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Silicon Labs chip lets IoT devices operate at multiple frequencies

Steve Rogerson
July 7, 2016

Texas chip company Silicon Labs has launched a multiband, multiprotocol wireless system-on-chip (SoC) for the IoT market. The Wireless Gecko SoCs let developers use the same multiprotocol device for operation in 2.4GHz and multiple sub-GHz bands, simplifying connected device designs, reducing cost and complexity, and speeding time to market.
The SoCs are suitable for IoT connectivity products in application areas such as building and home automation, smart metering, security, health and fitness monitoring, connected lighting, electronic shelf labels and asset tracking.
They are designed to support standards-based and proprietary 2.4GHz protocols for short-range connectivity and proprietary sub-GHz protocols for long-range connectivity. A single hardware design can support multiple connectivity scenarios based on the firmware and software running on the SoC.
This flexible architecture enables developers to work with one set of software tools while supporting proprietary stacks and standard protocols such as Zigbee, Thread and Bluetooth Low Energy. They also let developers future-proof their designs.
Next-generation connected device products can embed a combination of protocols such as Bluetooth to commission and configure devices with a smartphone or tablet and sub-GHz protocols to communicate over long-range star networks.
The portfolio has three SoC families for real-world IoT use cases and the most popular wireless protocols. The Mighty Gecko family supports Zigbee, Thread and Bluetooth LE connectivity at 2.4GHz and proprietary protocols in both 2.4GHz and sub-GHz bands. The Blue Gecko family supports Bluetooth LE connectivity at 2.4GHz and proprietary protocols in 2.4GHz and sub-GHz bands. And the Flex Gecko family supports flexible proprietary wireless protocols in 2.4GHz and sub-GHz bands for diverse applications.
“The IoT is a very dynamic market, with new applications, use cases, protocols and frequency band options emerging and driving explosive growth of connected device products,” said Daniel Cooley, general manager of IoT products at Silicon Labs. “Multiband, multiprotocol Wireless Gecko SoCs meet the needs of today’s fast-changing IoT market by giving developers the flexibility to choose the right standards-based or proprietary wireless technologies and frequency bands for their connected device designs.”
The company’s Simplicity Studio development environment contains a library of software tools and access to protocol stacks to simplify connected device designs. Silicon Labs provides certified, market-proven Zigbee, Thread and Bluetooth LE stacks for 2.4GHz connectivity use cases, as well as wireless software for proprietary wireless networks. Radio abstraction interface layer software eases the complexity of proprietary development by simplifying radio configuration and enabling developers to migrate their application code across all Wireless Gecko SoCs.
The company’s latest wireless networking software is the Connect stack for proprietary applications. Optimised for low-power devices, this IEEE 802.15.4-based stack supports sub-GHz and 2.4GHz frequency bands and regulatory compliance across geographic regions.
The software abstracts low-level details of network formation and radio configuration, enabling developers to focus on their applications. It provides software portability across devices and platforms, allows developers to customise stack features, and includes sample applications that give developers a starting point for their designs. The stack supports: point-to-point, star and extended star network topologies; many combinations of radio modulation, frequencies and data rates; all mac layer functions such as scanning, network forming and joining; multiple devices types; and encryption and authentication of data packets.
Samples of multiband Wireless Gecko SoCs are available in 5 by 5 mm QFN32 and 7 by 7 mm QFN48 packages; production quantities are planned for the third quarter of 2016.