STMicroelectronics is powering the global shift to smarter energy consumption and management with its new modular Power-Line Communication (PLC) modem chipset. The chipset will provide more flexibility to manufacturers of utility meters, smart-grid nodes, streetlamps, and home and industrial controllers. Three leading global smart-meter manufacturers are already designing solutions based on this new platform.
A turnkey solution, the chipset consolidates protocol handling to package and adapt data so it can be transmitted and line driving for sending over mains wires. It enables customers to implement powerline communications cost-effectively, either as part of new designs or as the core of an add-on module on older devices.
The solution is also a perfect fit for markets with specific regulatory requirements. In these scenarios, the ST PLC-modem chipset acts as an external communication module that interfaces with either the existing or a new metering or controlling device.
In addition, flexible programmability allows multiple product variants to share a common hardware foundation, and permits software updating in the field to further lower cost of ownership.
"ST has been serving the leading smart-meter manufacturers since the roll-out of the first generation of digital meters, with more than 60 million chipsets deployed in homes and buildings across Europe, China, and the Americas," said Domenico Arrigo, General Manager Industrial and Power Conversion Division, STMicroelectronics.
"Building on the lessons from this first phase, next-generation metering and other IoT programs across the world have new design requirements, to which our new chipset is the best answer: a flexible and cost-effective PLC connectivity solution with full programmability to enable simpler global deployment in support of the different PLC standards," continued Arrigo.
The two-chip set comprises the ST8500 programmable PLC engine and STLD1 line-driver.
The ST8500 is a System-on-Chip (SoC) IC containing a high-performance quad-core DSP for real-time protocol processing, and an ARM® Cortex®-M4F core for upper-layer processing and system management.
Each has its own code and data SRAM on-chip, and a dedicated set of peripherals focused on smart-energy applications is provided, including an AES cryptographic engine. The Analog Front End (AFE) for connecting to the STLD1 line driver is also integrated.
The ST8500 consumes less than 100mW in receive mode, ensuring ultra-low-power performance in line with the latest specifications to minimize the grid load imposed by new smart meters. The STLD1 line driver communicates reliably, even across noisy cables and with low impedance, with high-drive capability and high linearity over a wide output range of 18V in single-ended or 36V in differential mode.
The chipset is supplied with certified G3-PLC and PRIME power-line protocol stacks and complies with CENELEC, FCC, and ARIB frequency-band regulations.
The chipset is in production and available now. The ST8500 SoC is packaged as a 7mm x 7mm x 1mm QFN56, and the STLD1 is a 4mm x 4mm x 1mm QFN24.