Future smart electricity grids will avoid overloads and blackouts by interacting with users to level loads so that off peak usage is maximized and new energy technologies are smoothly integrated with the existing infrastruture. The smarts for these new capabilities starts with your meter, and Freescale Semiconductor is pioneering the way with its smart-meter reference design. Look for utility companies around the world to adopt Freescales approach over the next five years. R.C.J.
Smart electricity meters will change the way energy is conserved—by reporting usage wirelessly, by prompting consumers on how much their current usage is costing and by leveling loads on the grid by shifting usage of non-essential appliances, like clothes driers, to off-peak times. However, to realize those smarts—and to make room for next-generation innovations such as wind turbines, solar panels and the recharging of electric vehicles—requires building intelligence into meters. Freescale Semiconductor is now making such smart meters easier to design. The company described a new ColdFire microcontroller aimed at simplifying the design of such smart meters at the Metering Europe Conference and Exhibition (Oct. 6-8, 2009, Barcelona, booth #660). Freescale's specialized microcontroller for smart meters comes complete with dedicated peripherals, firmware and a turnkey reference design dedicated to the needs of smart electricity meters.