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Siemens picks ADI Blackfin for smart power meters

MUNICH, Germany — As part of its 'Smart Grid' infrastructure concept, Siemens is currently developing smart power meters for global markets. As core element for its smart power meters, the company has selected the Blackfin Digital Signal Processor from Analog Devices

Smart Grid is currently a buzzword for governments, mobility experts, environmentalists and utilities. They all hope that optimizing electric power production, reducing unnecessary power consumption and the transition to more flexible paradigms can drastically improve the grid's ability to integrate alternative power sources and help the users to use the energy more wisely, thus reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.

One of the core elements for the smart grid is a 'smart' power meter. In contrast to todays' 'dumb' power meters, smart meters communicate with users and utilities and deliver real-time information as to the energy consummation in every household.

The core element of Siemens' smart power meters, to be sold worldwide, will be the Blackfin DSP. Siemens has picked this specific architecture because it represents a kind of 'bridge' architecture between DSP and standard logic microprocessor, said Anders Frederiksen, DSP Marketing Manager Europe for Analog Devices. The Processor does not only handle the usual signal processing tasks, but also general control tasks and the challenging task of handling the communication.

Since communication protocol stacks differ according to regional and local requirements and according to the standards of different utilities, communication handling in smart power meters needs to be very flexible and powerful. Another criterion was upgradeability — besides the current powerline communications designs, the smart power meters should also be able to handle other communication technologies when required. The spectrum of communication technologies to address includes Ethernet as well as several wireless communication schemes.

The market is huge, and it is global. Siemens plans to sell its smart power meters as part of a smart grid infrastructure — along with communication concentrators and a head station in the utility's control center, explained Wolfgang Bauer, Solution Lifecycle Manager AMIS for Siemens Austria. While Bauer said there are no figures available as to the world market volume for these products, ADI's Frederiksen expects a volume of at least 350 million units in Europe alone. Since it will take several years to replace conventional power meters against smart ones, the assignment is expected to be stretched over the next decade.

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