Tag Archives: HAN

Designing in-home display units with Atmel tech

In-home display (IHD) units play a critical role in helping customers reduce their energy usage by providing relevant stats in real-time. Indeed, IHD units are typically designed to acquire and display information via a sensor with built-in RF and/or PLC. A more effective method? Transmitting information from a smart meter using a home area network.

“IHD units vary in complexity, from simple wall-mounted segment LCD displays, up to battery-operated products with color TFT displays and touchscreens,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces. “Advanced IHDs can display not only consumption information, but energy consumption advice from energy providers. They can also support a variety of additional functions such as home automation.”

To be sure, IHD units typically support displays, connectivity via USB and RF, as well as low power and touch buttons or screens for a fully interactive user interface (UI). And that is why Atmel offers a wide range of versatile microcontrollers (MCUs) for IHDs, from entry-level 8-bit AVRs to a sophisticated ARM9 core with embedded LCD graphics display controllers.

“In short, Atmel’s MCUs help facilitate flexible touch solutions, from buttons and wheels to sophisticated touch-screens, all providing support for a wide range of user interface features and capabilities,” the Atmel engineering rep explained.

“Meanwhile, power line communications (PLC) system-on-a-chip (SoC) solutions with full digital implementation deliver best-in-class sensitivity, high performance and high temperature stability. Plus, our CryptoAuthentication lineup provide a cost-effective, easy-to-implement security solution that is critical for wireless communication between meters and  IHD units.”

In terms of power efficiency, Atmel offers a number of advanced capabilities, including 1 µA watchdog and brown-out, picoPower tech for extended battery life, an event system to allow measurement while CPU is in SLEEP mode, support for true 1.6V operation, low-power RF transceivers for connectivity and the lowest power 32 kHz crystal oscillator (650nA RTC).

“In-house display units can range from a basic segment LCD to a more sophisticated color TFT. Depending on the display choice drivers and required  processing power, the primary microcontroller can be either an entry-level 8- or 32-bit MCU, scaling up to a more powerful embedded MPU with on-chip TFT LCD controller,” the engineering rep added.

“As products become more sophisticated, so will the UI. Atmel touch technology provides robust support for state of the art features such as capacitive touch buttons or a full touchscreen. The communications within the IHD depend on the implemented architecture of the HAN (typically RF or PLC). Of course, wireless connectivity can also be supported via Secure Digital Input Output (SDIO) cards.”

Interested in learning more about designing in-home display units with Atmel tech? Be sure to check out our extensive device breakdown here.

Atmel powers data concentrators

Data concentrators are typically used in AMR (automatic meter reading) and AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) architecture to collect information and data, often from multiple meters, before forwarding the data to a utility company. Understandably, they are heavily used in densely populated areas.

Some AMI architectures might utilize a multi-utility communications unit or communications gateway at each home, instead of a meter, to support the HAN and WAN. These communications products or meters connect to a data concentrator, which manages anywhere from 10-2000 devices, depending on the architecture and communication medium adapted.

Atmel microcontrollers can be used to provide the necessary connectivity and processing power for data concentrators, MUCs and communications gateways.

Indeed, Atmel MCUs offer a number of key features for engineers, such as multiple connectivity options that include Ethernet, multiple UARTs, USB and SDIO. Meanwhile, select AVR microcontrollers support USB and OTG, with full or high speed Atmel solutions offering support for a variety of USB classes, including CDC, HID, MS and DFU. Atmel also offers power line communications (PLC) system-on-a-chip (SoC) solutions with full digital implementation to deliver high performance, high temperature stability and best-in-class sensitivity.

dataconcentrators

Additional key specs include robust processing power supporting application functionality, CryptoAuthentication for security, RF transceivers to facilitate intelligent connectivity and non-volatile serial memory to enable data logging.

“It is important to note that data concentrators are usually positioned in transform centers, and collect communications from several different homes for transfer to the utility. As such, not all of the above communications examples will be supported on any one unit. Basically, communications depend on the AMI architecture implemented,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

“Some AMR/AMI architectures do not use a smart electricity meter as the hub of the home system, but instead utilize multi-utility communications (MUC) and communications gateways. These products can connect to a single HAN, or can look after several in an apartment block. MUCs and communications gateways usually supply a bridge between the HAN and WAN, and will connect to data concentrators. Atmel solutions deliver the robust processing power and solid security that is key for critical communications.”

A full list of suggested Atmel devices for data concentrators can be found here.