December 09, 2019

Demand for smart meters is driving demand for semiconductor devices

In recent years, with the conception and construction of smart grid concepts in countries such as China and the United States, the accompanying smart meters have once again become the focus of attention in the industry. The Chinese government plans to install 240 million smart meters throughout the country in the next five years. This means that in the three years between 2012 and 2015, the number of newly installed smart meters in China will reach 80 million. In the long run, considering China’s 1.3 billion people, the total number of smart meters installed in China should be 500 million, and China will become the world’s largest consumer market for smart meters. The fast-growing smart meter market has become a battleground for various semiconductor manufacturers with its huge chip demand.

Strong demand for smart meters

Drive demand for semiconductor devices

The good news is that although the world economy is deeply disturbed by the financial crisis, the global smart meter market has a strong demand. It is predicted that the annual global demand will only increase 18 million smart meters for the US smart grid program, bringing the total number of smart meters in the United States to 40 million, which does not include the supporting meter reading system. The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2020, the smart grid will cover 80% of the world's population. In 2013, the number of smart meters installed with the smart grid will reach 760 million, which is more than double the number estimated by ABI Research, a US think tank. Information, please visit: Transmission and Distribution Equipment Network

iSuppli Corporation predicts that smart meters will be the most popular electronic products in 2010 with 3G smart phones, netbooks, Blu-ray DVD players, LCD TVs, surveillance and medical electronics, and will be a great stimulus including power supplies, metrology chips, MCUs and RTCs Demand for other additional modules such as LCD screens and communication ports. The world's major semiconductor manufacturers have bet on the smart meter chip market under the smart grid demand.

Accuracy is more reliable and more powerful

Smart meter far better than induction meter

Due to the particularity of electricity meters and residents' lives, the civilian three-meters represented by electricity meters have become the main object of consumer complaints. The first problem is the exact metering problem. The late electronic meter solved the problem of inductive metering accuracy. As Chen Jie, an engineer at the Yantai Oriental Wisdom Electric Co., Ltd.'s R&D department, said: "At present, there is no problem in the accuracy of civilian electricity meters. We are operating in accordance with national standards and even higher than the national standards. The measurement chip technology is already very mature. The accuracy of the meter will be affected by the chip.”

At the same time, with the improvement of the manufacturing process, the quality problems that plague the meter have basically been solved. The failure of a single component to cause the entire meter to fail has become a thing of the past. “We have selected industrial-grade integrated circuits and chips, and we rarely cause the power meter to malfunction because of the chip,” said Tong Xinyi, a hardware engineer in the R&D department of Zhejiang Qianneng Electric Power Co., Ltd., deputy manager of the system department of Ningbo Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. Yuan Zhiming also said: "In general, there will not be a phenomenon that strikes the meter due to the chip, but it is likely that aging devices, such as capacitors, may fail due to aging. However, there are few such quality problems."

Yuan Zhiming, deputy manager of the system department of Ningbo Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.:

"The practical meter reading system must be considered from various aspects. First of all, you cannot be too expensive. The second is that there is achievability."

When it comes to electricity meters, it has to be said that the real problem of stealing electricity. With the more diversified and hidden ways of stealing electricity, the requirements for electricity meter protection against theft have become higher and higher. Mechanical watches have become more and more insecure, and electronic energy meters have shown strong advantages. Tong Xinxuan said: "Theft prevention needs hardware and software to solve problems. In the case of hardware, the current chip can effectively prevent theft."

Now many semiconductor company's schemes are for tamper-proof electricity through MCU software to realize, take Freescale's MCF51EM256 as an example, MCF51EM256 joins the programmable delay module (PDB), integrates the anti-theft electricity detection real-time clock (iRTC) . The iRTC can be powered by a separate battery, has a separate 32768Hz crystal, has a special anti-stealing detection pin to open the lid detection, when it detects the meter cover is opened, it will automatically notify the CPU and automatically record the open time. In addition, when the iRTC detects that the battery that supplies its own power is disconnected, it also automatically notifies the CPU and records the time. The hardware assists the customer in the anti-theft forensics forensics and recording, and enhances the reliability of the system. These functions make the iRTC reliable anti-theft function. These are all industry-leading technologies. Xia Xiaodong, global product manager of Freescale's Industrial and Multimarket Microcontroller Division, said: “Freescale is a company known for its product quality and stable supply. Microcontrollers provide a full range of high-end to low-end (including China Meters market customized MZ series products are available for customers to choose from, MCF51EM256 is one of them."

Xia Xiaodong, Global Product Manager, Microcontroller Division, Freescale Industrial and Multimarkets:

"Next-generation microcontrollers will provide lower power consumption, easier measurement of peripherals, and more powerful automatic meter reading peripheral modules."

Jin Yujie, director of marketing for multiple market products at NXP Semiconductors in Greater China, said: “Electric meter designers usually use a combination of hardware and software to handle theft detection. This method will take up a lot of system overhead, and the software will be functionally ineffective. Possibility.For this problem, we will introduce a hardware-implemented power-stealing detection interface in the follow-up products, and the power consumption is very low."

Jin Yujie, Marketing Director, Multimarket Products Division, NXP Semiconductors Greater China:

“High integration and low power consumption are not contradictory in meter applications. High integration focuses on the connectivity of individual peripherals when the chip is in normal operating mode; and low power consumption is used in chip power-down mode. The peripheral is basically closed."

Magnus Pedersen, director of product marketing for Atmel's wireless microcontrollers, told reporters: "Atmel's MCUs can solve the problem of anti-electricity theft. Its BitCloud PRO stack has been certified by ZigBee Smart Energy, and BitCloud Smart Energy can build buildings indoors. (in-premise) devices (such as electricity meters, thermostats, and smart appliances) are connected to each other and connected to regional power transmission and control networks to provide power companies with a secure, reliable, and easy-to-use wireless home area network (home). Area network, HAN) Atmel's BitCloud SE ensures complete interoperability and seamless communication of the entire HAN through a basic security and protocol stack, and brings a complete reference implementation of ZigBee Smart Energy equipment. All Atmel's BitCloud ZigBee Smart Energy stack fully supports Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) to enhance the encryption performance of the device."

Magnus Pedersen, director of marketing for wireless products at Atmel microcontrollers:

"The development of microcontrollers for three-in-one instruments is slowly evolving. Over time, all standards will be jointly developed by the industry to create three-in-one smart meters."

When it comes to the highly integrated smart meter, the meter chip will integrate more functions such as metering, LCD, real-time clock, and even semiconductor manufacturers are actively considering integrated power carrier modules, wireless modules to single-chip solutions, and so on. At present, the chip integration has been to a high-level SoC (system-on-chip). For the current application of the meter SoC, Yuan Zhiming, deputy manager of the system department of Ningbo Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., said: “SoC is now used in many applications, but it is not Ideally, first, considering the cost, the SoC is not much less than the original solution; second, the flexibility after integration is greatly reduced, not as good as a measurement chip plus a control chip.” At the same time, Yuan Zhiming also stated that SoC should promote it. It also solves two problems: one is the cost issue, and the other is the reality needs the issue. Some policies require the use of ADI's metering chip. If ADI's metering chip is integrated into the SoC, it is not sure if it is an ADI metering chip.

For the issue of low power consumption, Yuan Zhiming stated: “The chip that makes an electric meter must first consider the low power consumption. Low power consumption is mainly manifested in special occasions such as power outages, that is, in the case of battery-powered, the most effective and long-lasting. Record information, display information, complete the meter reading.At present, the chip on the market can still be low-power, because many IC manufacturers are now targeting low power consumption, many chips have reached the requirements of low power consumption.” Xie Xiaodong Recognizing Yuan Zhiming's statement: "Freescale has a unique ultra-low-power technology, and the MCF51EM256 is based on the same ultra-low-power technology. Freescale's low-power microcontrollers provide a flexible power management mode that customers can use based on practical applications. The need to make the necessary settings to achieve the best power performance ratio."