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Cambridge University Press to publish Christina Vlachou’s book on power-line communications

Christina VlachouChristina Vlachou

By Curt Hopkins, Managing Editor, Hewlett Packard Labs

Cambridge University Press is publishing a book titled “A Practical Guide to Power-Line Communications” authored by Labs’ Christina Vlachou. Vlachou is a senior researcher at Hewlett Packard Labs who specializes in networking and Wi-Fi.

Accepted last year, the book – which developed out of Vlachou’s PhD thesis and took three years to complete – will be published in July or August. It was co-written with Cisco’s Sébastien Henri, who also earned his PhD in power-line communications and provided several of the book’s chapters.

Desiring to share the information she brought together in her thesis with her fellow engineers, Vlachou describes the book as “a practical guide to power-line communications.” PLC, for those unfamiliar, is technology that allows you to transmit data through electrical wires. It enables high-rate communications for many applications, such as high-definition streaming, and also includes low-rate specifications for IoT and smart devices.

“Typically our current works at 50 to 60 hertz depending on the country,” says Vlachou. “So power-line communication can transmit data on top of this at the frequency from one to 80 megahertz. It does so with modulation on the physical layer. It also has a medium access control, which we call the MAC layer. These two layers are what defines the technology basically.”

Vlachou’s book first examines the technology itself, how it transmits the signal over the wire and then how it handles multiple stations or devices talking at the same time (the previously-mentioned MAC layer). After presenting a background and description of the standards for power-line communication, it provides some experimental guidelines so the reader can configure or measure statistics on any power-line communication network.

“That’s very useful both for end users that would like to optimize the performance of their network at home, and for researchers and engineers that are working with this technology,” says Vlachou.

Using this background and the experimental guidelines, the book shows performance evaluations and examples and then it provides an analysis and measurement on the throughput when many devices join the network.

“When many devices join the network, the throughput does not scale well with the number of users because the users cannot transmit at the same time, similarly to Wi-Fi” she says.

The book then delves into the security of power-line communication networks.

“When someone transmits a signal over the wires due to electromagnetic interference a neighbor can eavesdrop the signal,” says Vlachou. “So there are security issues, and we present the protocols that address those security issues.”

Vlachou’s book can be ordered from Cambridge University Press, online booksellers, and via your local book store

For more information on Vlachou’s work, check out her conversation with Dejan Milojicic on the Labs podcast, From Research to Reality.

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Managing Editor, Hewlett Packard Labs