Tag Archives: wireless design

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.


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.

A GUI for RF Performance Measurements

To help you measure RF performance in wireless designs, Atmel offers a Wireless Composer through the Atmel Gallery online apps store for embedded software, tools and extensions. The Wireless Composer provides a GUI for RF performance measurements while running selected Atmel wireless evaluation kits.

Using the Wireless Composer is straightforward — after you’ve downloaded the tool from Atmel Gallery, you select and download the proper hex file, and save it to any location on your PC. The Atmel Studio 6 Tools menu has a Device Programming menu that you can use to load the hex file into your target wireless platform. On the Composer’s opening screen, you select the Performance Analyzer from the Tools menu, start the tool and designate the proper port and connection to your target platform. Once all of the configuration steps are complete, you can view RF performance levels following measures including an energy detection scan, a single packet error rate (PER) test, continuous PER logging and more.

Wireless Composer supports several designated Atmel evaluation boards; the tool can also perform tests on other boards. The complete source code for the Wireless Library is available from Atmel Gallery. You can port this code to support the I/O configuration of a non-Atmel board. Just be sure that access is provided to the TXD and RXD signals of the UART or to a USB virtual COM port, if available. Also, make sure there are no conflicts with push buttons or LEDs used in the Wireless Composer apps or other I/O initializations. The tool should work easily with other boards as long as the boards use the same chipset or SoC used on a supported Atmel kit.