The SmartWire Program

The economy of the future will be built on electricity-based innovation. Thus, the reliable generation and distribution of electrical energy will be essential in driving sustained economic growth beyond the 21st century [1]. In order to support this, a future energy distribution that is secure, reliable, redundant and self healing, and supports fast and massive reconfiguration will be needed.

It is seen that by around 2030, smart grids will be in place, combining power delivery with data networks, that ensure optimal, robust and sustainable power delivery, generation and utilization [2]. One of the main components of the smart grid is the smart meter.

In order to control a distributed and adaptive power system, the observability of the important system parameters must be assured, highlighting the need for smart meters. These meters relay the required information at the correct time with the correct data at important locations in the system. This allows the system to dynamically adapt to the environment or situation, or even predict and prevent faults and failures way before they can cause any noticeable effects.


Figure 1. The SmartWire System.

The SmartWire Vision


Figure 2. The first prototype of the SmartWire sensor node. The 65nm CMOS integrated sensor node includes an integrated PLC transceiver and a 6-bit SAR ADC, both powered by an internally regulated 0.5V supply harvested from the power distribution lines.

Taking the smart meter idea one step further, and given the predicted capabilities of semiconductor and IC technologies by the year 2030 [3], and using the new technologies we will develop now, we can make these meters small enough (roughly 2mm x 2mm), cheap enough and robust enough, such that they can be integrated into the power distribution wires themselves. By embedding millions of these sensor nodes into the wires themselves, we can make them “smart”.

Using energy harvesting, via either the power lines themselves, or via radio-frequency sources, enables these SmartWire sensor nodes to operate indefinitely, and with zero maintenance. Adding a node every 5-10 meters along the line, and with each node capable of power line and RF communications, will give us the capability to sense and control the power grid at a much finer resolution and with better precision than discrete smart meters and long-haul communication links like fiber optic cables. This would lead to a more robust and adaptive power grid, making it easier to integrate renewable energy sources, as well as making it more efficient.

This new, efficient and locally developed integration of communication, information and power technologies requires very little infrastructure cost since the energy source, communications channel and the data to be measured are all contained in the same power line. The net effect would be a more sustainable energy system with a significant reduction in the cost of electricity.

The SmartWire Objectives

The overall objective of this project is to create, refine and develop the necessary technologies needed to make the SmartWire vision a reality. One specific objective of the Smart Wire project is to develop the necessary technologies to implement a fully integrated sensor node with (1) power-line and RF energy harvesting, (2) data acquisition and signal conditioning for AC current and line temperature measurements, (3) power line and RF communications capability, and (4) computation and control for node management, communication protocol implementation as well as data processing. Other objectives include (1) the development of an energy efficient network protocol for retrieving and disseminating sensor data, and (2) the development of a decision intelligence algorithm for proactive and predictive control of the power system.


The technologies that the SmartWire program is developing will enable the creation of an electric power grid made intelligent using a large-scale sensor network. This resulting grid intelligence can lead to (1) an efficient, reliable and robust power grid, thus improving the quality, as well as lowering the cost of electricity, and (2) a reconfigurable power grid that can reliably integrate inherently intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar generators, thus eliminating a major barrier to the widespread use and adoption of renewable energy sources.


The SmartWire program is funded by the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).


[1] C. Gellings, M. Samotyj, and B. Howe, “The future’s smart delivery system [electric power supply],” Power and Energy Magazine, IEEE, vol. 2, no. 5, pp. 40 – 48, sept.-oct. 2004.
[2] E. Santacana, G. Rackliffe, L. Tang, and X. Feng, “Getting smart,” Power and Energy Magazine, IEEE, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 41 –48, march-april 2010.
[3] “The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) 2009 Edition,” Tech. Rep.,