Silicon Labs' recently-released collection of ZigBee-based reference designs will help manufacturers reduce their time to market by simplifying the development of ZigBee-based home automation, connected lighting, and smart gateway products. Equally important, Silicon Labs’ attention to standards should help solve many of the subtle but irritating interoperability problems that have plagued some earlier ZigBee-based products.
The company says that the reference designs for the ZigBee-based LED controllers, dimmable switch, contact sensor, and smart gateway are the first in a series of turnkey IoT solutions, which will continue to expand over the next year. Each of the new reference designs includes the hardware, firmware, and software tools that developers need to create interoperable, scalable, feature-rich connected home products based on Silicon Labs’ robust ZigBee “Golden Unit” Home Automation (HA 1.2) software stack and ZigBee system-on-chip (SoC) mesh networking technology.
Silicon Labs’ ZigBee connected lighting reference designs feature wireless lighting boards as well as a plug-in demo board suitable for quick demonstrations and testing. The Golden-unit ZigBee stack allows LED lights to reliably join, interoperate, and leave a mesh network, as well as scale from a few to hundreds of light nodes on the same network. The connected lights can support white, color temperature tuning, and RBG color settings, as well as dimming.
Silicon Labs’ ZigBee-based home automation reference designs include a capacitive-sense dimmable light switch and a small-form-factor door/window contact sensor. The light switch provides color, color tuning, and dimming control capabilities that traditional switches cannot achieve. Unlike conventional switches, these wireless, battery-powered switches have no moving parts and are easy to place anywhere in a home. The switch design features Silicon Labs’ EFM8 capacitive sensing MCU to detect different user gestures (touch, hold and swipe). The contact sensor reference design provides all the tools needed to create wireless, battery-powered sensors used to monitor door and window positions (open or closed) – a useful feature for automatically triggering room lighting.
Silicon Labs offers developers two ZigBee gateway options to complement the reference designs: a plug-and-play USB virtual gateway that works with any PC development platform and supports the Windows, OS X, and Linux environments as a virtual machine; or an “out-of-the-box” Wi-Fi/Ethernet gateway reference design based on an embedded Linux computer system. Both gateway options allow developers to control and monitor ZigBee HA 1.2 compliant end nodes through Wi-Fi with any device with a Web browser, such as a smartphone or tablet. Using an intuitive, Web-based user interface, developers can easily create rules between ZigBee end devices including lights, dimmable light switches, and contact sensors.