Wireless drives into industrial

Paul Boughton

Several new wireless chips are focussing on industrial applications in the unlicensed radio bands.

Microsemi has developed an ultra low-power (ULP) radio frequency (RF) transceiver with an extended temperature operating range of -40˚C to 85˚C for short-range wireless sensor products used in industrial applications.

The ZL70251 can also be used in unlicensed frequency bands ranging from 779-965 megahertz (MHz), which broadens the scope of operation from the previously supported North American (915MHz) and Europe (868MHz) bands to include China’s 779-787MHz radio frequency spectrum.

“Extending the temperature range of our industry-leading low-power consumption radio allows us to address increasing demand for M2M low power nodes used in automation and industrial control applications,” said Francois Pelletier, product marketing director of Microsemi’s ULP product group. “Increasing our frequency band parameters also enable to broaden our geographic footprint and capitalize on growing market opportunities in China.”

The ZL70251 is fully functional over the industrial temperature range, while still delivering the industry’s lowest peak power at 2mA in both transmit and receive mode. This performance enables extremely low-power wireless nodes to operate in harsh environments. It is offered in a compact 3mm x 2mm chip scale package (CSP) and requires only two external components, which makes it ideal for products with space constraints.

A suite of ZL70251 product development support tools are available, including an application development kit (ADK), a low-power wireless communication software code starter for point-to-point connections and wireless sensor reference designs based on coin cell batteries.

The new device is sampling now and will reach full production status in July 2013.

Microchip has also announces a major expansion of its 2.4GHz embedded wireless portfolio from Bluetooth to WiFi and, for the first time, adding Zibgee.

The Bluetooth additions include the PIC32 Bluetooth Audio Development Kit, featuring modules, stacks and CODECs, and XBee footprint-compatible socket modules with integrated stacks.

The new Wi-Fi offerings comprise IEEE 802.11b/g Wi-Fi modules with Microchip’s free source-code TCP/IP stack running on a PIC microcontroller for greater configurability, as well as XBee footprint-compatible socket modules with integrated stacks for ease of use. Microchip is also adding a low-power 2.4 GHz radio that supports, for the first time in one chip, both the IEEE 802.15.4 and proprietary data rates (from 125 kbps to 2 Mbps), including the ZigBee, MiWi and other proprietary protocols.

The parts are aimed at the many wireless-network designs that need to operate with very low power consumption. Examples include battery-powered home and industrial automation wireless-sensor mesh networks, as well as ZigBee RF4CE-standard-based remote controls. Microchip’s next-generation, 2.4 GHz IEEE 802.15.4MRF24XA transceiver radio provides a very low operating voltage range of 1.5 to 3.6V and receive power consumption of only 13 mA, which enables years of battery life.

Some designers want an easy way to migrate their 802.15.4 designs to either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, in order to make them accessible from smart phones and tablets, or to add Internet connectivity. This includes applications such as wireless sensor networks, remote monitoring/control and measurement, and M2M cable replacements for home, commercial and industrial networks. The RN XV series of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth socket modules provide agency-certified, drop-in connectivity for any XBee socket. To simplify designs, the stacks are integrated on the module, configured via simple ASCII commands, and can easily connect to any MCU via a serial interface.

Other designers want to add more extensible Wi-Fi functionality, such as a complete Web server and email, via a configurable source-code TCP/IP stack that is resident on one of many PIC microcontrollers. The new low-power and agency-certified MRF24WG0MA/MB modules connect at all IEEE 802.11b/g data rates, up to 54Mbps, and are Microchip’s first to support a sustained throughput of 5Mbps. This provides a footprint-compatible migration path for users of Microchip’s existing Wi-Fi modules who need greater speed or increased access-point compatibility, in addition to more features.

The MRF24XA 2.4GHz IEEE 802.15.4 transceiver is sampling today in a 32-pin QFN package. It is supported by the MRF24XA PICtail/PICtail Plus Daughter Board (AC164152-1) priced at $24.95. The XBee footprint-compatible, 20-lead RN41XVC and RN42XVP Bluetooth socket modules, as well as the RN171XVW, RN171XVS and RN171XVU Wi-Fi socket modules, are all available today These socket modules are supported by the Evaluation Kit for RN XV Series (RN-XV-EK1) which is available now, priced at $24.95. The 36-pin MRF24WG0MA and MRF24WG0MB Wi-Fi modules are available today. They can be evaluated using the Wi-Fi G Demo Board (DV102412) priced at $50.00; and the MRF24WG0MA PICtail/PICtail Plus Daughter Board (AC164149), priced at $35.

For more information, visit www.microchip.com/get/J2XU