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Project Info ACTIVE Project Title

Benchtop Efficiency Measurements for Residential mesh Networking Equipment

Project Number ET23SWE0044 Organization SWE (Statewide Electric ETP) End-use Plug Loads and Appliances Sector Residential Project Year(s) 2023 - 2024
In recent years networking equipment manufacturers have expanded from their core product lines and have developed and promoted mesh networking systems (MNS) for residential consumers. Currently, 40% of manufacturers’ advertised Integrated access device (IAD) products are MNS. Unlike the previous generation of IADs, MNS are a group of devices from a single manufacturer and are typically purchased as a package that establishes a single integrated Wi-Fi network that can be accessed at multiple points. By having multiple points at which a device can connect, it is easier for consumers to place devices in key locations within the home to ensure proper signal connectivity and reliability, this greatly increases the adaptability of a system over traditional approaches with a single access point. With recommended IAD lifespans being 3-5 years and based on previous product generational adoptions it is estimated that within 5 years MNS would account for 80% of the IAD installed base. Due to this impending turnover it is critical to note that MNS devices’ electrical characteristics are not well defined by manufacturers nor well understood by researchers and may significantly increase IAD energy consumption which was estimated to be 1.5 TWh in 2020 within California alone.   IADs within the U.S. are mainly regulated by the Voluntary Agreement for Ongoing Improvement to the Energy Efficiency of Small Network Equipment. Providing energy targets and constraints for residential networking equipment. However, this agreement focuses on individual devices and does not have a method of assessing the performance of a group of devices which is a core component of MNS.   The proposed project aims first to conduct a market assessment of today’s commercially available mesh networking systems. In which the project will identify available options within the U.S., with a particular interest in MNS offered by internet service providers, and identify the system’s advertised functions and capabilities. Additionally, the project will query manufacturers on upcoming MNS products and their overall expected presence in future product offerings.  Secondly, the project will conduct laboratory evaluations to characterize and compare overall performance in multiple operational states and conditions experienced within residential environments. Since these systems are modular, systems will be evaluated with varying access points to assess flexibility and overall system response based on the reduction or addition of additional mesh devices. Researchers will compare MNS performance to business as usual IADs to identify any additional energy use or savings along with the associated performance benefits.  Lastly, the project aims to identify the areas where available MNS can improve such as low power mode features or manufacturer recommended node topologies. The project team also anticipates recommending overall approaches to assessing MNS devices and giving input on available opportunities for new regulation or integration into existing standards or voluntary agreements.  The California Lighting Technology Center is uniquely qualified to assess mesh networking systems due to ongoing efforts assessing traditional small networking equipment including routers, modems, extenders, and optical network terminals within CEC’s ongoing Plug Load Energy Testing to Inform Codes and Standards (PLETICS) project. And have a vast amount of experience assessing networked lighting controls, many of which have utilized mesh network architectures for the last decade. 
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The ETCC is funded in part by ratepayer dollars and the California IOU Emerging Technologies Program, the IOU Codes & Standards Planning & Coordination Subprograms, and the Demand Response Emerging Technologies (DRET) Collaborative programs under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission. The municipal portion of this program is funded and administered by Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.