use of embedded technology would play a significant role in enhancing the “intelligence” of the existing power grids.

The primary advantage is that the grid can be transformed from an operator controlled and managed system to an “intelligent” automated network that works continuously to match the supply with the demand.  Smart power grids can dramatically improve the reliability, efficiency, and cost effectiveness of electric power delivery systems. Embedded and intelligent power grids is the way forward in ensuring a smarter, cleaner and a well-organised management of energy sources driving future growth requirements.

Published by LX Group for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.   

Muhammad AwaisIntelligence Embedded Power Grids