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.