Enhanced wireless MCUs target line-powered IoT products
Building on the RF and multi-protocol capabilities of the Wireless Gecko portfolio, Silicon Labs has released the first products in its next-generation Series 2 platform that provide a scalable connectivity platform for smart home, commercial and industrial applications. The initial Series 2 products include small-form-factor system-on-a-chip (SoC) devices with multi-protocols, a dedicated security core and an on-chip radio that is said to deliver 2.5x the wireless range of competitive solutions.
Series 2, leveraging the Series 1 platform, addresses several performance and development issues – wireless range, software reuse, power, size, security and cost. These first devices are designed to provide developers with a lower bill of materials (BOM) count and system cost by eliminating the need for external inductors or power amplifiers and by requiring fewer matching components.
Series 1, launched in 2016, has been a successful platform, said Matt Maupin, senior product manager for Silicon Labs’ Wireless Gecko products. “It could do everything and offered all kinds of IO, which made it a great general-purpose device.”
With the Series 2 platform, Silicon Labs took a different approach, targeting specific applications and requirements. The company looked at where it has seen success with the Series 1 devices and where IoT products are headed.
As a result, instead of developing general-purpose parts for the Series 2 platform, Silicon Labs is now focused on application-specific markets. The first SoCs in the new family – the EFR32MG21 and EFR32BG21 - target line-powered devices. The EFR32MG21 SoCs support multi-protocol, Zigbee, Thread, and Bluetooth, and the EFR32BG21 SoCs are enabled for Bluetooth Low Energy and Bluetooth mesh.
Silicon Labs has one of the most complete portfolios of protocol stacks, said Maupin. “No one size fits all, so we want to make sure we have the right solution for the customer’s application.”
These new SoCs specifically target line-powered IoT products such as gateways, hubs, lights, voice assistants and smart electric meters. “When you talk about the edge of the network, these are constrained devices that don’t have the amount of memory and processing capability that the other devices have,” said Maupin.
These devices use microwatts of power; need battery life that requires years not hours or days, and have cost constraints and long-life requirements, he added.
Maupin said all of these requirements must be considered when designing a hardware and software platform for wireless connectivity.
Platforms are more than a chip, whether it’s a SoC or module, said Maupin. It’s about the software and protocol stacks; how developers can get to market faster; things like long life and ensuring that the device can upgrade to the next protocol, and it also needs to have the best connectivity and software framework and be upgradable and cloud-connected.
Silicon Labs stripped out everything from the Series 2 SoCs that weren’t needed for the application-specific products to make it as small as possible, and more importantly, integrated what it needed to lower the external BOM cost and deliver a low-cost implementation from a hardware standpoint.
At the same time, Silicon Labs wanted to improve performance, including radio and processor performance, which it gets from using the Arm 80-MHz Cortex-M33 core. The SoCs also support several protocol stacks, developed in-house, including Bluetooth, Thread, and ZigBee and can run two protocols at the same time, delivering greater device flexibility.
A key differentiator is the radio performance, said Maupin, touting the highest-performing radio than any die on the market. The radios offer very high output power up to 20 dBm, which is the maximum for a lot of these technologies, he said, along with very good receive sensitivity, and improved Wi-Fi blocking for higher reliability.
>> Read the full article originally published on our sister site, Electronic Products: "Silicon Labs unveils next-gen Wireless Gecko SoC platform."