TI Rolls Out Microcontroller for Electronic Energy Metering

8/1/2003 - Texas Instruments introduced the industry´s most advanced system-on-chip microcontroller unit (MCU) for electronic energy meters (e-meter). By combining an industry-standard ultra-low-power Flash MCU with an integrated high-performance analog front-end (AFE) on a single-chip, the mixed-signal integration of the new MSP430FE42x family of products reduces the total system chip count by eighty percent, improving performance and reliability, while reducing cost and time to market when compared to first generation electronic solutions.

With fully programmable communication capabilities, the MSP430FE42x family of application-specific MCUs is ideally suited for manufacturers developing electronic energy meters with sophisticated features such as automated meter reading (AMR), smart card prepayment and multiple rate billing.

Reduced Component Count Makes Design Hassle-free and Increases System Performance and Reliability
Systems using the MSP430FE42x family do not require multiple crystals, an EEPROM, LCD driver, external real time clock or 5V power supplies. The reduced component count and the devices´ inherent failsafe features increase overall reliability.

"Using the MSP430FE42x, designers can quickly develop hassle-free, high-performance energy meters," said Mark Buccini, MSP430 product line marketing manager for TI. "While performance is clearly increased, the automatic metrology function can cut critical time-to-market and cost in half."

In addition, this family of single-chip MCUs eliminates the need for expensive long-lead-time custom multi-chip AFEs. As a Flash memory MCU-based system, the same hardware can be used for many platforms with feature or country-specific changes made only in software. Because the Flash is in-system programmable, it is even possible to update a deployed meter remotely.

Embedded Signal Processor Increases Meter Accuracy
To provide the highest possible performance and simplify system design, the device integrates an embedded signal processor (ESP), ideal for single phase e-meters, plus the following key features to perform the energy metrology functions:

The converted line voltage and current signals are digitally processed, providing:

With precise phase matching between current and voltage channels, the ESP performs the necessary calculations to supply accurate active energy, apparent energy, RMS voltage, current and waveform samples. The ESP provides a 0.1 percent accurate energy measurement over a dynamic current range of 1000 to 1, greatly surpassing the 1 percent accuracy common in typical mechanical meters. Having the ESP completely manage critical energy calculations enables the designer to utilize the freed-up central processor unit (CPU) functions for differentiated meter features such as display and AMR.

Ultra Low Power Performance
A flexible clock system with five low-power modes enables unmatched ultra-low-power performance and complete operation using only a single 32-kHz watch crystal. The low-frequency watch crystal, in combination with the integrated user-programmable, digitally-controlled oscillator, precisely meets system power and performance requirements. Supporting ultra-low power, the MSP430FE42x operates at 3V with the CPU and ESP active at only 2.5mA. In a power outage the device can operate in a standby mode with a typical current consumption of 1.1uA with a real-time-clock function active.

The family also includes standard MSP430 peripherals such as:

Development Support
The MSP430FE42x family is fully compatible with the existing $99 MSP-FET430P410 JTAG emulation toolkit. The tool supports real-time in-system application development, accessing the Flash device´s embedded emulation capability. The tool comes complete with a JTAG interface, target board and a complete integrated development environment (IDE) including a debugger, assembler/linker and 4kB C-Compiler.

Pricing and Availability
The MSP430FE42x family offers 8kB, 16kB or 32kB on-chip Flash memory options and 256B to 1kB RAM. The family is offered in a 64-pin quad flat pad (QFP) package and is available for preproduction and engineering evaluation now with full production planned for late 2003. The 8kB MSP430FE423 is priced at $2.95 per unit in 100,000-piece quantities.

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