Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

STM adds wireless to powerline chipset

Steve Rogerson
December 3, 2019

Swiss semiconductor firm ST Microelectronics is combining powerline and wireless communications in its market-proven smart-meter chipset.
Already used in smart electricity meters, the 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 using the device. In addition, the built-in RF capability lets equipment designers leverage its feature integration and ease of use in other smart devices such as gas and water smart meters, environmental monitors, lighting controllers, and industrial sensors.
ADD Grup, a European smart-metering company, is the first to announce hybrid PLC and wireless products that contain this chipset.
“With wireless support now fully integrated in the ST8500 firmware, STM’s chipset is the perfect platform to enhance network performance, reliability, capacity and scalability for our innovative electricity meters,” said Ruslan Casico, head of sales and marketing at ADD Grup. “The hybrid PLC-wireless connectivity of these new products has helped us win important metering projects in Emea, Russia and Asia.”
STM exhibited the chipset and demonstrated smart-meter, smart-home and -building, and smart-infrastructure products at last month’s European Utility Week in Paris.
“ADD Grup is leading the deployment of our chipset in the next generation of smart meters,” said Domenico Arrigo, general manager at ST Microelectronics. “By supporting RF communication alongside the leading PLC protocols, our market-proven chipset enables smart city and industry infrastructures worldwide to deliver more of their potential for saving the planet’s resources and enhancing control and efficiency.”
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 flexibility to leverage the strengths of combined powerline and wireless mesh networking for communications between smart nodes and data collectors. Unlike point-to-point links, hybrid mesh networking interconnects nodes extensively to create more reliable and fault-tolerant connections and extend communication distances.
STM says it 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. STM’s certified products help device manufacturers gain approval and deploy quickly and easily in territories worldwide.
The company 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 STM’s Evalkit ST8500-1 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 Evalkit ST8500-1 hardware, running application commands and applying firmware upgrades.
The chipset is in production now.