Cortex-M4 processor-based IC enables PRIME-compliant smart metering applications

October 09, 2012 // By Julien Happich
The SAM4SP32A is what Atmel claims to be the world's first single-chip power line communications (PLC)-based solution using an ARM Cortex-M4 processor-based MCU.

The IC is aimed at the rapidly growing PRIME (PoweRline Intelligent Metering Evolution) smart metering market - The 14x14mm SoC combines a Cortex-M4 processor-based MCU, 2MB of dual-bank Flash, 160KB SRAM and a high-performance PLC transceiver in a single-chip SoC that lowers overall system costs. The extra program memory ensures the IC will support the complex protocol required by smart meters as well as firmware upgrades, both of the application and the protocol stack independently, in the field. The new solution also leverages the powerful peripherals of the Cortex-M4 MCU, including serial peripheral interface (SPI), I2C and USARTS, to support the various communication interfaces required by smart metering applications.

According to Jesus Teijeiro, Director of Marketing for the smart energy PLC products at Atmel, this high level of integration enables smart meter OEMs to cut costs by 30% at the silicon level compared to Atmel’s earlier generation PLC solution, this could be 50% cheaper than competing solutions, he added.

The SAM4SP32A features a sensitivity of up to 34.8dBuV and a dynamic range of up to -73.18dB. The new SoC includes an integrated low-power amplifier that consumes 40 percent less power than other solutions on the market today, drawing less than 750mW in transmission mode (PLC modem) or nearly a third of what competing solutions would consume, according to Teijeiro.

To further accelerate the design process, Atmel’s SAM4SP32A SoC is also available with a SAM4SP32AAEK-99 evaluation kit that includes two boards, a complete set of software libraries, application examples, a PHY tester, PRIME Network Manager and PC USI test. The evaluation kits will be available in Q1FY13.

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