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ST drives connectivity into smart devices

In a move designed to accelerate G3-PLC Hybrid connectivity in smart-grid and IoT devices, STMicroelectronics has revealed a development ecosystem for its ST8500 programmable power-line communication (PLC) modem chipset.

Comprising of two evaluation boards that target 868MHz and 915MHz license-free RF bands, with documented firmware, the ecosystem helps users quickly build and test nodes that comply with G3-PLC Hybrid, the industry’s first published standard for dual PLC & RF connectivity.

Equipment such as smart meters, environmental monitors, lighting controllers, and industrial sensors containing the ST8500 chipset, which supports G3-PLC Hybrid, can select the powerline or wireless channel autonomously and change dynamically to ensure the most reliable connection.

Launched in 2019, the chipset combines the ST8500 protocol controller System-on-Chip (SoC), which runs ST’s G3-PLC Hybrid firmware, with the STLD1 powerline communication (PLC) line driver and S2-LP sub-GHz radio. Devices containing the chipset are backward-compatible and interoperable with any G3-PLC network.

ST’s hybrid protocol stack is based on G3-PLC, IEEE 802.15.4, 6LowPAN and IPv6 open standards. By embedding support for RF Mesh at the physical (PHY) and data-link layers, the ST8500 combines the strengths of powerline and wireless mesh networking for communication between smart nodes and data collectors.

Unlike simple point-to-point links, hybrid mesh networking interconnects nodes extensively to improve reliability, strengthen fault-tolerant connections, and extend communication distance.

The two new hardware development kits handle PLC & RF connectivity as well as application processing. The EVLKST8500GH868 kit is configured for 868MHz RF operation as recommended in the EU, while the EVLKST8500GH915 kit operates in the 915MHz band used throughout the Americas and Asia.

Each kit comes with the STSW-ST8500GH software framework and documentation.

Both kits can be combined with an STM32 Nucleo board for scalable application processing and are compatible with ST’s large portfolio of X-NUCLEO expansion boards for convenient function extension.

Neil Tyler

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