Power line communication chipset prepares for smart-energy infrastructure

STMicroelectronics believes that its modular, programmable powerline communication (PLC) modem chipsets will simplify the design and deployment of new smart meters, smart-grid hardware, smart streetlamps, and home and industrial controllers.

The chipset will provide more flexibility to manufacturers of utility meters, smart-grid nodes, streetlamps, and home and industrial controllers, says STMicroelectronics, confirming that three global smart-meter manufacturers are already designing products based on this new platform.

The turnkey chipset consolidates protocol handling to package and adapt data so it can be transmitted and sent over mains wires. It enables customers to implement powerline communications cost-effectively, says STMicroelectronics, either as part of new designs or as the core of an add-on module on older devices. The chipset is also suitable for markets with specific regulatory requirements, where the ST PLC-modem chipset acts as an external communication module that interfaces with either the existing or a new metering or controlling device. Its programmability allows multiple product variants to share a common hardware foundation, and permits software updating in the field to lower the cost of ownership.

The chipset comprises the ST8500 programmable PLC engine and STLD1 line-driver.

The ST8500 is a system on chip (SoC), containing a 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 includes an AES cryptographic engine. The analogue front end for connecting to the STLD1 line driver is also integrated.

The ST8500 consumes less than 100mW in receive mode, for low power performance in accordance with the latest specifications to minimise 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 7.0 x 7.0 x 1.0mm QFN56, and the STLD1 is a 4.0 x 4.0 x 1.0mm QFN24.



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