Concern about meeting growing energy needs has combined with advances in technology to create a favorable environment for new smart energy solutions. In many cases, these systems are being installed in homes to provide complete energy-management systems.

As smart-home tech continues its march forward, various standards are being promoted for networking system components. When talking about power savings in the home, ZigBee is a popular communications technology. For instance, a ZigBee-enabled thermostat might communicate with a smart meter to control heating and cooling units.

Recently, the ZigBee Alliance, www.zigbee.org, San Ramon, Calif., teamed up with ECHONET Consortium, www.echonet.gr.jp, Tokyo, Japan, on a certification program for smart-home technology. ECHONET is an organization focusing on software and hardware for home networking, providing a set of universal, international communications standards. The two groups will work together to create a certification program for products based on ECHONET standards.

ECHONET Lite applications will use the ZigBee IP wireless mesh-networking communications protocol. The ZigBee IP specification is designed as an open standard for an IPv6-based wireless mesh-networking solution to control low power, low cost devices.

The ZigBee Alliance says the resulting technology will provide communications for the smart home that allow for secure control of energy management systems. ECHONET’s standards focus on linking home appliances made of various manufacturers as well as providing services. The standards are designed for use in both new and existing construction.

Specifically, the ECHONET Lite standard has been endorsed as the Japanese Smart House Standard by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. ECHONET Lite defines application-level communications for electric appliances and electronic equipment to connect to a home energy-management system.

As smart homes become more common, standards for connecting the various components will only become more important. Energy management promises to be an area of particular interest, and collaborations between organizations in the field will ease the development process.