Multi-standard ultra-low-power wireless MCUs for the IoT - Embedded.com

Multi-standard ultra-low-power wireless MCUs for the IoT

We certainly do live in interesting times. Low-power wireless connected Internet of Things (IoT) applications are springing up all over the place, from the home to stores and factories and cities (e.g., lighting and the smart grid), along with other application areas like health and fitness, with everything being connected — storing, retrieving, and sharing data — through the cloud.

One of the simplest and nicest graphics I've seen representing this was created by the folks at Texas Instruments (TI) as shown below.

The reason I mention this is that the guys and gals at TI recently announced their SimpleLink ultra-low-power microcontroller (MCU) platform for the IoT. Although they are tiny, these little rascals pack a punch when it comes to capability and performance (the MCUs, not the folks from TI).

SimpleLink MCUs can provide multi-year, always-on operation powered only by a coin-cell battery. In addition to a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 processor core and an on-chip radio, they also boast a wide variety of peripheral functions, on-chip memory (Flash, cache, and SRAM), and an on-chip low-power sensor controller engine.

Members of the SimpleLink MCU family provide code and pin compatibility across multiple wireless standards: Bluetooth Smart, 6LoWPAN, ZigBee, Sub-1 GHz, ZigBee RF4CE, and proprietary modes up to 5Mbps.

The CC2640 provides a low-power Flash-based Bluetooth 4.1 solution with multi-year operation on smaller coin cells. This finger-tip-sized one-chip system integrates a Flash-based MCU with a Bluetooth Smart radio. The robust, royalty-free software stack provides over-the-air update capability to support evolving standards and changes in application requirements.

The CC2630 is targeted at 6LoWPAN/ZigBee-based systems. Thousands of nodes can be connected in mesh networks in homes, buildings, and cities with a portfolio of IEEE 8-2.15.4-based solutions. Each device includes an IPv6 address, and they can be easily connected to the Internet and the cloud through 6LoWPAN operation.

By comparison, the CC2650 boast multi-standard support. These devices provide the flexibility to develop Flash-based solutions that support multiple wireless technologies — Bluetooth Smart, 6LoWPAN, ZigBee, and FR4CE — with the same architecture. This makes it possible to go into production without locking-in a selection, and to then configure the chosen technology when the system is deployed to the field.

There are a number of development kits to help users get started fast. The CC2650DK development kit — available now — provides a full-featured emulator for development and debugging. This single kit covers all 2.4GHz standards with royalty-free software.

The CC2650-based SensorTag kit — also available now — provides a sensor-based development kit for IoT applications. There are free apps for iOS and Android, and the folks at TI boast that you can get connected to the cloud in just three minutes.

Furthermore, coming in the second half of this year will be a selection of LaunchPads and BoosterPacks — low-cost MCU evaluation kits and plug-in modules for quick development — that will leverage the existing TI MCU ecosystem.

For more information, click here to visit the SimpleLink home page on the TI website.


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