New Chip May Alter Residential Meter History
With the recent introduction of a new integrated analog-to-digital converter chip, electronic residential power meters may soon be available at prices comparable to current mechanical meter prices. The chip`s maker, Cirrus Logic Inc., claims that the chip will allow meter manufacturers to make a full transition away from mechanical meters and offer the most accurate, cost-effective and fully-functional electronic meters to date. “In our view, it`s a watershed product for electric industry deregulation, as it enables meter makers to design better products, utilities to obtain more useful data and customers to choose from more competitive rates,” said Frank den Breejen, Cirrus Logic`s business development manager.
The growing demand for more information on customer usage and preferences and the ability to offer more competitive rates and services has increased the need for electronic residential meters. “Industrial meters have already transitioned to electronic,” said den Breejen. “However, electronic residential meters have not because, until now, they have been cost prohibitive.”
The new chip, the CS5460, is fully featured to provide all of the functions essential for a residential meter. “By using a small geometry process to produce the new CS5460–harnessing the more compact 0.35 micron process as compared with the 0.6 micron across the industry–we have succeeded in densely packing an unprecedented level of performance and calculation power onto a very small, lower cost chip,” said den Breejen. According to Cirrus Logic, the design key is the ability to integrate high performance analog and high-speed digital functions on a single chip, thereby minimizing the need for external components. The manufacturer expects the chip`s price to be about $4 when purchased in quantities of 1,000. The price could go as low as $1.50 when purchased in quantities of 1 to 1.5 million.
The possibilities brought about by the new chip are not isolated to North America. As the bar chart illustrates, the demand for electronic meters is expected to increase worldwide. For example, France already has a law in place that requires utilities to move to electronic residential meters in the next few years.
Cirrus Logic is already talking to most major residential meter manufacturers throughout the world, including the United States, Europe and Japan. The chip can also be configured for use in commercial and industrial meters.
Although Cirrus Logic may not be a well known name in the utility industry, it is not new to the electronics industry. Founded in 1984 as Crystal Semiconduc-tor, it is a pioneer of digitally enhanced analog integrated circuits (ICs), and is currently recognized as a leader in mixed-signal (analog/digital) IC design. n