Recently, Brite
Semiconductor and Semitech Semiconductor collaborated on the development of an
industrial machine-to-machine (M2M) system on chip (SoC) that will help
transform the electric grid to the smart grid. The new SoC is designed to
support M2M communication in the global industrial and energy transmission
market using Semitech’s PLC/wireless modes IP. I talked with Semitech’s CEO, Zeev Collin, about this collaboration and what it means for the design engineer.


EP: Can
you give a background on how narrow-band power line comm works now?

Collin: Narrowband Power Line Communication (N-PLC)
uses existing infrastructure (power lines) as the medium of communication. It
typically operates in transmission frequencies of up to 100 kHz. Within this
frequency range, the resulting data rates range from 10s to 100s kbps. These
rates are appropriate for monitoring and control applications over medium-range


EP: What
do the devices need to be able to do to work effectively?

Collin: Devices must be power efficient; they must
be able to operate in harsh noise environments; and they must be flexible −
with proven broad applicability.


EP: What
do tomorrow’s applications need to be able to do? How can that be accomplished?

Collin: The next evolutionary step for smart grid
applications is to move toward heterogeneous PLC/wireless networks while
accommodating aggressive cost and power budgets. Basically, the vision for the
Smart Grid is a network of integrated microgrids that can manage demand,
monitor, and heal itself. In-grid machine-to-machine communication is the key to


EP: How
can the solutions be made to be cost-effective?

Collin: The metering market is a high-volume,
fragmented market with a myriad of protocols/standards. Different geographies
adopt different standards, and different applications favor non-standard
communication schemes. This makes it difficult to interconnect devices from
different manufacturers. In order to be cost-effective, solutions must provide
programmable architecture with a high level of integration and control
functions to reduce the cost of implementation.


Finally, Mr. Collin
said he believes that the next evolutionary step for smart grid applications is
to move toward heterogeneous PLC/wireless networks. For more information: