Microchip Technology strengthens its ZigBee line - Embedded.com

Microchip Technology strengthens its ZigBee line


Microchip Technology's new products include a transceiver, network analyzer and small-footprint protocol.

  • The company's first RF transceiver, the MRF24J40, is a 2.4GHz IEEE 802.15.4 transceiver targeted for the ZigBee protocol—and proprietary wireless protocols—in RF applications requiring low power and excellent RF performance.
  • The ZENA wireless network analyzer tool enables development of ZigBee protocol systems using Microchip's semiconductors.
  • The MiWi protocol is a free, small-footprint protocol developed for customers who do not need ZigBee protocol interoperability but want to use IEEE 802.15.4 transceivers in low-cost peer-to-peer, star and mesh networks. MiWi provides the lowest-cost fully functional network protocol for IEEE 802.15.4 transceivers.

With the MRF24J40 transceiver, Microchip now offers a complete ZigBee protocol platform through the addition of a highly integrated RF transceiver that requires very few external components.

Microchip's radio also offers low power consumption and performance that exceeds all IEEE 802.15.4 specifications, with full Media Access Controller (MAC) support and an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) hardware encryption engine.

Alternative Protocols
Because the ZigBee protocol has grown too large and complex for many applications, a large percentage of the market for IEEE 802.15.4 wireless Personal Area Networking is likely to use alternative, proprietary protocols, such as the MiWi protocol.

Additionally, ZigBee protocol certification is costly and cumbersome for small- and medium-size companies. Microchip's MiWi protocol provides a simpler, lower-cost solution for customers who do not need interoperability but still want to use robust IEEE 802.15.4 radios.

No certification is required for MiWi protocol systems, and the protocol stack is provided under a free license, when the combination of Microchip's microcontrollers and MRF24J40 transceiver is used.

Development Tools
Microchip's new ZENA wireless network analyzer tool (part # DM183023), available now for $129.99, uses a simple graphical interface to configure the free Microchip ZigBee and MiWi protocol stacks.

This enables customers to reduce the code size of the stacks by removing optional features; cuts development time by simplifying the interactions with the stacks; and allows customization of the stack to fit a particular need.

Consisting of both hardware and software, the ZENA wireless network analyzer is an IEEE 802.15.4 protocol analyzer that is capable of decoding ZigBee and MiWi protocol packets—from the lowest layers to the top of the stack (including the security modules). The network-configuration display window allows users to see the traffic in real time, as it travels from one node to another. A session can also be saved to a file, to allow further analysis of all the network traffic. This augments Microchip's existing IEEE 802.15.4 development tools, including the $269.99 PICDEM Z 2.4 GHz Demonstration Kit (part # DM163027-4), which is an easy-to-use evaluation and development platform for IEEE 802.15.4 application designers.

The kit includes all of the hardware, software source code and printed circuit board (PCB) layout files needed to rapidly prototype wireless products. An instructional application note is available on Microchip's Web site at www.microchip.com/zigbee.

This development platform is based on Microchip's PIC18 microcontroller family, which supports IEEE 802.15.4 applications and offers a wide selection of products with 32 Kbytes to 128 Kbytes of Flash program memory in 28- to 100-pin packages.

Microchip's MRF24J40 IEEE 802.15.4 transceiver is available now for samples through Microchip's local sales offices, and production is planned for December. In 10,000-unit quantities, the MRF24J40 starts at $2.99 each in Pb-free/RoHS-compliant, 40-pin, 6×6 mm QFN packages.

Microchip customers can access four main service areas at www.microchip.com.

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