Already widely used in smart electricity meters, STMicroelectronic’s ST8500 powerline communication (PLC) chipset now enables smart meters to communicate through existing power cables or radio frequency (RF) waves, combining the strengths of both types of connection.
Where power lines may be too noisy for PLC, or where local regulations dictate, equipment makers can now implement wireless and PLC quickly and efficiently using the ST8500. In addition, the built-in RF capability lets equipment designers leverage the ST8500’s high feature integration and ease of use in other smart devices such as gas and water smart meters, environmental monitors, lighting controllers, and industrial sensors.
By embedding support for RF Mesh at the physical (PHY) layer and in the data-link layer (Media Access Control, MAC, and 6LoWPAN) firmware, the ST8500 gives developers extra flexibility to leverage the strengths of combined powerline and wireless mesh networking for communication between smart nodes and data collectors. Unlike simple point-to-point links, hybrid mesh networking interconnects nodes extensively to create more reliable and fault-tolerant connections and extend communication distances.
ST is continually enhancing its ST8500 programmable system-on-chip and companion STLD1 line driver to update and extend functionality. Earlier in 2019, the ST8500 was certified in accordance with the latest PRIME 1.4 base node and G3-PLC CENELEC B PAN coordinator specifications, in addition to existing protocols, enabling use in a wider variety of PLC-network node types. ST’s certified solutions enable device manufacturers to gain product approval and deploy quickly and easily in territories worldwide.
ST also recently introduced a complete turnkey development package to help users create G3-PLC nodes for smart-energy, smart-building, smart-city, and similar applications. The package supports ST’s EVALKITST8500-1 evaluation kit and provides a full open-source firmware framework including protocol stacks, the 6LowPAN adaptation layer for IPv6, and protocol-engine and real-time engine firmware images. The package also includes an STM32 application example and the STSW-SGKITGUI SmartGrid LabTool GUI for configuring and controlling the EVALKITST8500-1 hardware, running application commands, and applying firmware upgrades.
The chipset is in production now.