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Freescale and arivus GmbH partner to develop power line modem technology for automated meter reading


Companies combine expertise to develop next-generation OFDM power line communications solutions for building control applications

NUREMBERG, Germany (Embedded World 2009).– Freescale Semiconductor and arivus GmbH (partner of iAd GmbH) have teamed up to develop advanced orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) power line communications (PLC) modem solutions. These next-generation PLC solutions target a wide range of building control applications, such as automated meter reading (AMR) and energy management and lighting for the European Union and global deployment. The two companies are demonstrating an advanced AMR solution based on arivus PLC technology and next-generation Freescale microcontroller technology at Freescale’s Booth #335, Hall 9, at Embedded World.

Energy management for homes, offices and factories is being mandated by governments in a bid to reduce global CO2 emissions and the growing costs of energy. Connectivity between the utility provider and the meters enables greater control of power, water or gas by the utility customer while also offering opportunities for load balancing for the utility. PLC technology offers remote connection with the premises, enabling real-time updates of tariffs and choices for the customer. In return, the customer can allow temporary reduction of power use at peak times to be controlled by the utility. OFDM communications already used in mobile phones is at the forefront of this PLC revolution.

OFDM PLC technology offers higher communication data rates using much of the available frequency spectrum. Communications in the range of 10 kHz to 490 kHz enables real-time communications with power meters. Propagation of messages from meter to meter enables wide-area connectivity while still managing the network and adapting to constant changes in the network. Backwards compatibility with S-FSK modems will help ensure easy integration into existing networks. Freescale and arivus GmbH plan to work together to support open standards for power line modem communications to support metering and building connectivity.

Freescale has provided many years of innovation to metering and building management systems with a range of microcontrollers and microprocessors specifically developed to help meet the demands of these applications. In addition, Freescale has a range of sensors, measurement and security products that are well suited to supporting the future needs of utilities metrology. Adding OFDM power line communications to Freescale’s existing portfolio is an important step to support comprehensive systems.

“Freescale has an excellent portfolio aimed at smart metering, energy management and green appliances,” said Bruno Baylac, director of marketing for Freescale’s Industrial Segment. “This collaboration allows us to continue to develop our portfolio to support smart grid requirements with robust technology, providing reliable connectivity through OFDM power line communications. arivus / iAd has a proven track record with this technology, and Freescale is delighted to collaborate with this innovative company.”

OFDM power line communications at arivus GmbH and partner company iAd GmbH is a result of more than 15 years of development. iAd’s first PLC chip, based on the frequency shift keying (FSK) principle, provided insight into a range of challenges, such as noise types, attenuation and signal interferences. As a result, iAd developed the first OFDM based PLC chip in the mid-1990s and introduced the Distribution Line Carrier DLC® brand, targeting the utilities distribution sector. The first OFDM DLC chip generation entered the market in 2000. In 2005, iAd released the enhanced DLC chipset consisting of a third-generation digital and analogue chip-set supporting power line communications for a variety of applications. Safety and robust communications have been proven in iAd DLC installations in a wide range of applications, such as transportation, grid communications and lighting systems.

The utilities market demands multiple supply chains of compatible systems, products and chip solutions. arivus GmbH was created to market the DLC technology, supply components to the metering industry and sell complete meters.

“DLC communications is much more than only the single chipset. In addition to silicon, you have to focus on essential solutions within the communication system software,” said Karsten Pott, managing director of arivus. “Only a sound handshake between hardware and software results in high performing availability, for example, with re-routing and transmitted data rates. Together with Freescale, we see plenty of opportunities for improved offerings to the smart grid market.”


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