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Home » Applications & Technologies » Smart Grid Technology - Smart Meter Electronics
Applications & Technologies

Smart Grid Technology - Smart Meter

By today's technological standards, the common electromechanical energy meter is a relic of the past – incapable of anything but flat-rate pricing and infrequent meter readings.

Smart meters go well beyond the rudimentary functions of a basic electrical meter. Above all, the distinguishing quality of a smart meter is to support 2-way communication with utility providers. This is the key that opens the door to all other "smart" functions and the benefits thereof. Smart meters can provide support for remote diagnostics, dynamic pricing, tamper notification, consumption analysis, and more.

Voltage
Sensor
Current
Sensor
AC/DC
Converter
VREG
Energy Meter
IC
RTC
PLC
Modem
Supervisory
Battery
Battery
Charger
Application
Processor
ZigBee
Module
ISM RF
Smart Card
Interface IC
RS-485
Transceiver
USB
Transceiver
Ethernet
Transceiver
LCD Display
Smart Card
Connector
D-Sub
Connector
USB
Receptacles
RJ-45
Connector
AFE
Power Line
Interface

This design is for reference only. The design, as well as the products suggested, has not been tested for compatibility or interoperability.

AC/DC Converters for Smart Grid

An AC/DC adapter is a type of external power supply, often enclosed in what looks like an over-sized AC wall-plug. Other names include power adapter, power converter, plug-in adapter, adapter block, domestic mains adapter, line power adapter, or simply AC adapter. AC adapters are used with electrical devices that require DC power but do not have the internal circuitry to accomplish the conversion of AC to DC.

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Voltage Regulators for Smart Grid

A voltage regulator produces a constant level of voltage over time regardless of load, changes in power supply, or temperature. Voltage regulators are used in power supplies, analog-to-digital converters, digital-to-analog converters, and many other applications where voltage levels must be maintained at a steady level. Without a voltage regulator, precision is greatly affected and may render the device inoperable. Voltage regulators can vary greatly in performance. A voltage regulator for a power supply might hold its output to within only a few percentage points off of its nominal or stated value; however, a voltage regulator to instrumentation-level standards are measured in parts per million regarding stability and precision to the nominal or specified value.

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Energy Meter ICs for Smart Grid

An energy meter IC is a specialized type of microcontroller used for measuring the amount of electric energy consumed by a household or business. These chips are distinct from generalized microcontrollers in a number of ways; for example, energy meter ICs will often have extensive analog measurement circuitry, including precision amplifiers and delta-sigma ADCs (analog-to-digital converters), as well as sensor configuration options and digital signal processing capabilities tailored to suit energy metering applications.

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Real Time Clocks for Smart Grid

Real Time Clocks (RTCs) are IC devices that keep track of time. A typical RTC can provide the time of day as well as the date via a serial bus such as I2C or SPI. Although similar in many ways, RTCs should not be confused with clock generators, which are used to synchronize various parts of a circuit.

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PLC Modems for Smart Grid

A power line communications (PLC) modem is a device which facilitates data transmission over the power grid. Some electronics manufacturers offer complete PLC modules that include modem, analog front-end (AFE), line drivers, and other components necessary for a “plug-in” solution. However, many PLC modems are simply a communications IC, and require the addition of a line driver and AFE to operate as a PLC transceiver.

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Supervisory Circuits for Smart Grid

Supervisory circuits are used to monitor the power status of electrical systems and protect the processor or MCU from faulty operation due to system power up sequence, brown-outs, and other power related faults. Many supervisory devices include extra functions such as watchdog timers, battery monitors, over-temperature protection, and more.

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Batteries for Smart Grid

Batteries are a portable, wireless means of storing energy via the use of self-contained chemical cells. They can be for one-time use and discarded, or recharged and reused. In essence, a battery is an energy storage device, but can only store and release electricity as direct current. Direct current is a flat line at a given amplitude (until it declines as it is exhausted), versus alternating current, which is a sinusoidal wave.

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Battery Chargers for Smart Grid

Battery charging circuits are used to recharge batteries and are available in linear or switching topologies. They can be completely autonomous in operation or used with a microcontroller. Generally speaking, integrated chip charging technology can produce charge currents in a range from around 625 nA, up to around 4.5A. Battery charger ICs often do more than just charge; they can protect from overcharging, regulate voltage, and manage charging from irregular sources such as energy harvesters or very low voltage sources. In portable technology, battery chargers are indispensable.

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Application Processors for Smart Grid

The term "processor" refers to an electronic device that performs computational functions and carries out the instructions of a stored program. Other terms for processor are microprocessor, central processing unit, and digital signal processor. Essentially, the processor refers to "the brains of a computer."

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ZigBee Modules for Smart Grid

Zigbee is built upon the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. Zigbee adds both routing and multi-hop functionality. Star networks as well as peer-to-peer and mesh networks are supported, making Zigbee networks dynamic, scalable, and decentralized. These qualities and more make Zigbee an excellent technology for applications like home/industrial automation, medical monitoring, and HVAC control. WiMax is built to a standard designed to provide 30 to 40 megabit-per-second data rates. With the latest updates WiMax can deliver up to 1 Gbit/s for fixed stations. WiMax goes beyond the 100 feet wireless range of a conventional Wi-Fi local area network that can acommidate a cities wide area networks needs with a signal radius of about 30 miles.

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ISM RF for Smart Grid

The ISM (industrial, scientific and medical) bands are a part of the radio spectrum originally reserved for devices that fall under those categories. Today these bands are used for short-range low-bandwidth wireless communications. Its unlicensed nature has made the ISM bands a popular choice for many wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11), and cordless phones.

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Smart Card Interface ICs for Smart Grid

A smart card is a pocket-sized device with embedded integrated circuits containing a microprocessor and non-volatile memory. Smart cards are used in a variety of applications such as banking, identification, and security. Designed to be portable, smart cards forgo any form of power supply, instead relying on the card reader for power. Energy metering applications may use smart cards as a type of household utility pre-payment card. A smart card interface IC allows a processor or MCU to communicate with a smart card.

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RS-485 Transceivers for Smart Grid

In contrast to complete interface standards which define physical, functional, and electrical specifications, RS-485 is an electrical-only standard. RS-485 signaling can be used with many protocols such as Profibus, Interbus, Modbus, or BACnet, depending on the requirements of the end user. Sometimes controller area network (CAN) or EtherNet are preferred for network requirements. RS-485 has a 10 Mbps maximum data rate (@ 40 feet) and a 4000 foot maximum cable length (@100 kbps.) RS-485 is robust and well suited for long distance networking in noisy environment.

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USB Transceivers for Smart Grid

USB is a standard connection interface between computers and digital devices. A USB transceiver is a physical layer device that prepares data for transmission and then sends to, and receives data from, another transceiver. The transceiver detects connection and provides the low level USB protocol and signaling. The term "transceiver" indicates an implementation of both transmit and receive functions. It transmits and receives, encodes and decodes data, provides error indication, implements buffers to stage data until it can be managed, and adjusts for the clock rate from the serial stream on the USB SuperSpeed bus to match that of the “link layer” higher up on the communication stack.

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Ethernet Transceivers for Smart Grid

Ethernet is the most commonly used technology for non-wireless local area networks (LANs). Ethernet controllers perform the function of interfacing computers and other electronic devices in a network. Ethernet itself only defines the physical (PHY) and datalink (MAC) layers of the OSI Model; however, processors with integrated Ethernet controllers can provide additional functions such as a TCP/IP protocol stack.

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LCD Displays for Smart Grid

LCD means "liquid crystal display." It is an electronically driven flat panel screen that orients liquid crystals within the panel in a direction that blocks or transmits light coming from behind the panel. LCDs are a low cost, energy efficient visual display that can be controlled in segments or as individual pixels, in shades of black and gray or in full color. LCDs have most commonly replaced bulky cathode ray tubes in televisions and computers and are available in all sizes. Liquid crystals were first discovered in 1888, but were first put into common use in the early 1970s as electronic digital-display watches.

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Smart Card Connectors for Smart Grid

A smart card is a pocket-sized device with embedded integrated circuits containing a microprocessor and non-volatile memory. Smart cards are used in a variety of applications such as banking, identification, and security. Designed to be portable, smart cards forgo any form of power supply, instead relying on the card reader for power. Energy metering applications may use smart cards as a type of household utility pre-payment card. A smart card connector safely houses a smart card and physically inferfaces the smart card’s 8 contact pads with a smart card interface IC.

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D-Sub Connector for Smart Grid

A D-sub or "D-Subminiature Connector"contains two or more parallel rows of pins or sockets, usually surrounded by a D-shaped metal shield that provides mechanical support, ensures correct orientation, and may screen against electromagnetic interference. The part containing pin contacts is called the male connector or plug, while that containing socket contacts is called the female connector or socket.

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USB Receptacles for Smart Grid

USB plugs and receptacles are designed to reduce human error by their unique shape; they fit together in only one way. USB plugs and receptacles are Type A (connecting to hosts or hubs) or Type B (connecting to devices) and are available 3 sizes: standard, mini, and micro. Type A plugs always face upstream, Type B faces downstream. USB is used in many applications covering all areas of electronics that require communication, but more commonly with devices that need fast or easy connections for interaction with computers. Since USB provides a small charging current as well, it is becoming a de facto standard for charging portable devices.

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RJ-45 Connectors for Smart Grid

RJ-45 connectors are a type of electrical connector commonly used for Ethernet jacks. The term "RJ-45" is something of a misnomer, but it almost always refers to an 8P8C (eight position, eight contact) modular connector with wiring pin-outs compatible with standard Ethernet.

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Analog Front Ends for Smart Grid

Line drivers and analog front-ends (AFEs) are needed to enable power line communications (PLC) modems to both transmit and receive data over a power line. They are commonly available as separate devices, but many electronics manufacturers offer PLC-specialized IC’s which integrate the two. Line drivers increase the strength or power of the output signal to the power line to allow for transmission over sufficient distances. Using integrated high-precision analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) and programmable gain amplifiers (PGAs), the AFE receives and processes incoming data for use by a PLC modem.

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