Queen’s Award for Sentec

Sentec, the metering technology specialist, has been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise. The award was given in the International Trade category in recognition of Sentec’s exceptional growth over the last three years, in which the company more than trebled its overseas earnings to £4.3m.

Sentec achieved the growth necessary to win the award by implementing a successful market strategy based on licensing selected partners and supporting them with product development and consultancy services.

The result is that Sentec technology is now included in almost 7m (or around half) of the smart electricity meters installed in the US today.

In the UK, the Queen’s Award for Enterprise comes as the company announces a licensing agreement with OnStream, a National Grid company, to bring Sentec’s Mobius current sensor technology to the UK smart electric meter market.

The company’s patented Mobius sensor consists of a current-carrying conductor (either a bus-bar or a circuit board trace) and a pickup formed from a convoluted coil fabricated on layers of a printed circuit board (PCB). The conductor runs parallel to the PCB in the vicinity of the pickup coil, in close proximity but electrically isolated.

Three sensor geometries are available to suit different applications: an omega-shaped conductor best suited to low-cost single sensor implementations; a linear conductor suited to implementations needing multiple parallel sensors; and a hairpin conductor form best suited to multiple sensors with adjacent terminal connections. The bus-bar shape can be optimised to fit the current and geometry requirements of the specific design — maximum current ratings from 20 to 320A have already been designed into products.

The circuit board is made using standard processing and design rules and may either be a separate component or part of a larger PCB assembly. The conductor may be any suitable material, though in practice, it is typically copper. The bus-bar is rigidly attached to the PCB for stability of performance.

To assist with the design and integration process, Sentec sells evaluation kits for performance testing and assessing the sensor’s fit into a specific meter design, which come with full schematic, calibration data and bill of materials.

2009 was Sentec’s most successful year to date, and 2010 looks set to continue this growth trend. This year has also seen the Cambridge-based company expand into larger office and lab space to accommodate new recruits and more projects, including a joint venture with Takahata, the Japan-based engineering company, to advance the development of a smart water meter for the Australasian market.