Wireless collection of utility meter data (electricity, water, gas) is a cost-efficient way of gathering consumption data to the billing system, and adds value in terms of new services. Wireless AMR is one of the fastest growing markets for short-range radio devices. The family of RFICs from Chipcon is specifically designed to comply with the most stringent requirements for short-range RF applications like AMR.

In most countries consumers must pay for the actual use of electricity, gas and water. The cost of gathering the consumption information to issue correct billing invoices can be time consuming and costly if done manually, so an automatic system is preferable to reduce this cost. AMR is defined as the collection of data at a remote central location from utility meters and other devices at customers via telecommunications.

Wireless AMR systems use radio frequencies that are controlled and assigned by the local telecommunication authority. Some systems operate in licensed bands, and some use license-free bands. License-free bands include 433 / 868-870 MHz in Europe, 902-928 MHz in the US, 426 / 429 MHz in Japan and 424 MHz in Korea. Frequencies below 1000 MHz, especially the 400 MHz band, are attractive for AMR due to the longer communication range compared to higher frequencies.

RF SOLUTIONS FROM CHIPCON

All Chipcon’s RF transceivers and transmitters are configurable for most communication parameters like frequency, output power, data rate and data coding. This flexibility ensures that the products can be adapted to different standards, regulations and protocols.

The frequency programmability means that the transceivers can easily be configured for use in different markets with different frequency allocations. One further advantage is that frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) can be used. FHSS provides higher security and better coexistence in the system where frequency bands are shared between several users.

RF Transceivers

The CC1020 is targeting narrow-band applications and is the industry’s first true single-chip that complies with the stringent requirements of multi-channel narrowband applications down to 12.5/25 kHz channel spacing. The combination of programmable receiver bandwidth, low phase noise and I/Q-mixer technology makes the CC1020 an excellent choice in noisy RF environments. Noise immunity issues will be a major focus in the future, due to the rapid growth of wireless applications. The CC1020 takes this into account, despite the high level of integration and low system cost.

The high sensitivity of CC1020 also makes this the perfect choice if range is an important issue. CC1021 is a cost-optimised version of the CC1020. It is a multi channel RF transceiver for relaxed narrowband (50 kHz channel spacing and wider) operation in the same 402 - 470 MHz and 804 - 940 MHz frequency ranges as CC1020.

The CC1000 is targeted for very low power applications. In battery-operated systems requiring ten years or more of battery lifetime, the operating current and standby current is very important. The CC1000 has combined low current consumption with high integration and good performance in terms of sensitivity and output power.

Very few external components are required for all of the RFICs from Chipcon. Chipcon is able to provide flexible and low cost solutions that ensure compliance with most of the AMR protocols and requirements today and in the future, thanks to the products’ high integration level.

The entire SmartRF® 02 (0.35µm CMOS) product family from Chipcon includes the CC1050/CC1070, which can be used for one-way systems at the remote end to save cost. CC1050 is the transmitter version of CC1000, while CC1070 is the narrow band transmitter version of CC1020. The CC1010 combines the same low power technology as CC1000 with a microcontroller core, memory and peripherals on the same chip. This is a true system-on-chip solution, where the application software runs on the embedded microcontroller.

Most utility and billing companies have recognised that with the invention of low cost low power radio chips, wireless RF communication is the most cost efficient way to collect utility meter data. Both the system cost and the installation cost make RF solutions attractive compared to other technical solutions.