IEEE announced this week that the new standard for Power Line Communications – IEEE 1901TM – that will allow transmission of up to 500 Mbps in LANs has been approved. According to IEEE’s SPectrum Magazine, it seems that this standard could be the basis of data networks in trains or airplanes.

The standard also could be the basis for distributing entertainment in trains or airplanes–or, at home, for installing a new music playlist in an automobile that’s being charged.

In Xcel’s smart grid city experiment in Boulder, Colo.–admittedly not a general success–BPL has been used in combination with radio links to transmit data from power meters, hot-water heaters, thermostats, and renewable-energy systems. To communicate with the energy provider, the data flows along the power lines for about a kilometer before it’s siphoned off the line and into an optical fiber or cellular-based backhaul system. That system, however, operates at rate of only about 5 Mbps–two orders of magnitude lower than what IEEE 1901 can provide in principle.

The 1901 standard seems destined to join the 1547 family of interconnection standards–the protocols and algorithms governing how to connect up distributed generation resources such as wind and solar as well as distributed storage devices like supercapacitors or battery banks–as one of the really critical smart grid enabling technologies.

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