The market for residential energy management systems is starting to look good to everyone. Recently, eMeter, the meter data management giant, had its coming-out party for its new home energy portal. Now Freescale Semiconductor, which is already heavily invested in microprocessors for meters, is launching a reference platform using Freescale i.MX ARM processor.

Not only is Freescale providing the processing backbone for home area networks, it is also offering a solution to its customers that could be everything from the ZigBee chip inside of your dishwasher to the countertop gateway for energy management.

The Austin-based company says that the chip will enable OEM and other customers to bring value-added services to market faster. "ZigBee is an area where we see a lot of potential, and Freescale does have a ZigBee solution," said Sujata Neidig, product manager for the Multimedia Applications Division of Freescale.

There is not a whole lot that on first glance distinguishes this product from what others in the market are developing to offer manufacturers that want to make their products smart-grid-ready. It is a slightly more flexible platform than some other products that rely on only Wi-Fi or ZigBee, but not on both. "You could have wired, or wireless, or both," said Neidig. "Not every end-customer wants all the solutions."

Instead, the reference platform is a building block for Freescale's customers to design to appease their consumers. Neidig said they are seeing quite a bit of activity in Europe, especially in Germany and some other European countries, and that there's also growing interest from the Asian market, particularly South Korea and China.

The chip also comes with a 4.3-inch touch screen interface, which is supported by Adeneo for software and web optimization.

Manufacturers are interested now in figuring out how to integrate this type of intelligence into their products for a market cycle a few years out. The platform is expected to be available on the market in the fourth quarter of this year.

"We believe the market will take off," Neidig said. "We're giving our customers a way to get to market quicker."