By Peder Martin Evjen

The implementation of smart metering systems is requiring new solutions for the home area network (HAN), so that utility meters as well as in-premise displays and thermostats can communicate together. Wireless networks have become the preferred solution for the HAN, and the Smart Energy profile based on the ZigBee mesh networking standard and IEEE 802.15.4 is specially developed for this application. Radiocrafts has launched a new compact communication module meeting the ZigBee Smart Energy standard.

The new module with high output power and embedded ZigBee protocol is flexible and easy to use for meter reading, AMI and smart grid applications. The new module can be used in any type of meter, as well as in energy service portals and routers, containing the RF transceiver, high power amplifier, LNA, the ZigBee network protocol and extensive application support. The ZigBee modules will form a mesh network connecting all devices to an energy service interface (ESI). The ESI is typically connected to the backbone/internet through Ethernet broadband, GPRS or PLC.

The new RC2400HP-ZNM-SE (ZigBee Network Module for Smart Energy profile) is a surface mounted high performance transceiver module measuring only 12.7 x 25.4 x 3.3 mm, and can easily be integrated into any meter due to its small size and low power consumption. A UART or SPI interface is used for serial communication and configuration. The RF output can be connected directly to an antenna. The new module supports twoway communication, enabling not only meter reading but also inhouse displays, programmable communication thermostat (PCT), load control and data acknowledgement applications. It also contains the encryption algorithms that provide communication security and data integrity.

The RC2400HP module is pre-qualified for operation under FCC Part 15 (100 mW), and certified for the European radio regulations (20 mW) for licence-free use. When used with quarterwave antennas a line-of-sight (outdoor) range of 2-4 km can be achieved. Attenuation and reflections of radio signals in buildings will shorten this range substantially, but the mesh network with automatic routing and retransmission of messages makes a robust network for indoors applications.

By launching this compact high power ZigBee Smart Energy compliant module in the market, Radiocrafts has again demonstrated their technological leadership in embedded wireless solutions for smart meters. The new ZigBee module adds to Radiocrafts’ industry leading family of wireless M-Bus modules. A unique feature is the pin compatibility of the ZigBee and wireless M-Bus modules, making it very easy to support different radio standards with small modifications of the end product.

The emerging AMI market has created a huge demand for this module. Short time-to-market is now vital for meter manufactures to position themselves in the rapidly growing smart metering market. The new module is the perfect solution due to its easy integration, and is already supplied to large pilot customers.

Meter manufacturers, system integrators and AMI providers can now get a complete ZigBee solution compliant with the Smart Metering profile in a small compact module form factor that is easy to integrate into meters and gateways. The industry leading compact module makes it easy to add a fully ZigBee compliant solution to space limited and battery operated meters, and significantly reduce time-to-market, development and compliance testing cost.