Power-line communications (PLC) technology is becoming more widely adopted because of its excellent fit with Smart Grid efforts and other home and industry networking applications. But challenges include its multiple standards and performance issues related to using the ac power line as a communications medium. The TMDSPLCKIT-V2 PLC development kit from Texas Instruments, though, should ease as well as speed up any new designs.
The kit is based on a PLC modem solution that can support multiple modulation and protocol standards on a single hardware platform. It provides everything developers need to network systems and implement monitoring capabilities. Developers can use it to quickly evaluate the suitability of using PLC-based communications and then begin development for Smart Grid applications ranging from smart electrical meters to intelligently controlled industrial applications, including lighting, solar, home automation, building control, plug-in electrical vehicle, and energy-managed appliances.
TI’s PLC modem (Fig. 1) is a modular, fully programmable solution comprising separate microcontroller (MCU) and analog front-end (AFE) modules and a complete software framework designed for flexibility and adaptation to various application and regional requirements. The MCU module is based on TI’s proven real-time control C2000 architecture and offers excellent performance while easily interfacing with the AFE and application processors to which the PLC modem communicates. The AFE module is self-contained and fully isolated, reducing design cycle time, lowering power consumption, and reducing system cost.
The kit features two narrowband PLC modems for communications over low-voltage/medium-voltage power lines with scalable data rate up to 128 kbits/s (single phase) (Fig. 2). Its flexible architecture and software framework support all major PLC standards, including S-FSK (IEC61334), PRIME, and G3.
TI’s customizable low-frequency narrowband orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) library, FlexOFDM, can support new and evolving standards. The integrated AFE supports all low-frequency narrowband modulation standards while offering multiple operating modes for power optimization, excellent thermal performance, and lower system component count and cost.
TI’s comprehensive and royalty-free plcSUITE modular software framework separates modulation, protocol, and application development to extend the maximum flexibility to developers in testing and designing with PLC modems. With the framework, the kit also offers turnkey evaluation and production software, simplifying development and enabling developers to easily adapt products to specific protocol, application, and regional requirements.
The fully programmable OFDM-based system permits environmental tuning for robustness and reliability. A GUI-based control format is provided for quick visualization of key PLC modem parameters. The TMDSPLCKIT-V2 costs $599 and can be ordered online at www.ti.com/plc-pr-es.