Open Source Power Line Communication

Power Line Communication Filtering


Since we all have wires running throughout our houses to provide mains power, there’s a number of devices that piggyback on mains lines for communication. For his thesis project, [Haris Andrianakis] developed his own power line communication system.

The basic principle of the system is to inject a signal onto the power lines at a much higher frequency than the 50 or 60 Hz of the AC power itself. Using both active and passive filters, the signal can be separated from the AC power and decoded. This system uses frequency-shift keying to encode data. This part is done by a ST7540 modem that’s designed for power line applications. The modem is controlled over SPI by an ATmega168 microcontroller.

[Haris]‘ write up goes into detail about some of the challenges he faced, and how to protect the device from the high voltages present. The final result is a remote display for a weigh scale, which communicates over the power line. Schematics, PCB layout, and software are all available.

25C3: Power line communication


[Florian] and [Xavier Carcelle] started the day at 25C3 by covering power line communication. PLC technology is not widespread in the US, but has gained popularity in countries like France where it’s included in set-top boxes. PLC lets you create a local network using the AC wires in your wall. The team started exploring PLC because despite being newer technology, it had a few principles that made it similar to old networks. There’s no segmentation in the wiring, which means it behaves like a layer 2 hub. You get to see all of the traffic unlike a switched network. Most power meters don’t filter out the signal, so it’s possible that you might see your next-door neighbor’s traffic on your line. [Florian] reports having seen all the traffic in a six-story building just by plugging in. The wiring also acts as a large antenna so you could employ tempest attacks.

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