Most homes and businesses use a wireless network so powerline networking,
which uses electrical wiring as a data network, is often considered to be an
outdated and redundant technology. However, it’s a simple technology that
complements wireless by reaching those areas that might be beyond a
Wi-Fi network
Powerline networking, or powerline
communications, is a form of
communication that uses electrical wiring to
carry both data and alternating current (AC)
electrical supply through existing electrical
infrastructure. Powerline networking can
have a range of uses. In the home it is
mostly used for home automation (smart
home) and internet access, but it is also used
in industrial and commercial settings, for
example by utility companies to carry out
tasks such as remote meter readings.
The powerline is able to carry data via the
superposition of a low-energy information
signal to the power wave, which means they
can pass through each other without being
disturbed. Data is transmitted at a minimum
of 3 kHz to ensure that the power wave does
not interfere with the data signal. Electrical
wiring in the home is able to transmit signals
at a variety of frequencies. Electricity usually
travels at 50/60 Hz frequencies, meaning
that data can use the same wires, but at a
much higher frequency so that the two do
not affect each other.
To install powerline networking in a
home, two special adaptors are needed. The
first powerline adapter would be connected
to an existing wired local area network
router, and the second adapter would
be attached to an Ethernet-ready device
such as a computer or television. When
both adapters are plugged in, a network
connection will be established internally
through the electrical wiring between the
two wall sockets, meaning that other than
the power cable, no extra wires are needed
to connect the device to the router. It can be
used for wireless printing, playing music to
remote speakers, file sharing in homes with
multiple computers, connecting televisions
to the internet, and gaming.
In home automation systems, powerline
communications can be used for controlling
lights, heating, air conditioning, cameras,
and security systems. The concept of a smart
home has been around since the 1970s,
when a Scottish company invented X10,
a system that allowed compatible home
devices to communicate via the existing
wiring. A transmitter, such as a keypad or
remote control, could send a message in
numerical code over the existing wiring to a
receiver, for example to turn off a lamp (the
receiver) in another room. The message sent
over the wiring would include which device
the message was being sent to and the
command for the device. X10 devices can
receive a range of commands, such as turn
all devices off, turn all lights on, or dim lights.
The system is still in used in many homes,
but some smart-home systems now use
radio-waves to send signals instead, making
use of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks.
In industrial and commercial settings,
powerline networking has various uses. It has
been used in the smart grid for advanced
energy management, fraud detection,
automatic meter readings, street lighting
control, and remote metering and billing.
A powerline networking connection has
some advantages over a wireless connection,
but how well it works will still depend on
the quality of the domestic electrical system.
Inadequate wiring and circuit breakers
in between the connected cables can
negatively affect performance and cause
interruptions. It can also be affected by
other motorised home appliances, such as
vacuum cleaners or fans, which generate
noise in the power grid and, as the wiring
and associated switchwork is optimised for
AC power, the connectivity does not work
as well. However, the system can make it
easier to extend a network to distant areas
of a house that regular Wi-Fi might struggle
to reach. It can be a low-cost way to increase
the connectivity of the home, as all homes
already have multiple AC outlets, and the
only extra equipment that is needed is two
adaptors per device to be connected.
games console
media player
Multiple devices can be connected to the internet
via their power leads
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