Watteco Develops Ultra-Low-Power IP Smart Grid Communications Solutions Using TI Microcontroller

November 09, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

Watteco, a French System-on-Chip (SoC) manufacturer of "no new wire" Power Line Communication (PLC) modems for energy efficiency and intelligent home control applications, today announced it is collaborating with Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) on an ultra-low-power, intelligent communications solution that will enable the next generation of connected appliances. Designed for Smart Grid applications, the system combines Watteco’s WPC(TM) PLC technology with TI’s MSP430(TM) microcontroller (MCU) for low-power energy-management applications.

The first prototype for the jointly developed multi-chip module will be a SmartPlug reference design created specifically for the HOMES collaborative innovation program led by Schneider Electric and launched by 13 industrial and research partners in 2008.

"The SmartPlug is a Plug & Control solution that will enable the creation of a Home Area Network (HAN) over the residential electrical wire simply by connecting devices over a home’s electrical wiring," explained Didier Pellegrin, HOMES program manager. "Based on the 6LoWPAN(1) protocol network, this solution offers an easy way to develop a smart communication platform that enables interoperability between a combination of wireless and PLC devices in a home environment."

Smart Grid deployment is expected to correct flaws in how the current energy infrastructure delivers electricity, while also enabling command and control capabilities that will create a significantly more energy-efficient ecosystem for home energy management, demand and response, and renewable energy production. Achieving these Smart Grid advances requires a robust smart energy network that is capable of connecting a wide variety of interoperable electrical appliances and smart sensors.

"It’s a pleasure to work with Watteco, a company that shares TI’s vision for Smart Grid deployment," said Emmanuel Sambuis, MSP430 general manager. "The HAN will play a critical role in next-generation energy management, and will require embedded systems that have the intelligence, superior power efficiency and industry-standard bi-directional communications capabilities to enable a wide variety of emerging appliances. Our joint development program with Watteco is aimed at delivering those capabilities."

The collaboration between TI and Watteco is focused on the development of a multi-chip module that will enable OEMs to develop smart appliances with IP-based bi-directional communication capabilities using existing indoor/outdoor electrical wiring. The module will combine TI’s 16-bit MSP430 RISC-based smart mixed-signal MCU with Watteco’s IPv6-based WPC-IP PLC transceiver to create an ultra-low-power solution in an extremely small form factor.

"We are leveraging TI’s MSP430 product portfolio to develop a compact, low-power, low-cost solution that will meet HAN market requirements," said Didier Boivin, CEO with Watteco. "TI’s portfolio is an obvious choice when it comes to SmartPlug products that interface with in-home appliances. This collaboration will accelerate time to market for OEMs who are looking for a PLC SmartPlug solution running on an IP network."