interoperabilityIOTReference ArchitectureSmart Energy

Why architectures and standards matter: towards an Interoperable Smart Home Smart Energy future that will definitely work

Mission: Define an Interoperable Smart Home Smart Energy Reference Architecture that enables a level playing field and open ecosystem for new services.

Joost Laarakkers
February 7, 2020

The Hague, The Netherlands, already 2020, month 4 of the EU H2020 InterConnect project.

Mission: Define an Interoperable Smart Home Smart Energy Reference Architecture that enables a level playing field and open ecosystem for new services.

Challenge: Bring together and connect the traditional regulated energy sector, that is in transition towards a digitized sustainable and renewable energy system, with the Internet-of-Things (IoT) sector, where they think and work on a fully interconnected world with unimaginable and new services, often propelled by data and latest Artificial Intelligence technology.


This mission and related challenge have been taken up in the Architecture Work Package (WP2) of the H2020 InterConnect project, to integrate smart homes, buildings and appliances with the smart energy grid. For the energy system this means system integration and optimization of distributed/renewable generation, storage and flexible consumption. This requires interoperable smart technologies installed at building level. Internet of Things (IoT) can contribute to the seamless integration of home appliances with related home comfort and building automation services.


In order to build the digitized sustainable and renewable energy system, the ecosystem and related InterConnect Reference Architecture should support:

  • the end user keeping autonomy: they often own the asset, want to select their own choice of service, and have transparent data management and related privacy control
  • consumers and residents can try new devices, apps or services in an easy plug-and-play manner with as little setup effort as possible
  • that this architecture allows vendors and other service providers to become interoperable with as little design time effort as possible
  • an open market place in which parties and new entrants easily can make their services, applications and innovations available to a large audience
  • an architecture that allows these services and devices from the market place to communicate with each other for home automation and energy management within the home. This required a multi-service approach where one device (e.g. temperature sensor) is being used for multiple services (e.g. comfort as well as energy management)


Therefore, we have set the following objectives for this work package:

  • Ensure the system architecture can be easily deployed, e.g. by means of early alignment with service development, platform and pilot activities.
  • Foster interoperability between devices, systems and domains (i.e., smart homes, buildings and grid), by making use of standards, ontologies, abstraction layers and associated techniques and methodologies
  • Create a technology independent and device agnostic system architecture based on the InterConnect use cases and existing reference architectures in the smart grid and IoT domains
  • Integrate, define and collect privacy and security strategies and guidelines
  • Integrate semantic reasoning mechanisms into the system architecture to guarantee semantic interoperability and exploit the benefits of ontologies and semantic technology in the InterConnect ecosystem (e.g. SAREF)


In the architecture activities of InterConnect we started collecting the experiences on architecture, related methodologies, security and semantic technology. From the energy domain multiple parties reference the Smart Grid Architecture Model (SGAM), (see also the Reference Architecture document on: ).


From the IoT domain the AIOTI High Level Architecture (HLA) was often referenced (see: ).


Both the SGAM model as well as the RAMI model (Reference Architecture Model Industry, see the AIOTI HLA document) use a layered structure, with as layers  Business, Function, Information, Communication, Asset/Component/Thing (and Integration).


We see this as the common ground to build further upon. The focus will be put on the information layer, where the exchange of information is. Information has a broad scope, being data, information, information structures, semantics, ontologies, and knowledge. To ensure interoperability we strive to work on the higher abstraction layers (semantics and ontologies) to ensure full semantic interoperability.


Besides the top down approach, we in parallel are collecting the plans and architectures for the seven pilots to ensure we connect to the current status and sometimes the already existing equipment and system structure.


So far we observed a lot of function specific (often one asset to one system) communication in the (smart) grid domain. This is quite logical since the asset and communication have often dedicated functions, often for control, but it often blocks new services and new entrants in the energy system It is also a more regulated domain and a vital infrastructure requiring high levels of security and resilience.


In the IoT and smart home domain we observe much more open and sometimes many to many communication. For data of a sensor it is also easier to have 1 to many communication. For an actuator and control this will be more difficult.


Merging these domains further is needed and possible, but requires the energy domain to acknowledge the possibilities of broader sharing (already) available data (from smart meters, electric vehicles etc.). But to do this in a system acceptable way, the smart home/IoT domain needs to address topics on transparency and privacy (who uses which data for what), security (for resilience), etc.


Semantic Interoperability, an Open Ecosystem, and a Service Market Place will:

  1. enable device manufacturers to create and sell more and more attractive home appliances;
  2. enable service companies (including the device manufacturers) to offer good, new, better services for a wider set op appliances, equipment and sensors; and
  3. give users a wide choice of appliances, services, and related functionality, now and in the future.


So, we start recognizing the different approaches and architectures, see options for further convergence. But several hurdles and topics are still to be addressed. Follow our progress in this project on this InterConnect website in our blog articles and shared results.

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David Rua
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