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Smart grid data concentrator dev kit runs Linux

Sep 30, 2013 — by Rick Lehrbaum 1,823 views

Texas Instruments is shipping a development kit for designing data concentrator devices targeting “smart grid” applications. The kit’s single-board computer is based on a TI Sitara AM3359 system-on-chip, provides power line communication (PLC), RF, Ethernet, and serial connectivity options, and is backed by an “extensive” Linux software stack.

TI’s TMDSDC3359 Smart Data Concentrator evaluation module (EVM) is intended to help developers create equipment for smart grid infrastructures, including data concentrators, convergent nodes for grid sensor networks, and power automation controllers. The EVM is based on a TI Sitara AM3359 SoC running TI’s customized Linux stack, and can implement complex routing algorithms capable of supporting more than 2,000 e-meters, says the company.

TMDSDC3359 Smart Data Concentrator EVM
(click image to enlarge)


In addition to its AM3359 SoC, the EVM also includes a compact, plug-in Power Line Communication (PLC) module (TI”s SOMPLC-F28PLC83, shown below), which integrates a TI C2000 Piccolo F28PLC83 microcontroller along with an analog front-end. The 1.5 x 1.9-inch PLC module supports the G3, PRIME, and S-FSK communication protocols. TI claims its available PLC software stacks for this module make it possible to setup a data concentrator demonstration including PLC connectivity “in as little as 10 minutes.”


Power line communication system-on-module
(click image to enlarge)


Smart grid data infrastructure

According to TI, widescale use of smart meters makes it impractical for each meter to communicate directly with a utility’s central servers. Consequently, automated metering infrastructures and automated meter reading equipment are used for distributing the workload of measuring, analyzing, and collecting the energy usage data required for billing, troubleshooting, and analysis.

The smart grid network, and how data concentrators fit in
(click images to enlarge)


According to TI, data concentrators located at various points within the automated metering infrastructure improve the efficiency of the smart grid by securely aggregating data from a manageable number of meters, and forwarding the collected data to the utility servers on their behalf. The data collected helps the utilities tune energy availability to the needs of local requirements, resulting in greater overall efficiency, and also provides enhanced network fault detection.

The communication mode required by data concentrators can be either wired or wireless, depending on the particular power infrastructure, says TI. The most common wired communication mode is Power Line Communication (PLC), although some infrastructures implement serial (RS-232 or RS-485) or Ethernet data links. Wireless communication is generally implemented via low-power RF (IEEE 802.15.4g), but in some cases standard cellular networks are used. The communication channel between the data concentrators and the utilities’ servers varies among Ethernet, GSM, GPRS, WiMAX, and landlines.

EVM specifications

Key specifications listed by TI for the EVM include:

  • Based on TI Sitara AM3359 Cortex-A8 SoC
  • Includes three-phase power line communication (PLC) plug-in module
  • Other I/O and communications interfaces:
    • 2x USB
    • 2x Ethernet
    • 2x RS-232 and 3x RS-485 serial ports
    • IR receiver and transmitter
    • Sub-1GHz and 2.5GHz RF
  • Other features:
    • Temperature sensor
    • Isolation to prevent damage from high voltages and currents
    • On-board 120/240 VAC power supply
  • Operating system — Linux BSP supported by TI

The TI TMDSDC3359 Smart Data Concentrator EVM is shipping now, priced at $700. Further details may be found at the TI TMDSDC3359 product page. Additional information regarding TI’s smart grid products is available at the TI Smart Grid Technology page.

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