The smart meter is becoming essential technology for power measurement, distribution, and control. The smart meters help stop power pilferage and theft. Due to wireless technologies and powerline communications, the electrical measurements such as power quality, energy consumption and also power connection and disconnection can be remotely managed. Power systems can be controlled the way telephones are controlled, like phone is disconnected the moment the bill is not paid by due-date and is connected as soon as bill is paid, a similar is immediately possible in case power connection to home, automatically without a wireman physically doing it.
There are two important blocks in smart meters, they are measurement and processing, and communication. Some of electronic energy meters in the market are not designed with connectivity interface. For such kind of electronic energy meters Bangalore based wireless module maker Melange Systems is providing I2C interfaced Zigbee wireless module to stream the data from energy meters to centralized servers of utility companies via a hand held wireless device. The utility company staff just need walk through the area with the handheld device to automatically collect the energy readings, that can be even further automated by routing through wireless/wired routers to the utility company's server.
Melange has used Freescale chip powered by a old processor core ARM7 and has used Zigbee LNA to boost the range. Melange has already supplied thousands of these modules to some of the well known energy meter makers in India.
Freescale and Melange had recently arranged a demonstration in Freescale's office in Bangalore.
Few market study points:
Smart grid worldwide trend: Innovation Observatory has reported utilities worldwide will collectively invest more than US$378 billion in building electricity smart grids by 2030. The report notes that China will be the top-spending market in that period, with annual smart grid capex overtaking the U.S. from around 2016.
ZPRYME in its latest report predicts that India’s smart grid market will touch $1.9 billion by 2015. The Indian government has embarked on $900 billion investment in electrical infrastructure by 2020 that includes building new transmission and distribution lines and power generation plants.
Processor core vendor MIPS stated in a release most power meters are based on 8-bit and 16-bit MCUs. While these MCUs meet current market needs, the future outlook calls for 32-bit MCUs to facilitate complex, uninterrupted and secure processing. 32-bit MCUs enable meters to scale for future needs, providing the hardware necessary to support tomorrow's sophisticated software, which can be updated in the field without interruption.