IC makers target smart-meter market

Dallas, Tex. — Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) and Freescale Semiconductor (Austin, Tex.) are beefing up their smart-meter product portfolios as utilities seek compliant metering solutions to meet energy-efficiency guidelines in the U.S and Europe. TI is expanding its smart metering line-up with 16 new MSP430 microcontrollers (MCUs), while Freescale has announced an advanced meter reference design, built on an optimized microcontroller technology.

TI has introduced 16 ultra-low-power MSP430 microcontrollers (MCU) that support a broad range of implementation standards, targeted at electricity and gas metering applications. These MSP430F4xx devices are highly integrated solutions that can support standalone analog front-end (AFE) needs and achieve leading accuracy results of better than 0.1 percent. They also offer increased memory for load demand response to deliver a 25-percent reduction in electricity bills.


TI’s utility metering portfolio includes devices targeted at electricity, water and gas metering, as well as power line communications (PLC) and radio frequency (RF) interfaces for advanced meter infrastructure (AMI) that allow customers to design smart-grid solutions.

Pricing: The F4xx MCUs are priced between $1.80 and $3.90 for 1,000 units and are available now.
Resources: TI’s metering microsite, Smart Metering Brochure, MSP430 metering, TI MSP430, MSP430 tools page, TI MCUs, MCU tools videos, TI E2E MCU community, TI eStore and TI energy blog.

To help advance innovation in the energy management industry, and overhaul the outdated power grid, Freescale is introducing a turnkey metering reference design built on an advanced microcontroller (MCU) that is customized for the electrical metering market.

The polyphase reference design, based on Freescale’s advanced MCF51EM256 ColdFire MCU, is a cost-optimized implementation of a single-phase or three-phase smart electrical meter. The reference design contains the required hardware and software to ease development of smart meters.

Freescale specifically designed the MCF51EM MCU family to help developers reduce the cost and complexity of designing electricity meters for a wide range of residential and commercial applications. The MCF51EM family features a rich set of integrated peripherals, including a 16-bit analog-to-digital converter with a programmable delay block, an independent real-time clock with calendaring function, dual secure flash memory banks, an automated meter reading (AMR) interface and a liquid crystal display (LCD) driver essential for smart metering applications.

The MCU provides lower overall system cost, lower power consumption, reduces maintenance costs with remote firmware updates, makes it easier to secure and protect the meter and supports a wide range of display panels for smart meters, said Freescale.

The polyphase reference design has been designed and tested against the following International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards:

  • IEC 62053-22 International Energy Metering Specification, class 0.5 or better for active energy
  • IEC 62053-23 International Energy Metering Specification, class 2 for reactive energy
  • IEC 62056-21 International Energy Metering data exchange Specification
  • IEC 62053-22, IEC 62053-23, IEC 62052-11 Electro Static Discharge (ESD), tested per IEC 61000-4

Freescale said its hardware and software development tools for smart meter applications based on the MCF51EM MCU family help reduce development cost, ease design complexity and speed time to market. These tools include:

  • Software code for calculating active, reactive and apparent energy
  • CodeWarrior Development Studio for Microcontrollers 6.2 with complimentary Special Edition and Processor Expert rapid application development tool
  • Complimentary Freescale MQX software including real-time operating system (RTOS) source code, NTFS File System code, and a real-time TCP/IP communication suite (RTCS)

Availability: The polyphase reference design is available now for loan and evaluation through local Freescale sales representatives.
Pricing: The MCF51EM256/128 devices are currently available for limited sampling, with broad availability expected in the first quarter of 2010. Suggested resale pricing will begin at $3.60 in quantities of 10,000.
Resources: ColdFire, metering technical documentation and MQX software solutions.

TI will be showcasing its metering solutions at Metering Europe on Oct. 6-8 (Spain Hall, Stand 150). Freescale’s demonstrations at booth #660 will highlight a wide range of smart metering systems and communication technologies, such as the polyphase smart-meter reference design based on the MCF51EM256 MCU, home area networking with ZigBee technology and an orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing power line modem solution based on the Freescale MCF51EM MCU family.