US20090252208A1 - Multi-Unit Power Line Communications System and Method - Google Patents

Multi-Unit Power Line Communications System and Method Download PDF

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US20090252208A1
US20090252208A1 US12/483,808 US48380809A US2009252208A1 US 20090252208 A1 US20090252208 A1 US 20090252208A1 US 48380809 A US48380809 A US 48380809A US 2009252208 A1 US2009252208 A1 US 2009252208A1
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communication device
system
power line
communication
structure
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US12/483,808
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Bernard F. Frye, Jr.
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Current Technologies LLC
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Current Technologies LLC
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Priority to US11/388,985 priority patent/US7561867B2/en
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Publication of US20090252208A1 publication Critical patent/US20090252208A1/en
Assigned to CURRENT TECHNOLOGIES, LLC reassignment CURRENT TECHNOLOGIES, LLC ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: FRYE, BERNARD
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    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04BTRANSMISSION
    • H04B3/00Line transmission systems
    • H04B3/54Systems for transmission via power distribution lines
    • H04B3/58Repeater circuits
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04BTRANSMISSION
    • H04B3/00Line transmission systems
    • H04B3/54Systems for transmission via power distribution lines
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04BTRANSMISSION
    • H04B2203/00Indexing scheme relating to line transmission systems
    • H04B2203/54Aspects of powerline communications not already covered by H04B3/54 and its subgroups
    • H04B2203/5404Methods of transmitting or receiving signals via power distribution lines
    • H04B2203/5408Methods of transmitting or receiving signals via power distribution lines using protocols
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04BTRANSMISSION
    • H04B2203/00Indexing scheme relating to line transmission systems
    • H04B2203/54Aspects of powerline communications not already covered by H04B3/54 and its subgroups
    • H04B2203/5429Applications for powerline communications
    • H04B2203/5445Local network

Abstract

A power line communications system and method for multi-dwelling unit structures that provides broadband communications for internet access, voice over IP (VoIP), streaming video, audio, and other high speed applications and services is provided. One example embodiment includes a first communication device comprising an upstream port and a downstream port. The embodiment also includes a plurality of second communication devices with each second communication device configured to provide communications to user devices located on a different floors. The second communication devices may each include a low voltage power line port configured to communicate with a plurality of user devices via a low voltage power line and a second port for communicating with the first communication device. The first and second devices may also include router functionality.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • This application is a continuation of, and claims priority to, U.S. application Ser. No. 11/388,985, filed Mar. 27, 2006, which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/666,155 filed Mar. 29, 2005; which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention generally relates to data communications over a power distribution system and more particularly, to a power line communications system for providing communications to apartment buildings, hospitals, hotels, office buildings and other multi-dwelling unit structures.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Well-established power distribution systems exist throughout most of the United States, and other countries, which provide power to customers via power lines. With some modification, the infrastructure of the existing power distribution systems can be used to provide data communication in addition to power delivery, thereby forming a power line communication system (PLCS), which may be a broadband communication system. In other words, existing power lines that already have been run to and through many homes and offices, can be used to carry data signals to and from the homes, buildings, and offices. These data signals are communicated on and off the power lines at various points in the power line communication system, such as, for example, near homes, offices, Internet service providers, and the like.
  • Thus, there is a need for a power line communications system and method for multi-dwelling unit structures to provide broadband communications for internet access, voice over IP (VoIP), streaming video, audio, and other high speed applications. These and other advantages may be provided by various embodiments of the present invention.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention provides a power line communications system and method for multi-dwelling unit structures that provides broadband communications for internet access, voice over IP (VoIP), streaming video, audio, and other high speed applications and services. One example embodiment includes a first communication device comprising an upstream port and a downstream port. The embodiment also includes a plurality of second communication devices with each second communication device configured to provide communications to user devices located on a different floors. The second communication devices may each include a low voltage power line port configured to communicate with a plurality of user devices via a low voltage power line and a second port for communicating with the first communication device. The first and second devices may also include router functionality.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The invention is further described in the detailed description that follows, by reference to the noted drawings by way of non-limiting illustrative embodiments of the invention, in which like reference numerals represent similar parts throughout the drawings. As should be understood, however, the invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown. In the drawings:
  • FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of an example power line communication system servicing multiple structures, according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of an example power line communication system servicing one structure, according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of another example power line communication system servicing one structure, according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram of yet another example power line communication system servicing one structure, according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram of a portion of an example power line communication system servicing one floor, according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 6 is a schematic diagram illustrating methods of servicing user devices, according to example embodiments of the present invention;
  • FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram of another example power line communication system servicing a structure, according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 8 is a schematic diagram of still another example power line communication system servicing a structure, according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 9 is a schematic diagram of yet another example power line communication system servicing a structure, according to the present invention;
  • FIG. 10 is a schematic diagram of another example power line communication system servicing one structure, according to the present invention; and
  • FIG. 11 depicts a schematic diagram of an example bridge for use in some embodiments of a power line communication system according to the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS
  • In the following description, for purposes of explanation and not limitation, specific details are set forth, such as particular networks, communication systems, computers, terminals, devices, components, techniques, data and network protocols, software products and systems, operating systems, power line communications systems, development interfaces, hardware, etc. in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention.
  • However, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced in other embodiments that depart from these specific details. Detailed descriptions of well-known networks, communication systems, computers, terminals, devices, power line communications systems, components, techniques, data and network protocols, software products and systems, operating systems, development interfaces, and hardware are omitted so as not to obscure the description of the present invention.
  • System Architecture and General Design Concepts
  • Power distribution systems may include components for power generation, power transmission, and power delivery. A power generation source generates a voltage and a transmission substation increases this voltage to high voltage (HV) levels for long distance transmission on HV transmission lines to a substation transformer. Typical voltages found on HV transmission lines range from 69 kilovolts (kV) to in excess of 800 kV.
  • In addition to HV transmission lines, power distribution systems include medium voltage (MV) power lines and low voltage (LV) power lines. As discussed, MV typically ranges from about 1000 V to about 100 kV, and LV typically ranges from about 100 V to about 200 V. Transformers are used to convert between the respective voltage portions, e.g., between the HV section and the MV section and between the MV section and the LV section. Transformers have a primary side for connection to a first voltage (e.g., the MV section) and a secondary side for outputting another (usually lower) voltage (e.g., the LV section). Such transformers are often referred to as distribution transformers or a step down transformers, because they “step down” the voltage to some lower voltage. Transformers, therefore, provide voltage conversion for the power distribution system. Thus, power is carried from a substation transformer to a distribution transformer over one or more MV power lines. Power is carried from the distribution transformer to the customer premises via one or more LV power lines.
  • In addition, a distribution transformer may function to distribute one, two, three, or more phase power signals to the structure, depending upon the demands of the user. In the United States, for example, these local distribution transformers typically feed anywhere from one to ten homes, depending upon the concentration of the customer premises in a particular area. Distribution transformers may be pole-top transformers located on a utility pole, pad-mounted transformers located on the ground, or transformers located under ground level.
  • Power Line Communication System
  • The present invention may include communications devices such as backhaul points and bypass devices to communicate data. In some instances, the backhaul point may be coupled to a power line (e.g., a MV power line) or a coaxial cable, and to a non-power line medium for communications link, which may form a backhaul link. One or more bypass devices may be coupled to the backhaul point via the MV power line or coaxial cable (or alternately via a low voltage power line, a coaxial cable, a T-1 line, a fiber optic cable, wirelessly (e.g., 802.11 or satellite such as WildBlue®), or via another communications medium). The system may also employ power line repeaters (indoor, outdoor, low voltage (LVR) and/or medium voltage) that may be remotely configured and enabled/disabled to extend the communications range of other elements. The PLCS (and the network elements thereof) may be monitored and controlled via a power line server that may be remote from the structure and physical location of the network elements. Examples of bypass devices, backhaul points, repeaters, power line servers, and other components are described provided in U.S. Appl. No. 60/633,737, entitled “Power Line Repeater and Method,” filed Dec. 6, 2004; and U.S. application Ser. No. 11/091,677 entitled “Power Line Repeater and Method,” filed Mar. 28, 2005, issued as U.S. Pat. No. 7,224,272; and U.S. application Ser. No. 10/973,493, issued as U.S. Pat. No. 7,321,291, entitled “Power Line Communications System and Method of Operating the Same,” filed Oct. 26, 2004, all of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.
  • The present invention may provide high speed internet access and streaming audio services to each room, office, apartment, or other sub-unit of the structure via HomePlug®, IEEE 802.11 (Wifi), or other suitable method. For example, the lobby and other congregation areas of the building may be serviced via Wifi, while individual rooms may be serviced via HomePlug.
  • FIG. 1 illustrates an example multi-building multi-dwelling unit (MDU) embodiment that includes a backhaul point (BP) 100 connected to the internet via a fiber optic cable (or other backhaul link) and point of presence (POP) (not shown). The BP 200 is connected to three buildings via their respective MV power lines 50, which, therefore, carries the broadband (BB) over power line (BPL) access signals for each structure. The broadband signals are coupled onto and off the MV power lines 50 via a coupler (e.g., an inductive or capacitive coupler) in or at each building that is communicatively coupled to a repeater 200. Each repeater 200 may be connected to one or more bypass devices (referred to herein and in the figures as “bridges” 300). Each bridge 300 may be connected to one or more LV power lines 75 for communicating HomePlug signals to and from the user devices connected to the LV power lines 75 at one or more electric wall sockets.
  • FIG. 2 illustrates another example embodiment of the present invention. As shown in the figure, the backhaul link connected to the BP 100 may be a fiber optic cable. The BP 100 is also connected to a plurality of bridges 300 via a coaxial cable 40, or another non-power line medium. In this embodiment, there is one bridge on each floor. Alternate embodiments may have more than one bridge 200 on each floor such as one bridge 300 per side or quarter of the floor. Other embodiments may include one bridge 300 for every two, three, four or other increment of floors. The bridges 300 may be connected to the coaxial cable link via a T connection or in series. Each bridge 300 may service its respective user devices (e.g., connected to electric wall sockets 80) by providing broadband (BB) communications via the low voltage power lines 75 of the associated floor or floors (or portion thereof). In this example, the bottom floor, which may be a lobby, is serviced via a bridge 300 a that has a wireless transceiver (e.g., a Wifi transceiver—IEEE 802.11a,b, or g) instead or in addition to a LV power line transceiver. The wireless transceivers may be suitable for covering open areas such as a lobby, restaurant, pool, etc.
  • FIG. 3 illustrates another example embodiment of the present invention. This embodiment is similar to that shown in FIG. 2 except that the BP 100 is on or near the top of the building and may have a wireless transceiver (which may be a satellite transceiver) for communicating via a wireless backhaul link. The BP 100 may use a dedicated coaxial cable 40 to communicate with its bridges 300, or may share a coaxial cable with a digital broadcast satellite (e.g., such as DirecTV® which provides video) (not shown) using a different frequency from the coaxial satellite transmissions. In other embodiments, the BP 100 may be on a middle floor and use a fiber or wireless backhaul link. As in the previous embodiment, the bridges 300 are connected to the coaxial cable on a first port (for communication with the BP 100) and to the LV power lines 75 on a second port to provide communications to user device connected to the LV power lines 75 (directly or indirectly). Bridge 300 a, as described above, includes a wireless port instead of or in addition to a LV port.
  • FIG. 4 illustrates another example embodiment of the present invention. This embodiment is similar to that shown in FIG. 2 except that one bridge 300 may service multiple floors or the entire building.
  • FIG. 5 illustrates an example embodiment of the connection of a bridge 300 to the LV power lines 75 for one floor that may be used in some of the embodiments of the present invention. In this example, the bridge 300 is electrically and communicatively connected to all the outlets 80 on the floor via multiple power lines 75. The connection may be made at the circuit breaker box or at the power meter (not shown in this figure). In some embodiments, each outlet may be provided communications via a HomePlug® or other signal.
  • FIG. 6 illustrates an example embodiment of the connections between the user devices 10 and wall sockets 80 of the LV power lines, which may be Ethernet, wireless, or the combination thereof. Included in this example of course, but not shown, is a suitable transceiver such as a power line modem with an Ethernet port, power line modem coupled to (or integrated with) a wireless transceiver (e.g., Wifi), which may also have an Ethernet port (to provide both a wireless and Ethernet connection for one or more devices). In addition, the connection from the power line modem to the user device may be via a coaxial cable, Ethernet, or a component video cable (and signal), or combination thereof. The data communicated may include audio (e.g., MP3), audio/video (e.g., MPEG 3 or MPEG 4), including video-on demand from a content server that is local (in the building) or remote.
  • FIG. 7 illustrates an example embodiment of the present invention in which the bridge 300 is mounted to a utility pole 20 (but could be mounted adjacent a pad mounted transformer) and is communicatively coupled to the MV power line 50 via a MV coupler 310. The bridge 300 is also connected to the LV power lines 75 that service the structure. At the structure, a low voltage repeater 220 may be installed at one or more meters 25 or at one or more circuit breaker panels. In general, the bridge 300 (or repeater 220 in this instance) may be connected to the LV wiring 75 at the power usage meter 25 or at the circuit breaker panel in any of the embodiments herein. Thus, the data signals may traverse the internal LV wiring of the building, the external LV power lines 75 extending to the bridge 300, through the bridge 300, MV coupler 310, and over the MV power lines 50 to a BP (not shown).
  • FIG. 8 illustrates another example embodiment of the present invention in which a bridge 300 b is mounted to a utility pole 20 (but could be mounted adjacent a pad mounted transformer) and communicatively coupled to the MV power line 50 via a MV power line coupler 310. At the structure, either inside or outside, one or more bridges 300 may be installed (connected to the LV power line 75 subnets via the circuit breaker panel or power usage meter 25). The bridges 300 may be coupled together via a coaxial cable 40 that is on the inside or outside of the building. The MV power line coupler cable includes a splitter 45 that allows the bridge 300 b at the pole to communicate over the MV power line 50 (for other customers not shown in the figure). The other side of the splitter 45 is connected to a coaxial cable 40 that extends to the structure and is connected to the bridges 300 therein. Thus, the bridges 300 in the building and the bridge 300 b at the pole may share one MV coupler 310 for communicating over the MV power line 50 to a BP (not shown).
  • FIG. 9 illustrates another example embodiment of the present invention in which a bridge 300 is mounted to a utility pole 20 (but could be mounted adjacent a pad mounted transformer) and communicatively coupled to the MV power line 50 via an MV power line coupler 310. At the structure, such as, for example, near the roof, the top, and/or on the outside, a backhaul point 100 may be mounted. The bridge 300 and backhaul point 100 may communicate via a wireless link 400, such as an IEEE 802.11 or 802.16 link. One or more bridges 300 may be connected to the backhaul point 100 via a coaxial cable 40 (that may be disposed on the exterior of the building) and be installed (connected to the LV power line subnets) at the power usage meters 25 as shown. Signals to and from the BP 100 may be communicated via the MV power line 50 to another BP (not shown) via the wireless link 400 and bridge 300 at the pole 20.
  • The example embodiment of FIG. 10 is similar to that of FIG. 9 except that the bridges 300 are installed at the breaker panels 35 (instead of at the power usage meters 25) and the connecting coaxial cable(s) 40 are inside the building. It is worth noting that in the figures the bridge 300 is sometimes referred to as a PLB (Power Line Bridge).
  • In any of the embodiments herein, a video recorder (VR) may be installed in the building or each floor and store a catalog of movies for the building (or floor) occupants to view upon transmitting a request via the PLCS. Thus, the VR or other recording device may provide on-demand video to the building or floor occupants. Alternately, the building (or floor) occupants may select which videos to record on the building (or floor) VR for later viewing. The present invention also may facilitate and control in-building multi-player gaming, which may be controlled (if necessary) by the bridge or backhaul point.
  • Thus, the present invention may be used to provide room-per-room high speed Internet services, streaming personalized music services through internet, VoIP, integrated video (e.g., on demand and/or streaming) and on-screen surfing applications, secure, encrypted access and data transmission. In addition, the system may be fully managed, requiring no user software, and permit the user to use the system simply by registering. Once registered, the system may record the information identifying the user and permit the user to use the system anywhere in or near structure(s) (e.g. at the pool, in their room, at a restaurant, etc.) without the need to re-register. This may be accomplished by assigning the user a username and password for use during his or her stay or recognizing the computer (e.g., a MAC address). Upon checkout or some other triggering event, the system can prevent further access by the user by disabling access by the username or MAC address.
  • In addition, the system may facilitate or be integrated with hotel billing and activation systems so that system usage charges (e.g., on demand videos, broadband usage, VoIP, audio streaming charges, etc.) are communicated to the hotel billing system for inclusion on the user's bill. In addition, upon check out, the hotel computer system may automatically transmit a notification to the PLS (or other computer system), which may remotely de-activate (e.g., turn off) one or more of the electrical appliances in the user's hospital room, office, or hotel room. For example, the system may turn off or otherwise control (e.g., to limit the power consumption thereof) the lights, televisions, stereos, air conditioning, heating, refrigerators, ovens, stoves, dish washers, clocks, washers, dryers, computers, printers, and other such electrical consumption devices.
  • As illustrated in the incorporated references, example bridges 300 may includes a MV power line interface (MVI), a LV power line interface (LVI) and a controller coupled to the MVI and LVI and which controls operation of the LVI and MVI. The bridge 300 may be controlled by a programmable processor and associated peripheral circuitry, which form part of the controller. The controller includes memory that stores, among other things, routing information and program code, which controls the operation of the processor.
  • The LVI may include a LV power line coupler coupled to a LV signal conditioner, coupled to a LV modem (e.g., a HomePlug® compatible modem). The router, which may be formed by the controller may perform routing functions using layer 3 data (e.g., IP addresses), layer 2 data (e.g., MAC addresses), or a combination of layer 2 and layer 3 data (e.g., a combination of MAC and IP addresses). The MVI may include a MV modem coupled to a MV signal conditioner, coupled to a power line coupler. In addition to routing, the controller may perform other functions including controlling the operation of the LVI and MVI functional components and responding to power line server commands and requests.
  • Depending on the implementation and/or configuration, a backhaul point 100 may include a MVI (with a modem) or other interface for communication with one or more bridges and/or repeaters. In addition, the BP 100 may include an upstream interface having a transceiver for communication over a backhaul link, which may comprise a T-1 line, a DSL, a coaxial cable (DOCSIS or HomePlug modem), or a wireless link and have a suitable transceiver. Additionally, the BP 100 may include a controller for routing data and performing other control functions. Router, as user herein, may include a switch, bridge, or router for communicating data packets and their associated functions. For example, the bridge may route data by providing a first data packet that includes the data and a destination address of the one or more user devices. Similarly, the backhaul point may route data by providing a data packet that includes the data and a destination address of the one or more bridges. Finally, the router may (or controller) of the bridge and/or backhaul point may provide prioritization of upstream and/or downstream data, to provide QoS for latency sensitive applications such as VoIP, video, and other applications.
  • This embodiment of the bridge provides bi-directional communications using time division multiplexing, frequency division multiplexing, or other scheme. Thus, bridge 300 can receive and transmit data to one or more user devices in one or more customer premises via the LVI, which may be connected to a plurality of customer premises (e.g., apartments) via one or more of LV power lines. In addition, the bridge may receive and transmit data with other network elements, such as one or more the BPs and other bridges, via the MVI.
  • The PLCS also may include a power line server (PLS) that is a computer system with memory for storing a database of information about the PLCS and includes a network element manager (NEM) that monitors and controls the PLCS. The PLS allows network operations personnel to provision users and network equipment, manage customer data, and monitor system status, performance and usage. The PLS may reside at a remote network operations center (NOC), and/or at a PLCS Point of Presence (POP), to oversee a group of communication devices via the Internet. The PLS may provide an Internet identity to the network devices by assigning the devices (e.g., user devices, bridges 300, (e.g., the LV modems and MV modems of bridges), BPs 10, and AP 20) IP addresses and storing the IP addresses and other device identifying information (e.g., the device's location, address, serial number, etc.) in its memory. In addition, the PLS may approve or deny user devices authorization requests, command status reports, statistics and measurements from the bridges, and BPs, and provide application software upgrades to the communication devices (e.g., bridges, BPs, and other devices). The PLS, by collecting electric power distribution information and interfacing with utilities' back-end computer systems may provide enhanced power distribution services such as automated meter reading, outage detection, restoration detection, load balancing, distribution automation, Volt/Volt-Amp Reactance (Volt/Var) management, and other similar functions. The PLS also may be connected to one or more APs and/or core routers directly or through the Internet and therefore can communicate with any of the bridges, user devices, and BPs through the respective AP and/or core router.
  • The user device connected to the PLM may be any device capable of supplying data for transmission (or for receiving such data) including, but not limited to a computer, a telephone, a telephone answering machine, a fax, a digital cable box (e.g., for processing digital audio and video, which may then be supplied to a conventional television and for transmitting requests for video programming), a video game, a stereo, a videophone, a television (which may be a digital television), a video recording device (which may be a digital video recorder), a home network device, a utility meter, or other device. The PLM transmits the data received from the user device through the LV power lines to a bridge 300 and provides data received from the LV power line to the user device. The PLM may also be integrated with the user device, which may be a computer. In addition, the functions of the PLM may be integrated into a smart utility meter such as a gas meter, electric meter, water meter, or other utility meter to thereby provide automated meter reading (AMR).
  • Example Bridge Path from LV Power Line to MV Power Line
  • As shown in FIG. 11, signals from the LV power line may enter the bridge 300 via the LV coupler 410 and LV signal conditioner 420. Example of such circuitry that may be used in the bridge 300 is provided in U.S. application Ser. No. 10/641,689, entitled “Power Line Communication System and Method of Operating the Same,” filed Aug. 14, 2003, issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,980,091, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. Any type of coupler may be used including, but not limited to an inductive coupler, a capacitive coupler, a conductive coupler, or a combination thereof.
  • LV Modem
  • The LV modem 450 also may include one or more additional functional submodules such as an Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC), Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC), a memory, source encoder/decoder, error encoder/decoder, channel encoder/decoder, MAC (Media Access Control) controller, encryption module, and decryption module. These functional submodules may be omitted in some embodiments, may be integrated into a modem integrated circuit (chip or chip set), or may be peripheral to a modem chip. In the present example embodiment, the LV modem 450 is formed, at least in part, by part number INT51X1, which is an integrated power line transceiver circuit incorporating most of the above-identified submodules, and which is manufactured by Intellon, Inc. of Ocala, Fla.
  • The LV modem 450 provides decryption, source decoding, error decoding, channel decoding, and media access control (MAC) all of which are known in the art and, therefore, not explained in detail here.
  • With respect to MAC, however, the LV modem 450 may examine information in the packet to determine whether the packet should be ignored or passed to the router 510. For example, the modem 450 may compare the destination MAC address of the packet with the MAC address of the LV modem 450 (which is stored in the memory of the LV modem 450). If there is a match, the LV modem 450 removes the MAC header of the packet and passes the packet to the router 510. If there is not a match, the packet may be ignored.
  • Router
  • The data packet from the LV modem 450 may be supplied to the router 510, which forms part of the controller. The router 510 performs prioritization, filtering, packet routing, access control, and encryption. The router 510 of this example embodiment of the present invention uses a table (e.g., a routing table) and programmed routing rules stored in memory to determine the next destination of a data packet. The table is a collection of information and may include information relating to which interface (e.g., LVI 400 or MVI 200) leads to particular groups of addresses (such as the addresses of the user devices connected to the customer LV power lines and other bridges 300), priorities for connections to be used, and rules for handling both routine and special cases of traffic (such as voice packets and/or control packets).
  • The router 510 will detect routing information, such as the destination address (e.g., the destination IP address) and/or other packet information (such as information identifying the packet as voice data), and match that routing information with rules (e.g., address rules) in the table. The rules may indicate that packets in a particular group of addresses should be transmitted in a specific direction such as through the LV power line (e.g., if the packet was received from the MV power line and the destination IP address corresponds to a user device connected to the LV power line), repeated on the MV line (e.g., if the bridge 300 is acting as a repeater), or be ignored (e.g., if the address does not correspond to a user device connected to the LV power line or to the bridge 300 itself).
  • As an example, the table may include information such as the IP addresses (and potentially the MAC addresses) of the user devices on the bridge's LV subnet, the MAC addresses of the PLMs on the bridge's LV subnet, the MV subnet mask (which may include the MAC address and/or IP address of the bridge's BP 100 or repeating bridge 300), the IP (and/or MAC) addresses of other bridges 300 (e.g., for which the device may be repeating), and the IP address of the LV modem 450 and MV modem 280. Based on the destination IP address of the packet (e.g., an IP address), the router may pass the packet to the MV modem 280 for transmission on the MV power line. Alternately, if the IP destination address of the packet matches the IP address of the bridge 300, the bridge 300 may process the packet as a command.
  • In other instances, such as if the user device is not provisioned and registered, the router may prevent packets from being transmitted to any destination other than a DNS server or registration server. In addition, if the user device is not registered, the router 510 may replace any request for a web page received from that user device with a request for a web page on the registration server (the address of which is stored in the memory of the router).
  • The router 510 may also prioritize transmission of packets. For example, data packets determined to be voice packets may be given higher priority for transmission through the bridge 300 than data packets so as to reduce delays and improve the voice connection experienced by the user. Routing and/or prioritization may be based on IP addresses, MAC addresses, subscription level, type of data (e.g., power usage data or other enhanced power distribution system data may be given lower priority than voice or computer data), or a combination thereof (e.g., the MAC address of the PLM or IP address of the user device).
  • MV Modem
  • Similar to the LV modem 450, the MV modem 280 receives data from the router 510 and includes a modulator and demodulator. In addition, the MV modem 280 also may include one or more additional functional submodules such as an ADC, DAC, memory, source encoder/decoder, error encoder/decoder, channel encoder/decoder, MAC controller, encryption module, frequency conditioning module (to upband and/or downband signals) and decryption module. These functional submodules may be omitted in some embodiments, may be integrated into a modem integrated circuit (chip or chip set), or may be peripheral to a modem chip. In the present example embodiment, the MV modem 280 is formed, at least in part, by part number INT51X1, which is an integrated power line transceiver circuit incorporating most of the identified submodules and which is manufactured by Intellon, Inc. of Ocala, Fla.
  • The incoming signal from the router 510 (or controller) is supplied to the MV modem 280, which provides MAC processing, for example, by adding a MAC header that includes the MAC address of the MV modem 280 as the source address and the MAC address of the BP 100 (and in particular, the MAC address of the MV modem of the BP) or repeating bridge 300 as the destination MAC address. In addition, the MV modem 280 also provides channel encoding, source encoding, error encoding, and encryption. The data is then modulated and provided to the DAC to convert the digital data to an analog signal.
  • First MV Signal Conditioner
  • The modulated analog signal from MV modem 280 is provided to the first MV signal conditioner, which may provide filtering (anti-alias, noise, and/or band pass filtering) and amplification. In addition, the MV signal conditioner may provide frequency translation. In this embodiment, the translation is from the 4-21 MHz band of the LV power line to the band of the MV power line, which in this embodiment may be a higher frequency band such as in the 30-50 MHz band. Thus, in this embodiment, HomePlug compliant data signals (e.g., HomePlug 1.0 or HomePlug AV) may be communicated on the LV power line to and from the customer premises. The use of an existing powerline communications standard may reduce the cost of the network and allow for easy installation of the equipment. Additionally, the same protocol (e.g., HomePlug 1.0 or AV) may also be used on the MV power lines at the same or at a different frequency band (e.g., 30-50 MHz). In another embodiment, the translation may be from the 4-30 MHz band of the LV power line to the band of the MV power line, which may be in the 24-50 MHz band. In this embodiment, translation of the frequency is accomplished through the use of a local oscillator and a conversion mixer. This method and other methods of frequency translation are well known in the art and, therefore, not described in detail.
  • MV Power Coupler Line
  • Data passing through the MV transmit/receive switch for transmission on the MV power line is supplied to the MV power line coupler 210, which may include impedance translation circuitry, transient suppression circuitry, and a coupling device. The coupling device couples the data onto the MV power line as a transmission.
  • The coupling device may be inductive, capacitive, conductive, a combination thereof, or any suitable device for communicating data signals to and/or from the MV power line. Examples of such couplers that may form part of an embodiment of the present invention are described in U.S. application Ser. No. 10/348,164, entitled “Power Line Coupling Device and Method of Using the Same,” filed Jan. 21, 2003, issued as U.S. Pat. No. 7,046,124, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.
  • Example Bridge Path from MV Power Line to LV Power Line MV Modem
  • The MV modem 280 receives the output of the first MV signal conditioner 260. The MV modem 280 and LV modem 450 provide a bi-directional path and form part of the MV to LV path and the LV to MV path. The components of the MV modem 280 have been described above in the context of the LV to MV path and are therefore not repeated here. The incoming signal is supplied to the ADC to convert the incoming analog signal to a digital signal. The digital signal is then demodulated. The modem then provides decryption, source decoding, error decoding, and channel decoding all of which are known in the art and, therefore, not explained in detail here.
  • The MV modem 280 also provides MAC processing through the use of MAC addresses. In one embodiment employing the present invention, the MAC address is used to direct data packets to the appropriate device. The MAC addresses provide a unique identifier for each device on the PLC network including, for example, user devices, bridges, PLMs, repeaters and BPs (i.e., the LV modems and MV modems of the bridges, repeaters, and the BPs).
  • Based on the destination IP address of a received packet, the BP 100 will determine the MAC address of the MV modem 280 of the repeating bridge 300 or, if there is a direct connection, of the bridge 300 servicing the user device. The information for making this determination is stored in a table in the memory of the BP 100. The BP 100 will remove the MAC header of the packet and add a new header that includes the MAC address of the BP 100 (as the source address) and the MAC address of the repeating bridge 300 or the bridge 300 (the layer 2 destination address)—or more specifically, the MAC address of the MV modem 280 of the next downstream hop bridge 300.
  • Thus, in this embodiment, packets destined for a user device on a LV subnet of a bridge 300 (or to repeating bridge 300) are addressed to the MAC address of the MV modem 280 of the bridge 300 and may include additional information (e.g., the destination IP address of the user device) for routing the packet to devices on the bridge's LV subnet or to another bridge 300 or repeating bridge 300.
  • If the destination MAC address of the received packet does not match the MAC address of the MV modem 280, the packet may be discarded (ignored). If the destination MAC address of the received packet does match the MAC address of the MV modem 280, the MAC header is removed from the packet and the packet is supplied to the router 510 for further processing.
  • There may be a different MAC sublayer for each physical device type such as for user devices and PLCS network elements (which may include any subset of devices such as backhaul devices, bridges, repeating bridges, dedicated repeaters, aggregation points, distribution points, and core routers).
  • Router
  • The MAC address of a network device will be different from the IP address. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)/IP includes a facility referred to as the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) that permits the creation of a table that maps IP addresses to MAC addresses. The table is sometimes referred to as the ARP cache. Thus, the router 510 may use the ARP cache or other information stored in memory to determine IP addresses based on MAC addresses (and/or vice versa). In other words, the ARP cache and/or other information may be used with information in the data packet (such as the destination IP address) to determine the layer 2 routing of a packet (e.g., to determine the MAC address of the next downstream hop having the destination IP address).
  • As discussed above, upon reception of a data packet, the MV modem 280 of a bridge 300 will determine if the destination MAC address of the packet matches the MAC address of the MV modem 280 and, if there is a match, the packet is passed to the router 510. If there is no match, the packet is discarded.
  • In this embodiment, the router 510 analyzes packets having a destination IP address to determine the destination of the packet which may be a user device, the bridge 300 itself, a repeating bridge 300, another bridge 300, or the BP 100. This analysis includes comparing the information in the packet (e.g., a destination IP address) with information stored in memory, which may include the IP addresses of the user devices on the bridge 300 LV subnet. If a match is found, the router 510 routes the packet through to the LV modem 450 for transmission on the LV power line. If the destination IP address corresponds the IP address of the bridge 300, the packet is processed as a command or data intended for the bridge 300 (e.g., by the Command Processing software described below) and may not be passed to the LV modem 450. If the destination IP address corresponds to another bridge 300 (or repeating bridge 300), the router may re-address the packet with the next hop MAC address in the path to the destination bridge 300 (or repeating bridge 300) and pass the data to the MV modem for transmission onto the MV power line. Alternately, if the destination IP address corresponds to the BP 100, the router may re-address the packet with the next upstream hop MAC address in the path to the BP100 and pass the data to the MV modem for transmission onto the MV power line.
  • The term “router” is sometimes used to refer to a device that routes data at the IP layer (e.g., using IP addresses). The term “switch” or “bridge” are sometimes used to refer to a device that routes at the MAC layer (e.g., using MAC addresses). Herein, however, the terms “router”, “routing”, “routing functions” and the like are meant to include both routing at the IP layer and MAC layer. Consequently, the router 510 of the present invention may use MAC addresses instead of, or in addition to, IP addresses to perform routing functions.
  • In an alternate embodiment using IP address to route data packets, all packets received by the MV modem 280 may be supplied to the router 510. The router 510 may determine whether the packet includes a destination IP address that corresponds to a device on the bridge's LV subnet (e.g., an address corresponding to a user device address or the bridge's address). Specifically, upon determining the destination IP address of an incoming packet, the router 510 may compare the identified destination address with the addresses of the devices on the subnet, which are stored in memory. If there is a match between the destination address and the IP address of a user device stored in memory, the data is routed to the LV power line for transmission to the user device. If there is a match between the destination address and the IP address of the bridge 300 stored in memory, the data packet is processed as a command or information destined for the bridge 300.
  • In addition, the router 510 may also compare the destination address with the IP address of the BP 100, other bridges 300, LV subnets served of other bridges 300, or other repeaters (for example, if the bridge is also acting as a repeater). If there is no match between the destination IP address and an IP address stored in memory, packet may be discarded (ignored).
  • According to any of these router embodiments, if the data is addressed to an address on the bridge's LV or MV subnet (the network of devices with which the bridge 300 can communicate and/or for which the bridge 300 has an IP address stored therein), the router may perform any or all of prioritization, packet routing, access control, filtering, and encryption.
  • As discussed, the router 510 of this example embodiment of the present invention may use a routing table to determine the destination of a data packet. Based on information in the routing table and possibly elsewhere in memory, the router 510 routes the packets. For example, voice packets may be given higher priority than data packets so as to reduce delays and improve the voice connection experienced by the user. The router 510 supplies data packets intended for transmission along the LV power line to the LV modem 450.
  • LV Modem
  • The functional components of the LV Modem 450 have been described above in the context of the LV to MV path and, therefore, are not repeated here. After receiving the data packet from the router 510, the LV modem 450 provides MAC processing, which may comprise adding a MAC header that includes the source MAC address (which may be the MAC address of the LV modem 450) and the destination MAC address (which may be the MAC address of the PLM corresponding to the user device identified by the destination IP address of the packet).
  • To determine the MAC address of the PLM that provides communications for the user device identified by the destination IP address of the packet, the LV modem 450 first determines if the destination IP address of the packet is an IP address stored in its memory (e.g., stored in its bridging table). If the IP address is stored in memory, the LV modem 450 retrieves the MAC address for communicating with the destination IP address (e.g., the MAC address of the PLM) from memory, which will also be stored therein. If the IP address is not stored in memory, the LV modem 450 transmits a request to all the devices to which it is coupled via the low voltage power line (e.g., all the PLMs). The request is a request for the MAC address for communicating with the destination IP address of the packet. The device (e.g., the PLM) that has the MAC address for communicating with the destination IP address will respond by providing its MAC address. The LV modem 450 stores the received MAC address and the IP address for which the MAC address provides communications in its memory (e.g., in its bridging table). The LV modem 450 then adds the received MAC address as the destination MAC address for the packet.
  • The packet is then channel encoded, source encoded, error encoded, and encrypted. The data is then modulated and provided to the DAC to convert the digital data to an analog signal.
  • Controller
  • As discussed, the controller includes the hardware and software for managing communications and control of the bridge 300. In this embodiment, the controller includes an IDT 32334 RISC microprocessor for running the embedded application software and also includes flash memory for storing the boot code, device data and configuration information (serial number, MAC addresses, subnet mask, and other information), the application software, routing table, and the statistical and measured data. This memory includes the program code stored therein for operating the processor to perform the routing functions described herein.
  • This embodiment of the controller also includes random access memory (RAM) for running the application software and temporary storage of data and data packets. This embodiment of the controller also includes an Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) for taking various measurements, which may include measuring the temperature inside the bridge 300 (through a temperature sensor such as a varistor or thermistor), for taking power quality measurements, detecting power outages, measuring the outputs of feedback devices, and others. The embodiment also includes a “watchdog” timer for resetting the device should a hardware glitch or software problem prevent proper operation to continue.
  • This embodiment of the controller also includes an Ethernet adapter, an optional on-board MAC and physical (PHY) layer Ethernet chipset that can be used for converting peripheral component interconnect (PCI) to Ethernet signals for communicating with the backhaul side of the bridge 300. Thus, the RJ45 connector may provide a port for a wireless transceiver (which may be a 802.11 compliant transceiver) for communicating wirelessly to the BP 100 or other bridge 300, which, of course, would include a similar transceiver. In an alternate embodiment, the bridge 300 may include a MV modem for the NB interface and an Ethernet port for the SB interface to communicate with user device.
  • The bridge 300 also may have a debug port that can be used to connect serially to a portable computer. The debug port preferably connects to any computer that provides terminal emulation to print debug information at different verbosity levels and can be used to control the bridge 300 in many respects such as sending commands to extract all statistical, fault, and trend data.
  • In addition to storing a real-time operating system, the memory of controller of the bridge 300 also includes various program code sections such as a software upgrade handler, software upgrade processing software, the PLS command processing software (which receives commands from the PLS, and processes the commands, and may return a status back to the PLS), the ADC control software, the power quality monitoring software, the error detection and alarm processing software, the data filtering software, the traffic monitoring software, the network element provisioning software, and a dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) Server for auto-provisioning user devices (e.g., user computers) and associated PLMs.
  • In this embodiment, the router 510 (i.e., processor 320 executing the routing program code) shares a bus with the LV modem 450 and MV modem 280. Thus, the router 510 in this embodiment is not physically located between the two modems, but instead all three devices—the router 510, LV modem 450, and MV modem 280—are communicatively coupled together via the bus. In this embodiment the LV and MV modem physically share the same data bus, the bus is controlled by controller, meaning that packets go through the controller and some level of the router 510. Alternately, in an alternate embodiment, in some instances (e.g., at the occurrence of a particular event) the router 510 may be programmed to allow the LV modem 450 to pass data directly to the MV modem 280 and vice versa, without performing data filtering and/or the other functions performed by the router 510 which are described above.
  • This embodiment of the bridge 300 may only receive or transmit data over the LV power line at any one instant. Likewise, the bridge 300 may only receive or transmit data over the MV power line at any one instant. However, as will be evident to those skilled in the art, the bridge 300 may transmit or receive over the LV power line, while simultaneously transmitting or receiving data over the MV power line.
  • PLS Command Processing Software
  • The PLS and bridge 300 (or repeating bridge 300) may communicate with each other through two types of communications: 1) PLS Commands and bridge responses, and 2) bridge Alerts and Alarms. TCP packets are used to communicate commands and responses in the current embodiment. The commands typically are initiated by the NE portion of the PLS. Responses sent by the bridge 300 (hereinafter to include repeating bridges 300) may be in the form of an acknowledgement (ACK) or negative acknowledgement (NACK), or a data response depending on the type of command received by the bridge 300 (or repeating bridge 300).
  • Commands
  • In addition to enabling and disabling the repeater functionality, the PLS may transmit any number of commands to the bridge 300 to support system control of bridge functionality. As will be evident to those skilled in the art, most of these commands are equally applicable for bridges 300 that have the repeater function enabled. For ease of discussion, however, the description of the commands will be in the context of a bridge only. These commands may include altering configuration information, synchronizing the time of the bridge 300 with that of the PLS, controlling measurement intervals (e.g., voltage measurements of the ADC), requesting measurement or data statistics, requesting the status of user device activations, and requesting reset or other system-level commands. Any or all of these commands may require a unique response from the bridge 300, which is transmitted by the bridge 300 and received and stored by the PLS. The PLS may include software to transmit a command to any or all of the bridges 300 (and BPs 100) to schedule a voltage and/or current measurement at any particular time so that all of the network elements of the PLCS take the measurement(s) at the same time.
  • Alerts
  • In addition to commands and responses, the bridge 300 (or repeating bridge 300) has the ability to send Alerts and Alarms to the PLS (the NEI) via User Datagram Protocol (UDP), which does not require an established connection but also does not guarantee message delivery.
  • Alerts typically are either warnings or informational messages transmitted to the NEI in light of events detected or measured by the bridge 300. Alarms typically are error conditions detected by the bridge 300. Due to the fact that UDP messages may not be guaranteed to be delivered to the PLS, the bridge 300 may repeat Alarms and/or Alerts that are critically important to the operation of the device or system.
  • One example of an Alarm is an Out-of-Limit Alarm that indicates that an out-of-limit condition has been detected at the bridge 300, which may indicate a power outage on the LV power line, an MV or LV voltage to high, an MV or LV voltage too low, a temperature measurement inside the bridge 300 is too high, and/or other out-of-limit conditions. Information of the Out-of-Limit condition, such as the type of condition (e.g., a LV voltage measurement, a bridge temperature), the Out-of-Limit threshold exceeded, the time of detection, the amount (e.g., over, under, etc.) the out of limit threshold has been exceeded, is stored in the memory of the bridge 300 and transmitted with the alert or transmitted in response to a request from the PLS.
  • Software Upgrade Handler
  • The Software Upgrade Handler software may be started by the BP 100 or bridge 300 Command Processing software in response to a PLS command. Information needed to download the upgrade file, including for example the remote file name and PLS IP address, may be included in the parameters passed to the Software Command Handler within the PLS command.
  • Upon startup, the Software Command Handler task may open a file transfer program such as Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) to provide a connection to the PLS and request the file. The requested file may then be downloaded to the bridge 300. For example, the PLS may transmit the upgrade through the Internet, through the BP 100, through the MV power line to the bridge 300 where the upgrade may be stored in a local RAM buffer and validated (e.g., error checked) while the bridge 300 continues to operate (i.e., continues to communicate packets to and from PLMs and the BP 100). Finally, the task copies the downloaded software into a backup boot page in non-volatile memory, and transmits an Alert indicating successful installation to the PLS. The BP 100 or bridge 300 then makes the downloaded software the primary boot page and reboots. When the device restarts the downloaded software will be copied to RAM and executed. The device will then notify the PLS that it has rebooted via an alert indicating such.
  • ADC Scheduler
  • The ADC Scheduler software, in conjunction with the real-time operating system, creates ADC scheduler tasks to perform ADC sampling according to configurable periods for each sample type. Each sample type corresponds with an ADC channel. The ADC Scheduler software creates a scheduling table in memory with entries for each sampling channel according to default configurations or commands received from the PLS. The table contains timer intervals for the next sample for each ADC channel, which are monitored by the ADC scheduler.
  • ADC Measurement Software
  • The ADC Measurement Software, in conjunction with the real-time operating system, creates ADC measurement tasks that are responsible for monitoring and measuring data accessible through the ADC. Each separate measurable parameter may have an ADC measurement task. Each ADC measurement task may have configurable rates for processing, recording, and reporting for example.
  • An ADC measurement task may wait on a timer (set by the ADC scheduler). When the timer expires the task may retrieve all new ADC samples for that measurement type from the sample buffer, which may be one or more samples. The raw samples are converted into a measurement value. The measurement is given the timestamp of the last ADC sample used to make the measurement. The measurement may require further processing. If the measurement (or processed measurement) exceeds limit values, an alert condition may be generated. Out of limit Alerts may be transmitted to the PLS and repeated at the report rate until the measurement is back within limits. An out of limit recovery Alert may be generated (and transmitted to the PLS) when the out of limit condition is cleared (i.e., the measured value falls back within limit conditions).
  • The measurements performed by the ADC, each of which has a corresponding ADC measurement task, may include bridge inside temperature, LV power line voltage, LV power line current (e.g., the voltage across a resistor), MV power line voltage, and/or MV power line current for example. MV power line measurements may be accomplished via a separate power line coupler, which may be an inductive coupler.
  • As discussed, the bridge 300 includes value limits for most of these measurements stored in memory with which the measured value may be compared. If a measurement is below a lower limit or above an upper limit (or otherwise out of an acceptable range), the bridge may transmit an Out-of-Limit Alert, which is received and stored by the PLS. In some instances, one or more measured values are processed to convert the measured value(s) to a standard or more conventional data value.
  • The measured data (or measured and processed data) is stored in the memory of the bridge. This memory area contains a circular buffer for each ADC measurement and time stamp. The buffers may be read by the PLS Command Processing software functionality in response to a request for a measurement report or on a periodic basis. The measurement data may be backed up to non-volatile memory by a bridge software task.
  • The LV power line voltage measurement may be used to provide various information. For example, the measurement may be used to determine a power outage, or measure the power used by a consumer or by all of the consumers connected to that distribution transformer. In addition, it may be used to determine the power quality of the LV power line by measuring and processing the measured values over time to provide frequency, harmonic content, and other power line quality characteristics.
  • The bridge 300 also may include software for the gathering of repeating statistics, including but not limited to the number the packets and bytes transmitted from each repeated bridge 300, the number of packets and bytes repeated for transmission to each repeated bridge 300; and number of the packets dropped for each repeated bridge 300. The bridge software may include a code segment for setting and transmitting the statistics collection frequency in response to commands transmitted from the PLS.
  • The statistics collected may be stored periodically to non-volatile memory (e.g., at the same rate and times as the standard bridge packet statistics).
  • The bridge 300 also may include software for configuring a duration alert for transmitting a notice to the PLS that the statistics are ready or need to be transmitted to the PLS. The PLS may include software for determining when to collect periodic statistics and transmitting a request for the statistics in response to receiving the notice.
  • Traffic Monitoring Software
  • The Traffic Monitoring software may collect various data packet traffic statistics, which may be stored in memory including the amount of data (i.e., packets and/or bytes) communicated (i.e., transmitted and received) through the MV power line, and/or through the LV power line; the amount of data (packets and/or bytes) communicated (transmitted and received) to or from the PLS; the number of Alerts and Alarms sent to the PLS; the number of DHCP messages to or from user devices; the number of failed user device authentications; the number of failed PLS authentications; and the number of packets and bytes received and/or transmitted from/to each user device (or PLM).
  • Rate Limiting
  • The bridge 300 may include software for monitoring the bit rate of a particular device (e.g., PLM, computer, television, stereo, telephone, fax, gaming device, etc.) and also for rate limiting the communications of the device. Thus, if the bit rate (i.e., number of bits communicated over a given time period) reaches a particular threshold value for the device (which may be stored in memory of the bridge 300), the bridge 300 may slow or stop (postpone) communications for that device (e.g., until the beginning of the next time period, which may be one or more seconds, milliseconds, minutes, or microseconds). The threshold value may be received from the PLS during initial configuration, after configuration, upon request by the user, or after a modification of the user's subscription level.
  • For example, a user may transmit a request to rate limit a particular device to the PLS, which would allow a parent to rate limit the communications of a child's gaming device (e.g., Xbox™, or Playstation™), the child's downloading of music or video, Voice of Internet Protocol (VoIP), peer to peer communications (e.g., often used to transfer MP3 music files), or the communication of video or image files. In response, the PLS may transmit a rate limiting command and information to the bridge 300 to activate rate limiting of the device or process, which thereby initiates rate limiting in response to the PLS command. Thus, rate limiting may be effected for only select devices or processes of the subscriber, which may be requested by the user. As an example, a parent could turn off, turn on, or limit VoIP at certain times of the day or days of the week.
  • The rate limit information transmitted to the bridge 300 may include information of the device (e.g., address) and/or process (e.g., which may be indicated by the type of packets communicated such as video, gaming, voice, computer, MP3) that are to be rate limited for that subscriber or device. Thus, the bridge 300 may include information in memory sufficient to recognize certain types of processes (or packets), which is compared to communicated data to determine if rate limiting should be performed. Similarly, if rate limiting is based on address information (e.g., of the source and/or destination device), the bridge 300 may include rate limiting address information in memory, which is compared to address information of the communicated data to determine whether rate limiting should be performed. The rate limit information may also include a first threshold value for upstream and a second threshold value for downstream communications, which may or may not be the same.
  • In one embodiment the home administrator may “setup” all the home users (and their limits) and the information may be stored in memory at the bridge 300. When a home user logs in, their rule base will be attached to the virtual interface created by the login to perform the rate limiting. In a second embodiment, the home administrator may “setup” all the home users (and their limits) and the information may be stored in memory on a server at the POP. When a home user logs in, their rule base will be attached to the virtual interface created by the login to perform the rate limiting. In a third embodiment, the home administrator may “setup” all the home users (and their limits) and the information may be stored in memory on a server at the POP. When a home user logs in, their rule base will be attached to the virtual interface created by the login. The server will transmit a command and data to dynamically add or remove filter and rate limit rules to the bridge 300, which will store the data in memory and filter and/or rate limit according to the received information. Rate limiting may implementing via Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP), Point-to-Point Protocol Over Ethernet (PPPoE), or virtual private network (VPN).
  • The rate limiting software in the bridge 300 (or remote POP server) may analyze the data packets and may limit the communication of data packets through the bridge 300 based on data packets: 1) that are transmitted to the user device from a particular source (e.g., from a particular person, PLM, modem, user, domain name, email address, IP address and/or MAC source address); 2) that are transmitted from the user device to a particular destination (e.g., to a particular person, email address, user, domain name, modem, IP address and/or MAC destination address); 3) that have particular content (e.g., voice data, gaming data, image, audio, and/or video data); 4) based on the time of transmission or reception (e.g., times of the day and/or day(s) of the week); 5) that surpass a threshold quantity of data (either transmitted, received, or combination thereof) for a predetermined window of time (e.g., hour, minute, second, day, week, month, year, or subscription period); and/or 6) some combination thereof.
  • The rate limiting function may be used to rate limit or completely stop any or all such transmissions described above according any of such conditions. As an example of an application of rate limiting, the user may limit a particular device (e.g., a VoIP telephone) or data (VoIP data) to zero bits per second (bps) (i.e., prevent telephone calls) from 3 PM to 7 PM on Monday through Friday. Alternately, the user may limit gaming data to 1 Mbps from between 7 PM to 9 PM and allow the default rate (e.g., the rate provided to the user via the user's subscription which may also be controlled by the rate limiting function) during other times.
  • The bridge 300 may also implement quality of service (QoS) for packets to and from certain devices, as a means to rate limit or in addition to rate limiting. For example, data of live voice communications (e.g., telephone voice communications) may be given higher priority than video data, which may be given higher priority than, gaming data, and computer data. Software on the user device may also add tags (bits) to the data packets to allow the bridge 300 to recognize the type of packet for implementing QoS, rate limiting, and data filtering. Thus, the bridge 300 may receive the QoS information via the power line from the PLS for a particular subscriber, device, or process, and store the information in memory. Subsequently, the PLS may change the QoS setting in response to a user request or a change in the user's subscription—as instructed by the PLS. For example, when the user transmits a request to upgrade his or her subscription from data to voice (telephone) and data, the PLS may transmit new QoS information to the bridge 300 so that voice data of the user is given higher priority for transmission. Likewise, the PLS may transmit a similar command to the BP 100 so that voice data of the user is given higher priority for transmission.
  • Additionally, the PLS (via the bridge 300) may transmit QoS information to the PLM/router device via the power lines, which may perform QoS as discussed, which may be in addition to or instead of the QoS performed by the bridge 300. Thus, the bridge 300 may manage each PLM and router on its subnet. As will be evident to those skilled in the art, the remote rate limiting described herein and remote QoS management may also be implemented in a non-power line system such as for cable modems or digital subscriber line (DSL) modems.
  • Data Filtering Software
  • The Data Filtering software provides filtering of data packets transmitted to and/or from a user device (or PLM). The filtering criteria may be supplied from the PLS (which may be based on requests received from the user) and is stored in memory of the bridge 300 and may form part of the routing table. The Data Filtering software may analyze the data packets and may prevent the transmission of data packets through the bridge: 1) that are transmitted to the user device from a particular source (e.g., from a particular person, user, domain name, email address, or IP or MAC source address); 2) that are transmitted from the user device to a particular destination (e.g., to a particular person, email address, user, domain name, or IP or MAC destination address); 3) that have particular content (e.g., voice data or video data); 4) based on the time of transmission or reception (e.g., times of the day and/or days of the week); 5) that surpass a threshold quantity of data (either transmitted, received, or combination thereof) for a predetermined window of time (e.g., a day, week, month, year, or subscription period); or 7) some combination thereof.
  • Provisioning a New User Device
  • Similarly, when a user installs a new user device on the LV subnet attached to the bridge 300, the user device may need to be provisioned to identify itself on the network. To do so in this embodiment, the new user device transmits a DHCP request, which is received and routed by the bridge 300 to a DHCP server running in the controller of the bridge 300. In response to the request, the bridge 300 may respond by transmitting to the user device the IP address and subnet mask for the user device, the gateway IP address for the device's network interface to be used as the network gateway (e.g., the IP address of the LV modem 450 of the bridge 300), and the IP addresses of the Domain Name Servers (DNS) all of which are stored in memory by the user device. In addition, the bridge may transmit a new user device Alert to the PLS.
  • After provisioning, it may be necessary to register the user device with the network, which may require providing user information (e.g., name, address, phone number, etc.), payment information (e.g., credit card information or power utility account information), and/or other information to the registration server. The registration server may correlate this information with information of the utility company or Internet service provider. The registration server may form part of, or be separate from, the PLS. Until registered, the bridge 300 prevents the user device (through its PLM) from communicating with (receiving data from or transmitting data to) any external network computer other than the registration server or the two DNSs. Thus, until the user device is registered, the bridge 300 may filter data packets transmitted to and/or from the user device that are not from or to the registration server or a DNS. In addition, requests (such as HTTP requests) for other Internet web pages may be redirected and transmitted as a request for the registration web page on the registration server, which responds by transmitting the registration web page. Control of access of the user device may be performed by limiting access based on the IP address of the user device to the IP addresses of the registration server and DNSs.
  • After registration is successfully completed, the registration server communicates with the PLS to provide registration information of the user device to the PLS. The PLS transmits an activation message for the user device (or PLM) to the bridge 300. In response, the bridge 300 removes communication restrictions and permits the user device (and PLM) to communicate through the PLCS to all parts of the Internet. As will be evident to those skilled in the art, filtering of data and controlling access of the user device may be performed by limiting access based on the IP address or MAC address of the user device or the MAC address of the PLM to which the user device is connected. Thus, the bridge 300 may compare the source IP address (or MAC address) with information in its memory to determine if the IP address (or MAC address) is an address that has been granted access to the PLCS and beyond. The procedure above, or portions of the procedure, with respect to provisioning user devices may be used to provision a PLM instead of or in addition to a user device.
  • Furthermore, the repeater functionality may be used to repeat data to and from a pair of BPs 100. For example, a repeating bridge 300 may receive data from a first BP 100 and repeat the data for reception by a second BP 100 in a manner described herein. The second BP 100 may also receive user data from the repeating bridge 300 and other bridges 300. Similarly, the repeating bridge 300 may receive data from the second BP 100 and repeat the data onto the MV power line for reception by the first BP 100, which may transmit that data to bridges 300 on its MV run. This application of the present invention may further reduce the need for backhaul media. In this embodiment, communications with the first BP 100 may employ a different NEK than the communications with the second BP 100 (and its child bridges 300). In an alternate embodiment, communications between the repeating bridge 300 and one or both BPs 100 may use a communications channel that is orthogonal to the channel used by the child bridges 300 of the first and/or second BP 10. For example, the communications channel may employ a different frequency band (e.g., different than the band used for communications between the child bridges 300 and their BP 100), UWB, surface waves, wireless, or use the neutral conductor for communications (instead of the MV conductor). Thus, in the upstream direction, data may be received by a bridge 300, by a first repeating bridge 300, by the first BP 100, by a second repeating bridge 300, by the second BP 100, and by the AP. Downstream communications may follow the reverse path. The MV link of the present invention may be to provide upstream communications for a digital subscriber line (DSL) or high speed coaxial cable. Thus, the bridge 300 may communicate with one or more users via a coaxial cable (DOCSIS) link or DSL link. Likewise, the backhaul link may be a DSL link or high speed coaxial cable (DOCSIS) link.
  • The BPs 100 described herein may include a medium voltage interface (MVI) and controller as described herein for use in the bridge 300. The BP may also include a low voltage interface for servicing users via the low voltage power lines or other type of transceiver (e.g., a wireless modem) for servicing users via another medium such as wireless, coaxial, fiber optic, or twisted pair. In addition, the BP 100 may include a backhaul modem for communicating upstream via the backhaul link. The backhaul modem may be a power line modem (e.g., forming part of the MVI) for communicating via the MV power line or neutral conductor, a fiber optic transceiver, a wireless transceiver, a cable modem (e.g., a DOCSIS compliant modem), and/or other suitable modem or transceiver.
  • Finally, the PLS may transmit commands to one or more of the bridges 300 to repeat certain types of data more often than other types of data. For example, power usage data or other enhanced power distribution system (EPDS) data may not be time sensitive data and, therefore, additional repeating of that data, and the added latency that may be caused by the additional repeating may be tolerable. Consequently, each bridge 300 may be configured to repeat certain (and different) types of data. For example, a first bridge 300 on an MV run may be configured to repeat all data and another bridge 300 on the at MV run may be configured to repeat only EPDS data. Thus, routing of the data may also be dependent on the data type.
  • In the above embodiment, the processor performs routing functions and may act as a router in some instances and perform other functions at other times depending on the software that is presently being executed. The router may also be a chip, chip set, or circuit board (e.g., such as an off the shelf circuit card) specifically designed for routing, any of which may include memory for storing, for example, routing information (e.g., the routing table) including MAC addresses, IP addresses, and address rules.
  • Finally, the type of data signal coupled by the coupling device may be any suitable type of data signal. The type of signal modulation used can be any suitable signal modulation used in communications (Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA), Frequency Division Multiplex (FDM), Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex (OFDM), and the like). OFDM may be used for one or both of the LV and MV power lines. A modulation scheme producing a wideband signal such as CDMA or OFDM that is relatively flat in the spectral domain may be used to reduce radiated interference to other systems while still delivering high data communication rates.
  • It is to be understood that the foregoing illustrative embodiments have been provided merely for the purpose of explanation and are in no way to be construed as limiting of the invention. Words used herein are words of description and illustration, rather than words of limitation. In addition, the advantages and objectives described herein may not be realized by each and every embodiment practicing the present invention. Further, although the invention has been described herein with reference to particular structure, materials and/or embodiments, the invention is not intended to be limited to the particulars disclosed herein. Rather, the invention extends to all functionally equivalent structures, methods and uses, such as are within the scope of the appended claims. Those skilled in the art, having the benefit of the teachings of this specification, may affect numerous modifications thereto and changes may be made without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention.

Claims (35)

1. A system for providing power line communications to a plurality of units in a multi-unit structure having one or more internal low voltage power lines, the system comprising:
a first communication device disposed in the structure and comprising an upstream port configured to communicate via a non-power line communication medium and a downstream port configured to be coupled to one or more internal low voltage power lines of the structure;
said first communication device having a first modem for communicating via said downstream port;
wherein said first modem is configured to communicate via a multi-carrier modulation method;
said first communication device further comprising a controller in communication with said first modem and having memory storing program code;
wherein said controller is operable to control one or more functions of the first communication device;
wherein said controller is responsive to control messages received via said upstream port;
a plurality of second communication devices located in the structure;
wherein at least some said plurality of second communication devices are located in different units of the structure;
each second communication device having a first port configured to be communicatively coupled to a user device;
each second communication device having a power line port configured to mate with a wall socket of the structure; and
wherein each of said plurality of second communication devices is configured to access the Internet via communications traversing one or more low voltage power lines in the structure and said first communication device.
2. The system of claim 1, wherein said first communication device is configurable to prevent communications of one or more user devices attempting to communicate over a power line of the structure to device remote from the structure.
3. The system of claim 1, wherein at least some of said second power line communication devices are configurable to provide rate limiting to a user device connected to the first port.
4. The system of claim 3, wherein said first communication device is configured to implement quality of service (QoS) for data communications.
5. The system of claim 3, further comprising a coupler configured to couple said downstream port of said first communication device to at least one low voltage power line at a circuit breaker panel of the structure.
6. The system of claim 1, wherein said first communication device is configurable to implement rate limiting for one or more user devices.
7. The system of claim 1, wherein the first communication device is configurable to provide QoS for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications.
8. The system of claim 1, wherein said first communication device and at least one second communication device are configured to communicate video data from a user device coupled to the at least one second communication device.
9. The system of claim 1, wherein said downstream port of said first communication device is configured to be coupled to a low voltage power line at a circuit breaker panel of the structure.
10. The system of claim 1, wherein said controller is configured to receive program code from said upstream port, to store said received program code in said memory, and to execute said received program code.
11. The system of claim 1, further comprising a third communication device comprising a wireless transceiver configured to provide wireless communication services to a common area of the structure; and
wherein said third communication device includes a communication port configured to communicate with said first communication device.
12. The system of claim 1, further comprising a repeating device and wherein said first communication device communicates with at least one of said plurality of second communication devices via the repeating device.
13. The system of claim 1, wherein said first communication device is configurable to perform routing functions at layer two.
14. The system of claim 1, wherein said first communication device is configurable to prioritize data transmissions.
15. The system of claim 1, wherein at least some of said second power line communication devices are configurable to provide rate limiting to a user device connected to the first port.
16. The system of claim 1, wherein said first communication device is configurable to collect data traffic usage information for one or more user devices.
17. A system for providing power line communications to a plurality of units in a multi-unit structure having one or more internal one low voltage power lines, the system comprising:
a first communication device disposed in the structure and comprising an upstream port configured to communicate via a non-power line communication medium and a downstream port configured to be coupled to one or more internal low voltage power lines of the structure;
said first communication device having a first modem for communicating via said downstream port;
said first communication device further comprising a controller in communication with said first modem and having memory storing program code;
wherein said controller is operable to control one or more functions of the first communication device;
wherein said first communication device is configurable to implement quality of service (QoS) for data communications;
a coupler configured to be couple said downstream port to a low voltage power line of the structure;
a plurality of second communication devices;
wherein at least some said plurality of second communication devices are located in different units of the structure;
each second communication device having a first port configured to be communicatively coupled to a user device;
each second communication device having a power line port configured to mate with a wall socket of the structure; and
wherein each of said plurality of second communication devices is configured to access a remote network via communications traversing one or more low voltage power lines in the structure and said first communication device.
18. The system of claim 17, wherein said first communication device includes a routing device in communication with said first modem.
19. The system of claim 18, further comprising wherein said routing device is formed by said controller.
20. The system of claim 19, wherein at least some of said second power line communication devices are configurable to provide rate limiting to a user device connected to the first port.
21. The system of claim 17, wherein at least some of said second power line communication devices are configurable to provide rate limiting to a user device connected to the first port.
22. The system of claim 17, wherein said first communication device is configurable to prevent communications of one or more user devices attempting to communicate over a power line of the structure to a remote device.
23. The system of claim 17, wherein said coupler is configured to couple said downstream port of said first communication device to a low voltage power line at a circuit breaker panel of the structure.
24. The system of claim 17, wherein said controller is operable to perform routing functions at layer two.
25. The system of claim 17, wherein said first communication device is configurable to collect data traffic usage information for one or more user devices.
26. The system of claim 17, further comprising a third communication device comprising a wireless transceiver configured to provide wireless communication services to a common area of the structure; and
wherein said third communication device includes a communication port configured to communicate with said first communication device.
27. A system for providing power line communications to a plurality of units in a multi-unit structure having one or more one internal low voltage power lines, the system comprising:
a first communication device disposed in the structure and comprising an upstream port configured to communicate via a non-power line communication medium and a downstream port configured to be coupled to one or more internal low voltage power lines of the structure;
said first communication device having a first modem for communicating via said downstream port;
a plurality of second communication devices;
each of said plurality of second communication devices having a first port configured to be communicatively coupled to a user device;
each of said plurality of said second communication devices having a power line port configured to mate with a wall socket of the structure;
wherein each of said plurality of said second communication devices are configurable to provide rate limiting to a user device connected to said first port; and
wherein each of said plurality of second communication devices is configured to access a remote network via communications traversing one or more low voltage power lines in the structure and said first communication device.
28. The system of claim 27, wherein each of said plurality of said second communication device are configurable to provide rate limiting to a user device connected to said first port in response to control data received via said first device.
29. The system of claim 28, wherein at least some said plurality of second communication devices are located in different units of the structure;
30. The system of claim 27, wherein said first communication device includes a routing device in communication with said first modem.
31. The system of claim 30, further comprising wherein said routing device is formed by said controller.
32. The system of claim 30, wherein said first communication device is configurable to prevent communications of one or more user devices attempting to communicate over a power line of the structure to a remote device.
33. The system of claim 30, further comprising a coupler configured to couple said downstream port of said first communication device to a low voltage power line at a circuit breaker panel of the structure.
34. The system of claim 30, wherein said first communication device is configurable to perform routing functions at layer two.
35. The system of claim 30, wherein said first communication device is configurable to collect data usage information for one or more user devices.
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