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Software combines Bluetooth and Zigbee via smartphone app

Steve Rogerson
November 9, 2017



Multiprotocol wireless software from Texas-based Silicon Labs is said to advance IoT connectivity by enhancing Zigbee mesh networking with Bluetooth beaconing and direct connectivity through smartphone apps.
 
The dynamic multiprotocol software for the firm’s wireless Gecko systems-on-chip (SoCs) and modules enables simultaneous operation of Zigbee and Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) on a single SoC, bringing together the benefits of both protocols. This can enable advanced functionality for IoT applications without incurring the complexity and hardware cost of a two-chip architecture, thereby reducing wireless subsystem cost and size by up to 40 per cent.
 
Dynamic multiprotocol software lets users commission, update, control and monitor Zigbee mesh networks directly over Bluetooth with smartphone apps. The software also makes it easier to deploy scalable indoor location-based service infrastructure by extending Zigbee-based connected lighting and building automation systems with Bluetooth beacons. By adding Bluetooth LE features to Zigbee mesh networks, developers can create IoT applications that are easier to deploy, use and update.
 
“Multiprotocol technology is the future of wireless connectivity for the IoT,” said Nico Jonkers, senior vice president at Schneider Electric. “Silicon Labs’ multiprotocol software and wireless Gecko SoCs enable Schneider Electric to create products that support Bluetooth LE and a variety of mesh wireless standards.”
 
He said this flexibility let consumers and installers use familiar tools such as smartphones and tablets to interact with connected devices for installation and updates while maintaining the integrity of Zigbee mesh networks.
 
“Our smart home offering, Wiser, takes full advantage of this flexibility to deliver simple installation and a robust mesh network,” he said.
 
In residential lighting, consumers can use smartphone apps to simplify device installation and setup. Commercial lighting systems based on Zigbee can be extended to transmit Bluetooth beacons to enable indoor location services or asset tracking. Installers and maintenance teams can commission Zigbee devices, update software or perform diagnostics on a specific device via a Bluetooth smartphone or tablet. End users can use smartphones to control a group of lights and receive beacons to assist with indoor navigation.
 
IoT products can connect to popular home automation platforms and voice assistants that support Zigbee while also supporting direct connectivity to smartphones for setup and local control and monitoring. For example, a connected door lock could be remotely accessed via the mesh network and unlocked locally via a smartphone app. Bluetooth beacons that include location could be used to enhance smartphone apps and provide additional context for automation applications.
 
Commercial building automation systems powered by Zigbee can be extended, enabling employee interaction using Bluetooth enabled smartphones, tablets or smart tags. For example, connected HVAC systems could automatically adjust based on occupancy or user preferences set in employee profiles. Silicon Labs’ multiprotocol wireless technology can simplify the implementation of beacon infrastructure and transform buildings into connected, intelligent spaces.
 
“Leveraging our wireless Gecko SoCs and modules with dynamic multiprotocol software, developers can transform connected devices into intelligent, multifunction applications that drive automation, accelerate smart device adoption and deliver next-generation capabilities for the IoT,” said Daniel Cooley, senior vice president at Silicon Labs. “Providing multiprotocol Zigbee and Bluetooth connectivity on a single chip also reduces design costs, simplifies software development, improves life-cycle management and accelerates time to market.”
 
The software is powered by optimised wireless protocol stacks and a radio scheduler running on Micrium OS. The software development kit is available in Simplicity Studio and includes a connected lighting demo supported on selected wireless Gecko starter kits and mobile app reference designs.