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Wireless energy management controller runs Linux

Jul 11, 2013 — by Eric Brown 2,531 views

Check-It Solutions is shipping a Linux-based control and monitoring appliance for home and commercial building automation and energy management. The CG-300 Controller runs on a 1.2GHz Marvell Armada 300, offers Ethernet, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and optional LTE, and is available in a turnkey Energy Management Starter Kit with smartphone accessible web-portal services, Energy Star benchmarking, and a Dent metering device.

The CG-300 is designed to retrieve data from multiple locations for reporting and data analysis of remote sensor information. It can operate as a standalone controller in commercial or residential buildings, or it can communicate with existing building automation systems via protocols including BACnet or Modbus to centralize monitoring information or control functions, says Check-It Solutions. The device can also be used in conjunction with the Check-It Solutions Platform web portal via the turnkey Energy Management Starter Kit (see farther below).

Check-It CG-300 Controller
(click image to enlarge)


The battle between the ZigBee and Z-Wave short-range wireless technologies has raged for years, and has arguably slowed the spread of home automation systems. Check-It decided on a bipartisan approach, and offers both radio technologies, each of which has its own RP-SMA dipole antenna for more predictable, uniform RF coverage.


According to an email from Check-It engineer Brad Arnold, the CG-200 offers a built in programming circuit for the Z-Wave ASIC. This is said to enable field upgradability of the Z-Wave stack from the host SoC.

CG-300 rear panel connections and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)


The CG-300 runs on a Marvell Armada 300 (88F6282) clocked at 1.2GHz clock rate, with 512MB of DDR3 RAM, 1GB of SLC NAND flash, a gigabit Ethernet port, and dual USB ports. According to Arnold, the device’s internal SLC NAND flash provides “high write endurance.” A CG-300c model also offers a 4G LTE/HSPA radio.

Specifications listed for the CG-300 Controller include:

  • Processor — 1.2GHz Marvell Armada 300 (ARMv5TE)
  • Memory — 512MB DDR3 RAM; 1GB NAND flash
  • Wireless:
    • Z-Wave with external, 168mm RP-SMA antenna (900MHz)
    • ZigBee with external, 76mm RP-SMA antenna (2.4GHz)
    • LTE/HSPA+ mini-PCIe cellular module (CG-300c model only) with external SIM card slot
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet port (auto MDI/MDIX)
  • Other I/O — 2x USB ports
  • Other features — status LEDs
  • Power — 12VDC @ approx. 4 Watts
  • Dimensions — 175 x 119 x 35mm
  • Operating system — Debian, Linux kernel 3.4

The CG-300 Controller runs a customized Linux 3.4 kernel with a custom slimmed-down version of Debian, says Arnold. The main application is said to be based on Java, and offers event-driven script execution and flexible I/O scheduling. It runs on a licenced, proprietary Oracle JVM “for additional optimization on ARM compared to what you get with OpenJDK,” says Arnold.

In addition, the software “allows the controller to utilize the Ethernet and cellular connectivity for automatic failover for internet connectivity, but at the same time always keeps the Ethernet connectivity up for local traffic,” says Arnold. “This is useful when communicating to local PLCs or BACnet devices.”

Energy management starter kit

Check-It Solutions sells the CG-300 as part of a turnkey solution called an Energy Management Starter Kit. In this scenario, the CG-300 manages communication between installed devices and forwards necessary information to the secure hosted Check-It Solutions Platform web portal.

Other features available via the Check-IT web portal include energy and water monitoring to measure usage and benchmark building performance, as well as the identification of potential energy savings. The system can also control and automate lighting, HVAC, and electrical loads.

The web portal provides monitoring updates every 30 seconds, as well as historical displays, performance tracking, and weather tracking. It is also said to provide power factor readings and real-time utility demand charge alerts.

Other components in the Starter Kit include integrated benchmarking via an Energy Star Portfolio Manager. The package also comes with a PowerScout 3 power meter device from Dent for monitoring incoming power lines or submetering within the building. The line-powered device communicates wirelessly with the CG-300.

No pricing was offered on the standalone CG-300 or CG-300a controllers, but the Energy Management Starter Kit with 24-months of monitoring and data storage costs $2,895. Options include a $175 LTE modem, a $150 3-pack of Z-Wave light switches, a $150 Honeywell thermostat, and a $250 water/gas flow kit. More information may be found at Check-It Solutions website.

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2 responses to “Wireless energy management controller runs Linux”

  1. MikeH says:

    Your OS should probably read “Debian, Linux Kernel 3.4”. There was no Debian version 3.4. Current is Debian 7.0 codename Wheezy.

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