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Omron collaborates with STMicroelectronics to develop smarter gas metering solutions

November 04, 2010 | Paul Buckley | 222901724
STMicroelectronics and Omron have collaborated to provide a complete solution for electronic gas meter flow sensors. The flow sensor they have developed is a key component for the smart turn-key gas meter solution that ST is developing.

Like electricity meters some years ago, gas metering is beginning to move from traditional mechanical meters to sophisticated new electronic solutions incorporating functions such as Automatic Meter Reading (AMR). ST estimates that there are some 500 million mechanical gas meters in the world and most major gas providers are preparing programs to replace their traditional meters with more accurate, reliable and efficient electronic meters.

At the heart of cooperation is a proprietary Omron transducer and a companion analog front-end chip developed by ST. The technologies have been integrated into a complete stand-alone subsystem. The resulting flow sensor, which incorporates leading-edge MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) micro-thermal sensor technology, is intrinsically compensated for both temperature and pressure variations, while a built-in circuit compensates for the variation of multiple gas composition. The sensor is dust-resistant to comply with international gas-meter standards.

Mounted on a small PCB (Printed-Circuit-Board) measuring 7.2x8.6 cm, the gas-flow sensor provides high accuracy with low power consumption, built-in motor drivers for valve control, and protection against temperature and vibration effects. The sensor board includes an ultra-low power STM8L152 microcontroller with 32 Kbytes of flash memory and an LCD display driver, the STLM20 temperature sensor, the LIS332AR accelerometer and the M41T82 real-time clock, as well as power-management and motor-control devices.

The expanded relationship, which builds on a cooperative effort that Omron and ST launched in November 2009, further strengthens ST’s position in the increasingly important field of ‘intelligent measurement,’ i.e. applications such as electricity, gas and water metering where miniature sensors and ultra-low-power microcontrollers are combined to gather more accurate and reliable data and communicate the data to host systems that can provide the consumer with real-time information on cost and usage patterns, thereby helping them to minimize their use of non-renewable resources.

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