Turnkey ZigBee smart meter gateway aids integration


Toronto, ON, Canada — (METERING.COM,) — September 4, 2008 – MMB Research’s new RapidSE ZigBee smart meter gateway acts as a communications gateway between a utility’s electric meter and its customers’ wireless home area networks (HANs)of energy management devices. The company, an engineering firm specializing in embedded systems and smart energy technologies, is assisted by Ember, a provider of wireless sensor and control network technologies, which is enabling MMB Research to help metering vendors quickly and easily integrate ZigBee wireless networking into their products.

The gateway is designed as a turnkey ZigBee solution, combining Ember’s EM250 ZigBee system-on-chip (SoC) and EmberZNet PRO networking stack with a RapidSE embeddable software package. RapidSE takes full advantage of the ZigBee Smart Energy (SE) Profile, an industry standard that enables two-way communications between utilities and HANs, and is a critical component of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) deployments.

As ZigBee SE has become the preferred wireless standard for AMI networks, RapidSE allows metering vendors to quickly integrate a fully-compliant ZigBee SE platform without extensive knowledge of ZigBee. RapidSE leapfrogs development cycles by translating ZigBee SE and HVAC functions into simple serial commands. This allows metering vendors to issue commands and receive feedback from the HAN using their existing microcontroller, while RapidSE manages the ZigBee network. ZigBee networks are self-organizing, self-healing and can operate for years on inexpensive batteries, making them ideal for use in many HAN devices.

RapidSE-based smart meters play the role of energy service portals (ESPs) in the AMI ecosystem, serving as both gateways and ZigBee coordinators in a HAN-to-AMI network configuration. They automatically connect thermostats, in-home displays, smart appliances, and other energy management devices to the utility network to help consumers conserve energy and save money, while also helping utilities better manage peak energy demand situations. RapidSE also provides very strong wireless security thanks to the inherent security features in Ember’s Smart Energy Suite (SES).

"We partnered with Ember because it was the only provider with a complete ZigBee PRO hardware and software solution with built-in ZigBee Smart Energy Profile support," says Daniel Moneta, MMB’s strategic director. "The smart energy market is rapidly gaining momentum. Our metering vendor customers are under pressure to quickly respond to a myriad of government and utility initiatives with robust smart energy solutions. They don’t have the time or resources to become ZigBee experts. Ember’s industry leading ZigBee chips and stack combined with our embeddable software and tools provide a rapid development platform that any metering engineer can quickly master."

RapidSE is available pre-loaded on MMB’s EM250-based ZigBee radio module for easy integration with existing hardware, or as an embedded software package compatible with any EM250-based platform. Evaluation and development kits, available in October, will include RapidSE Desktop, a software tool that simulates a ZigBee-enabled meter (an energy service portal), allowing users to issue and monitor ZigBee SE or HVAC commands through the accompanying RapidSE USB dongle. This functionality makes RapidSE Desktop both a valuable development tool, and an ideal platform for evaluating third-party ZigBee devices.

Ember’s EM250, the industry’s first ZigBee SoC, integrates an IEEE 802.15.4 radio, a 16-bit microprocessor, flash, RAM and peripherals delivering excellent performance at a low system cost.

"The urgent need for smart energy solutions is putting metering and HAN device vendors under intense competitive pressure to rapidly integrate ZigBee in their product lines," said Bob Gohn, Ember’s vice president of marketing. "Solutions like RapidSE Smart Meter Gateway allow vendors to bring products to market rapidly, and without having to internally hire wireless networking expertise."