SAN JOSE, Calif. Freescale Semiconductors has rounded out its line of integrated microcontrollers targeted at use in smart utility meters with two new families aimed at low and mid-range meters. The company chose not to integrate communications into the chips, but is expected to support an evolving range of wireless and powerline comms modules in the future.
The LH64 is an 8-bit controller with an LCD controller and analog front end for single-phase meters and is in production now. The GW64 serves both electric and gas/water meters and is currently sampling. In addition, Freescale's high-end part announced last year, the EM256 that can serve three-phase meters in commercial and industrial buildings, is now in production.
The parts sport high precision analog capabilities, real-time clocks and tamper resistance features. They include low-level comms interfaces to link to what Freescale expects will be a variety of home and neighborhood networks that connect the meter to the grid and consumer appliances.
"Right now because of the variety of standards, cutting edge is comms modules are separate from meter control processors," said Jeff Bock, a director of microcontroller product marketing at Freescale.
While a wide variety of smart meters are adopting Zigbee, others are using 802.15.4g sub-gigahertz radios, powerline or even versions of Wi-Fi, he added. "We are exploring and investing in a variety of approaches including Zigbee" modules which Freescale currently sells, said Bock.
The new microcontrollers range in price from $2.79 to $3.79 in 10,000 unit volumes.