New Industry Products

Flexible PLC Modem Streamlines Deployment of Smart Energy Equipment

June 12, 2018 by Paul Shepard

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 Power Line Communication (PLC) protocols.

Microchip Technology Inc. today introduced a flexible PLC modem that can support multiple standard and proprietary protocols in the frequency band up to 500kHz, enabling manufacturers to address different end-customer regulations, markets and operational requirements. The single device can be adapted simply with firmware, significantly 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 is the latest device in Microchip’s portfolio of industry-leading smart energy products.

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. Our solution provides what customers need to easily develop high-performance smart meters and get to market quickly,” Boutorabi added.

Additional benefits of using a PL360B modem is its efficient use of power, offering up to a 25 percent improvement in power consumption over previous generations, and a Class D amplification scheme that optimizes the modem transmission efficiency further.

Development Tools

The ATPL360 evaluation kit includes two evaluation boards to establish point-to-point communication. 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.

A variety of reference designs is also 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.

Pricing and Availability

The PL360B is available now starting at $2.00 each in 10,000 unit quantities. The ATPL360 evaluation kit is available for $500.00.