Tag Archives: Zigbee Smart Energy Profile 2.0

Atmel introduces next-gen SoC solution for smart metering

Atmel recently announced the introduction of its latest Power Line Communication System-on-Chip (SoC) solution designed for smart metering applications.


The Atmel SAM4CP16B is an extension of Atmel’s SAM4Cx smart energy platform built on a dual-core 32-bit ARM® Cortex®-M4 architecture. Fully compatible with Atmel’s ATPL230A OFDM physical layer (PHY) device compliant with PRIME standard specification, this highly flexible solution addresses OEM’s requirements for various system partitioning, BOM reduction and time-to-market requirements by incorporating independent application, protocol stack and physical layer processing functions within the same device.


“We continue to build on the success of our industry leading SAM4Cx platform and offer best-in-class embedded connectivity, flexibility and cost structure for high-volume smart metering deployments,” said Andres Munoz, Atmel Marketing Manager, Smart Energy Communications. “Furthermore, additional enhancements developed to meet PRIME standard specifications provide unprecedented performance in rigorous environments.”


As part of the Atmel® | SMART™ family, the solution includes integrated low-power driver, advanced cryptography, 1Mbytes of embedded Flash, 152Kbytes of SRAM, low-power RTC, and LCD controller. Additional key features include:

  • Application/Master Core
    — ARM Cortex-M4 running at up to 120 MHz
    — Memory Protection Unit (MPU)
    — DSP Instruction
    — Thumb®-2 instruction set
    — Instruction and Data Cache Controller with 2 Kbytes Cache Memory
  • Co-processor
    — ARM Cortex-M4F running at up to 120 MHz
    — IEEE® 754 Compliant, Single precision Floating-Point Unit (FPU)
    — DSP Instruction
    — Thumb-2 instruction set
    — Instruction and Data Cache Controller with 2 Kbytes Cache Memory
  • Symmetrical/Asynchronous Dual Core Architecture
    — Interrupt-based Interprocessor Communication
    — Asynchronous Clocking
    — One Interrupt Controller (NVIC) for each core
    — Each Peripheral IRQ routed to each NVIC Input
  • Cryptography
    — High-performance AES 128 to 256 with various modes (GCM, CBC, ECB, CFB, CBC-MAC, CTR)
    — TRNG (up to 38 Mbit/s stream, with tested Diehard and FIPS)
    — Classical Public Key Crypto accelerator and associated ROM library for RSA, ECC, DSA, ECDSA
    — Integrity Check Module (ICM) based on Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA1, SHA224, SHA256), DMA assisted
  • Safety
    — 4 Physical Anti-tamper Detection I/O with Time Stamping and Immediate Clear of General Backup Registers
    — Security bit for Device Protection from JTAG accesses
  • PRIME PLC embedded modem
    — Power Line Carrier Modem for 50 Hz and 60 Hz mains
    — 97-carriers OFDM PRIME compliant
    — DBPSK, DQPSK, D8PSK modulation schemes available
    — Additional enhanced modes available: DBPSK Robust, DQPSK Robust
    — Eight selectable channels between 42kHz to 472kHz available
    — Baud rate Selectable: 5.4 to 128.6 kbps
    — Four dedicated buffers for transmission/reception
    — Up to 124.6 dBμVrms injected signal against PRIME load
    — Up to 79.6 dB of dynamic range in PRIME networks
    — Automatic Gain Control and continuous amplitude tracking in signal reception
    — Class D switching power amplifier control
  • Shared System Controller
    — Power Supply
    — Embedded Core and LCD Voltage Regulator for single supply operation
    — Power-on-Reset (POR), Brownout Detector (BOD) and Watchdog for safe operation
    —Low Power Sleep and Backup modes

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s new comprehensive smart energy platform? You can check out our recent deep dive on the subject here.

The Internet of Things and energy conservation

Humans are creative, and adaptive. We’ve done it all our lives, and all our existence. We needed more food, and so we created agriculture. We needed to live together, and so we created architecture. We needed to communicate, and so we created hundreds of ways to do just that; Internet, mobile telephone networks, computers. We are so fond of computers that we have them everywhere, often without noticing them. Yes, you might have a bulky desktop computer at home, or maybe even a flashy new laptop, but those are not the only computers. Your mobile telephone is a computer, but technically, so is your microwave, your car, your television set, and even your washing machine.

Our lives have changed greatly. We’ve all seen pictures and even films of medieval castles, and we know how we used to live. Today, our lives are made more comfortable by scores of machines; when was the last time you washed your clothes by hand? The clothes go in the washing machine, then in the dryer, and then in the cupboard. This all comes at a cost; financially, of course, but also in terms of energy.

Energy. The art of creating electrical power and delivering it to our homes and cities. For most people, this is as simple as having overhead power lines here and there, and paying a bill at the end of the month. Unfortunately, it is much more complicated than that. Power stations require scores of people to operate, and something surprising, data. In France, we have “too many” power stations, and most run at low capacity. When it gets hot, those who have air conditioning like to put it on, consuming electricity. Multiply that by a few thousand, and you get an idea of how much energy the power station needs to produce. When it gets cold, people like to heat their homes and businesses, and since everyone has radiators, electrical consumption soars. Imagine the amount of radiators an entire city can contain, and imagine even 50% of them turned on at the same time. Imagine.

Data is needed from other sources, not just from the weather. Imagine the amount of power required to let all the football fans watch the world cup. Our problem is that we can generate electricity, but we cannot store it (at least, not on this kind of scale). When everything gets turned on, the power station must be able to respond. If it can’t, bad things happen; the lights dim, or sometimes everything goes dark. We now know we cannot live without electricity.

SMART Energy Flow

We all know that we need to reduce our energy dependence, even if some of us don’t want to. To make more people aware, some cities turn off all the lights for an hour. It’s called Earth Hour. For one hour, people are encouraged to use as little electricity as possible; turning off the lights, for example. This does have an impact, but it is a double-edged sword. For one hour, the electricity usage drops considerably, while everyone thinks about the planet, and what we will leave behind for our children. At the end of the hour, everything goes back on, and this is where things get tricky. When electrical devices are first turned on, some can generate what is called an energy spike; a large consumption at first, before something more stable. It is visible just after Earth Hour, but it actually happens every day.

Building Appliances and Home Systems using Energy at Optimum Times

Peak hours. In my house, my electric water heater is connected to a peak-hour detection system. At 11:30 PM, my electricity provider starts “off-peak” hours, a time where electricity costs less. It costs less, an incentive to make me use power-hungry devices at a time when other devices are not needed. At this time of night, most businesses are closed, and so there is less demand. It is all about normalizing energy requirements, and to stop peaks during the day. At 7:30 AM, peak hours start, the water heater turns off, businesses start up, and my kettle turns on, the day is about to begin.


Energy is available, that isn’t the problem. Our problem is our use of energy. If only we had a way of using energy when it was available. Imagine, a certain amount of energy available. When I need light, I want my light to be usable immediately. I need a start time; now. However, when I put my clothes in the washing machine generally, I need them to be ready for the next day. I need and “end” time; I need the device to get the work done before a certain time. When will the washing machine start? Well, I don’t actually mind when it starts, and this is where I need help. This is where the IoT can help us, because we really need help.

The IoT will give us millions of connected sensors. This will also supply us with data, lots and lots of it. Why wouldn’t a small device in my house have direct control over my washing machine, or even better, actually be inside my washing machine? It could be programmed to start at a specific time, talking to other devices on the energy grid? Or even in my home; it could tell the water heater to wait until it has finished, and then the water heater gets its chance. The possibilities are endless.

Washing Machine is Connected - SMART HOME

IoT will give us an incredible amount of data, and data that can be used to help up control, and maybe even overcome our need to energy. But wait a minute, doesn’t the IoT itself need energy? It does, but the amount of energy that it will save outweighs the amount of energy it uses, and by a large factor. Take, for example, Atmel’s SAM D21 microcontroller. It uses less than 70µA per MHz, and that is when it is running at full speed. Of course, these devices have advanced power management, and with careful coding, they can last for months on cell batteries. Low power does not mean no power; it has enough flex to get the job done, and more. With built-in USB, ADCs, DACs and enough RAM and ROM for the most complex programs, it gets the job done. It also has the Atmel Event system, a powerful system that lets the microcontroller react to external events without the need to constantly look at inputs.

(Source CES 2014 - Samsung's Vision of the Now and Future of Connected Appliances)

We need a little help in our lives to make simple decisions; when should I turn the heating on? When is the best time to turn on the air conditioner? We think we know, but we don’t. IoT will allow us to know exactly when the cold weather is coming. IoT will know when to turn the lights off. In short, IoT will generate enough data that it will know better than us what to do, and when. What we have seen so far is only the beginning.

Zigbee Smart Energy Profile

The much anticipated Zigbee Smart Energy Profile 2.0 was recently released. Representing an effort spanning more than three years, this milestone includes contributions from NIST, IETF and the Zigbee Alliance. Various companies also participated in the initiative, including utility, meter, silicon and software stack vendors.

Smart Energy – the application profile that drove the Zigbee Alliance development of the Zigbee IP (ZIP) –  is the first public profile requiring ZIP instead of the current Zigbee and Zigbee PRO underlying stacks. Zigbee IP (ZIP) and SEP 2.0 offer TCP/IP based interoperability for smart energy networks, thereby facilitating participation in the Internet of Things (IoT) without the need for special gateways. In fact, ZIP is designed to be physical layer (phy) agnostic and is capable of running across various platforms including 802.15.4 Wireless, WiFi, Power Line Carrier Ethernet and more.

SEP 2.0 is built using numerous mainstream protocols such as TLS/HTTPS, XML, EXI, mDNX  and REST. Each SEP 2.0 device boasts an optimized HTTP server serving up and responding to data objects defined by an XML schema. Security is ensured by familiar HTTPS with strong authentication, while an RFC compliant IPv6 stack provides the network with specific routing and translation layers for the wireless PHY.  The SEP 2.0 presentation from the Zigbee Alliance is available here [PDF].

Two recommended implementation strategies for SEP 2.0 in devices are Single Chip and Multi-Phy. Single Chip implementations use a dedicated microcontroller and RF transceiver (or a combined SoC) running a dedicated stack. This strategy works particularly well when adding Zigbee SEP 2.0 support where there is no other network or TCP/IP stack in low to mid range devices. A good example might be a thermostat or load control device, both of which require communications with other smart energy devices – even if they are equipped with a small processor dedicated to the control and UI functions of the device.

The Multi-Phy implementation –  a new way of looking at Zigbee – offers advantages in devices equipped with multiple network interfaces and/or a capable processor such as an Atmel SAM4, SAM9, or SAMA5 MPU or MCU. In such cases, the 802.15.4 transceiver (like the AT86RF233) becomes the network interface PHY layer underneath the IPv6 stack and SEP 2.0 layers running on the processor. Since the IPv6 stack is a compliant implementation, other network PHYs are also supported by the stack. Running two or more physical interfaces with a single processor is certainly not an issue, as devices that communicate via Zigbee, WiFi, PLC, and Ethernet can be designed. Because a single processor and IPv6 stack are used, the cost will ultimately be lower than duplicating these functions in a separate chip dedicated to Zigbee SEP 2.0.

Single Chip and Multi-Phy implementation

Single Chip and Multi-Phy implementation

The multi-phy implementation is also ideal for gateway devices bridging different physical layers. And since SEP 2.0 is built using standard web protocols, once you bridge the smart energy network to the Internet, managing your home energy devices from a tablet or smartphone is no stretch at all and brings us closer to the reality of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Atmel, along with software stack partner Exegin Technologies, offers robust and compliant solutions for Zigbee IP and SEP 2.0. There is already interest from leading networking and utility companies, with deployment of certified devices expected before the end of 2013. The critical design decision most of us have to consider? Whether to dedicate the cost and complexity of a single chip Zigbee solution – or optimize it and lower cost with a software stack and radio transceiver solution that offers shared resources and the possibility of multiple networks.