Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Microchip modem supports multiple PLC protocols

Steve Rogerson
June 19, 2018



Arizona chip company Microchip Technology has introduced a flexible power line communications (PLC) modem that can support multiple standard and proprietary protocols in frequencies up to 500kHz, letting manufacturers address different regulations, markets and operational requirements.
 
With the uptick in smart grid infrastructure adoption globally, utilities are seeking ways to improve reliability and performance of smart meters to address multiple markets. To meet utilities’ growing needs, equipment manufacturers dedicate extensive resources developing different versions of products based on existing and emerging industry-standard PLC protocols. The single Microchip device can be adapted simply with firmware, reducing development costs and time to market.
 
Designed to address PLC protocols such as ITU G.9903 (G3-PLC) and ITU G.9904 (Prime), as well as Cenelec, FCC and Arib compliant applications, the PL360B modem comes with reference designs for adding a PLC interface to any end-customer application requiring connectivity, including smart meters, lighting, home automation, building automation and remote control.
 
“With nearly 100 million metering and PLC devices deployed to date, Microchip has incorporated extensive field expertise and application knowledge in the development of its smart energy products, which have consistently exceeded our customers expectations in performance and long-term reliability,” said Kourosh Boutorabi, business unit director of Microchip’s smart energy division. “The PL360B device addresses a significant design challenge manufacturers have faced in developing multi-protocol and field-upgradable metering infrastructure equipment. It provides what customers need to easily develop high-performance smart meters and get to market quickly.”
 
Additional benefits of using the modem include its efficient use of power, offering up to a 25 per cent improvement in power consumption over previous generations, and a Class D amplification scheme that optimises the modem transmission efficiency further.
 
The ATPL360 evaluation kit includes two evaluation boards to establish point-to-point communications. The kit includes PC tools designed to evaluate the performance of the PL360B, including a phy tester for point-to-point test, PLC sniffer to capture PLC traffic in a deployed network, and a PLC manager to manage the resulting network.
 
G3-PLC and Prime-PLC communications firmware is provided free of charge. Various reference designs are available for a complete electricity meter with PLC, for a single PLC modem and for a master PLC device in charge of mastering the complete network of PLC nodes. All reference designs come with design files, bill of materials and schematics.