STMicro STarGRID Power-Line Communication Chip Used in Smart-Metering Project in Spain

September 26, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

STMicroelectronics (ST) announced that its new STarGRID™ ST7590 power-line communication (PLC) System-on-Chip (SoC) is being used in advanced Automatic Meter Management (AMM) equipment in the new ’STAR Project’ in Spain.

Based on the PRIME (PoweRline Intelligent Metering Evolution) standard, the ’STAR Project’ is the advanced metering infrastructure program from the IBERDROLA utility company. By early 2011, approximately 100,000 PRIME-compliant smart meters will have been being installed by IBERDOLA in the city of Castellon in Spain in the first deployment. More than 10 million are expected to be deployed over the next few years in Spain. The AMM equipment that employs ST’s STarGRID ST7590 SoC has passed all PRIME-compliancy certification tests, performed by KEMA, the international certification body.

The ST7590 SoC is the latest device in ST’s STarGRID family, which the company says offers a flexible, scalable and future-proof power-line communication platform that can be easily adapted to different smart-grid application needs and protocol standards. In addition, the platform optimizes power consumption and system cost significantly more effectively than solutions based on multi-purpose stand-alone DSPs which require additional external Analog Front End and Power Line Driver components.

"Being selected as the silicon technology provider for the STAR Project in Spain is a significant testament to ST’s leading-edge know-how in this field," said Pietro Menniti, VP and General Manager, Industrial Power Conversion Division, STMicroelectronics. "STarGrid is a breakthrough in power-line communication technology that offers a flexible System-on-Chip platform meeting major worldwide smart-metering and smart-grid standards. The high level of integration and flexibility of STarGRID allows key customers to simplify their product designs and significantly reduce bill-of-materials costs."

Built using ST’s advanced BCD8 smart power technology, STarGRID allows the integration of an optimized DSP engine for different modulation schemes and physical layer services management, a digital 8-bit industrial microcontroller core for system supervising and protocol stack management, the full receiving and transmitting analog front end and an integrated power amplifier with on-board programmable filtering, capable of more than 1A (RMS) of current to drive very low impedances loads.

The optional integration of specific functions such as a dedicated hardware accelerator for 128-bit AES data encryption management, a built-in channel quality estimation feature based on signal-to-noise and line impedance measurements, and other critical functions increases system performance and capabilities, while the integration of full analog-front-end and high linear power-amplifier blocks reduces both the system bill of material and the customer development effort.

The high-performing ST7590 exploits very robust OFDM modulation up to 128kbps, fully compliant with PRIME protocol standard specifications. The STarGRID platform also includes the ST758x family, which performs innovative dual-channel communication with n-PSK modulation schemes up to 28.8kbps and it is suitable for different protocol implementations, such as the ’Meters & More’ specification, which has been adopted by the ENEL group for the recent ENDESA multi-million metering project in Spain.

The STarGRID platform also includes the ST7570, which performs an S-FSK modulation up to 2.4 kbps and integrates a full turn-key IEC 61334-5-1 compliant protocol stack with new advanced communication features to address standard automatic meter-reading services and other command and control applications, such as some street-lighting control and sub-metering systems requiring a very cost effective implementation and consolidated standard protocol compliancy.