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Silicon Labs IoT kits speed enviromental/biometric sensor design

September 02, 2014

Bernard Cole-September 02, 2014

At the International IC China Conference & Exhibition in Shenshen, China, this week, Silicon Labs took the wraps off two development kits to make it easier for would-be Internet of Things designs to quickly incorporate various environmental and biometric sensing capabilities into their applications. The kits were demonstrated at its booth in the IoT/Wearable Zone at the IICC..

According to Ross Sabolcik, vice president and general manager of Silicon Labs’ Analog, Power and Sensor products, target applications for the kits (Figure below) include home security systems, smart thermostats, smoke detectors, weather stations, smart watches, fitness bands, heart-rate earphones and other wearable products. “Highly accurate, ultra-low-power environmental and biometric sensing capabilities are as critical to today’s IoT and wearable applications as energy-friendly MCUs and standards-based wireless connectivity,” he said.

He said the SLSTK3201A environmental sensing development kit has been designed to streamline the process of developing IoT products that sense relative humidity (RH), temperature, ultraviolet (UV) light, ambient light, proximity and human gestures.

The environmental kit combines an EFM32 Zero Gecko microcontroller (MCU) starter package with a sensor expansion board. The kit also features a gesture-controlled weather station application that tracks RH, temperature and UV index. Complete source code is available on Silicon Labs’ Simplicity Studio development platform. www.silabs.com/sensors

It incorporates the Si1132/4x single-chip digital UV index sensor ICs designed to track UV sun exposure, heart rate and blood oximetry for wearable and smartphone products. The devices also provide ambient light and infrared (IR) proximity sensing capabilities for health and fitness applications.

He said conventional UV sensors combine UV-sensitive photodiodes with an external MCU, ADC and signal processing firmware, claiming that SiLabs is the first to combine all of this functionality into a small 2 mm x 2 mm package to help reduce the design’s footprint and bill of material (BOM) cost.

The company's second kit for biometric sensing development, is designed to ease development of apps for measuring heart rate and blood oxygen level (Sp02), as well as UV index, relative humidity and temperature. The platform includes the BIOMETRIC-EXP-EVB expansion card featuring Silicon Labs’ Si114x optical sensors and Si701x/2x humidity and temperature sensors.

It incorporates the Si701x/2x relative humidity and temperature sensors combined on a single-chip, mixed-signal IC . An optional, factory-installed filter cover provides added protection against sensor contamination throughout the device’s entire lifetime. The sensor card plugs directly into Silicon Labs’ EFM32 Wonder Gecko MCU starter kit. Silicon Labs also offers an optional wearable-form-factor HRM-GGG-PS board that supports wrist- based heart rate monitoring and connects to the biometric sensor card through an I2C mini- flex cable.

The biometric demonstration firmware for the EFM32 Wonder Gecko starter kit is available at no charge and can be downloaded from the Silicon Labs web site. www.silabs.com/biometric-exp-evb. The library module includes a heart rate algorithm with source configuration files, eliminating the need to develop biometric sensor drivers from scratch.

Both kits operate on coin-cell batteries, for battery-powered IoT and wearable applications. Each sensor expansion card features Silicon Labs’ TS3310 boost dc/dc converter to help minimize energy consumption.

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