Chips and dryers
Intellon's $4.99 million grant will pay for half the development cost of a so-called Green PHY chip currently being specified by the HomePlug powerline trade group. The spec aims to define a low power device that can handle up to a Mbit/second of throughput on powerline networks.
The spec should be complete by the end of the year. Intellon has no public target date for completing its chip which it hopes will power a wide variety of smart meters, monitoring devices and other smart grid end points including networked thermostats.
The chip "can drive the cost down to compete with even lower speed home network alternatives," said Charlie Harris, chief executive of Intellon.
Powerline, Zigbee and an array of proprietary technologies are competing to be the carrier of choice for smart grid connections to devices in the home. "There's an amazing assortment of technologies--most narrowband and many proprietary, and people are still trying to decide what to use," Harris said.
As many as a dozen companies working on the Green PHY spec gathered in Orlando recently for a meeting hosted by Intellon. Wi-Fi chip designer Atheros Communications expects to complete an acquisition of Intellon by the end of the year.
For its part, Whirlpool made a pledge earlier this year to make all its appliances capable of receiving and responding to smart grid networks by 2015, as long as suitable standards and policies are in place.
The company made a concrete promise in late September to ship a million network-ready clothes dryers by 2011. Whirlpool's $19.33 million grant will be used over the next 30 months to help realize its plan.