Ultra low-power (ULP) microcontrollers (MCUs) have been around for at least 20 years, when Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) first introduced the 16-bit MSP430 microcontroller. Since then, the proliferation of ultra-low-power solutions in sensors, metering and a large variety of battery-powered devices like blood glucose meters, thermometers, watches, etc., has proven that the ULP system approach is the best strategy for the future.
Ultra-low-power technology has been extended to RF transceivers, sensors, MCUs and to all types of silicon products for battery-powered applications. Similarly, the widespread adoption of wireless technologies in many consumer applications like tablets and smartphones was only made possible because of significant reductions in semiconductors power consumption.
The next worldwide opportunity for growth is commonly recognized in the smart grid market, which comprises gas, heat, water and electrical meters and heat cost allocators, as are metering and sub-metering devices. There are also smart grid home gateways, data concentrators and data collectors that collect information from the metering units. The combination of smart grids with home area networks (HAN) is expected to enable utilities to ease peak power demand, which in turn helps reduce the need for new power plants. It is also expected to bring cost savings and increased comfort thru home automation for consumers.
This article shows how combining the best ultra-low-power MCUs, the highest performance RF transceivers for Sub-1GHz communication and advanced power system solutions will enable the next generation of smart utility meters in Europe and beyond. The maturity and latest developments of the European wM-Bus protocol stack opens new opportunities for large-scale deployment of battery-operated gas, water and heat meters.
This article will explain the building blocks of a smart meter (gas, water and heat) for the European market, using the popular wM-Bus RF communication in the 868MHz and 169MHz band. Practical advice on implementing and optimizing wM-Bus solutions for gas, water and heat meters will be provided.
Not only MCU but also memory is a key factor for smart utility meters. TI is somehow leading the MCU part but not the memory, suprisingly even having a great technology called FRAM in Texas. FRAM makes the meter design extremely simple and flexible. Fujitsu and Ramtron leads the memory market for smart meters with FRAM. TI wake up...
But if this was so lucrative, then why did google retired their power-meter service ?
Its just that there isn't enough eco-system built around to manage|optimize energy. And also its usage is expensive.
Many companies have smart-metering products from long, but lack of government urgency, and tough norms are also pulling this market low.
Data is only useful to the extent that it can alter some outcome, in this case, a customer's use of electricity. Almost no electrical customer even knows that their new smart meter is capable of turning off their power. The above article states, "to enable utilities to ease peak power demand..." where ease should be read as: a) a total disconnect; b) a rolling brown out; c) by interfacing with your own personal in home network to turn off selective appliances such as A/C, dryers, heat pumps or any other device which has built in communication capability.
I can see a small business in modifying newer appliances (if possible) to make sure they cannot communicate. The polite way to modify power consumption is to let the consumer know (by checking an Internet site at their convenience) their current charge per kWh. Then let them decide what devices to turn off.
I see a whole lot of discussion about the technology for the communication with the smart meters but only a small amount about how this is going to save enough energy to be worth the effort. Of course, the very first use will be to raise prices a lot just when everybody wants power the most. We all know that is the primary goal of the two way system. The other goal is to eliminate the expense of manual meter reading, which will reduce the utilities costs quite a bit, but will not reduce our price for power at all.
The way to eliminate all of the privacy concerns is to keep the specific minute-by-minute consumption data in the meters, and to just totalize the product of KWH and the rate at the time of consumption. Then the utility could poll the meters to determine the charge for that month's power. No customer information except for the total charge would ever need to be sent out, just as in the past when meters were manually read. The utility has no need of individual household consumption at any particular time, only block by block, or subdivision by subdivision. The assertion that they need to know the individual rate of use at any particular instant is not valid.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.