Low-power wireless MCUs for the Internet of Things

11th December 2013
Nat Bowers

Enhancing its 8-bit Si10xx wireless microcontroller family, Silicon Labs announce two new options optimised for cost-sensitive and performance-intensive designs. Featuring industry-leading RF performance and the lowest overall power consumption in their class, the Si106x and Si108x MCUs are ideal for home automation, security and access control, sensor networks, asset tracking and long-range control applications for the Internet of Things.

Supporting worldwide frequency bands from 142 MHz to 1050 MHz, the Si106x and Si108x wireless MCUs combine Silicon Labs' ultra-low-power MCU technology and sub-GHz EZRadio and EZRadioPRO transceivers in a single-chip solution to meet the low energy and RF connectivity requirements of the IoT. By integrating an energy-efficient 8051 MCU and a sub-GHz RF transceiver into a 5 mm x 6 mm QFN package, Silicon Labs has developed the highest performance and smallest wireless MCU solutions on the market. With the single-chip integration and small package helping to reduce system cost, design complexity, board size and component count, the Si106x/8x MCUs are ideal for space-constrained applications that require wireless connectivity as well as ultra-low power for long battery life.

The integrated EZRadioPRO transceiver offers greater sensitivity (-126 dBm) and higher output power (+20 dBm) for longer-range applications, as well as resulting in resulting 146 dB link budget to maximise wireless range and 60 dB adjacent channel selectivity with 12.5 kHz channel spacing to ensure robust operation in harsh RF conditions. It operates over fequencies in all major bands up to 1050 MHz and supports data rates from 100 bps to 1 Mbps. Designed to comply with the industry’s most stringent wireless standards including FCC, ETSI and ARIB, the EZRadio transceiver provides a higher wireless performance, more cost-effective and higher-value solution for the majority of embedded wireless designs and other more demanding connected device applications.

Geir Førre, senior vice president and general manager of Microcontroller products, at Silicon Labs, commented: “Offering an unparalleled combination of extreme energy efficiency, industry-leading RF performance and link budget, and the smallest package size in its class, the Si106x/8x wireless MCU family provides an ideal sub-GHz connectivity solution for space-constrained, power-sensitive wireless applications. The new wireless MCU family also gives developers the flexibility of choosing cost-effective and high-performance options, backed by a wireless development suite that brings unprecedented simplicity and ease of use to wireless design.”

The most energy-efficient sub-GHz wireless MCUs available, the Si106x/8x family features ultra-low power consumption when the radio is active, 18 mA when transmitting at +10 dBm and 10.7 mA in low-power receive mode. The MCUs include low power modes in order to allow dramatically reduced power consumption when the radio is idle or off: 30 nA shutdown, 50 nA standby and 600 nA in sleep mode. Enabling operation down to 0.9 V for single-cell battery operation, both wireless MCU family options have built-in dc-dc boost support to reduced system cost while extending the life of battery-powered products.

Available with +13 dBm or +20 dBm maximum output power, the Si106x/8x wireless MCU family supports a range of device configurations including a choice of cost-effective EZRadio and high-performance EZRadioPRO transceivers, flash memory scaling from 8 to 64 kB, and 768 bytes to 4 kB of RAM. A priority crossbar decoder improves flexible crossbar configurability  to offer complete control over a variety of functions including a 10-bit analog-to-digital converter, dual comparators, four 16-bit timers as well as UART, SPI and 12C serial interfaces.

Simplifying wireless development support, Silicon Labs offers a rich set of hardware and software tools to accelerate the development with the Si106x/8x wireless MCUs. Featuring two wireless motherboards, two Si106x pico-boards, and all necessary antennas, cables and batteries, the kits are designed to support RF evaluation, range testing and application code development. With an intuitive interface that makes it easy to select design RF parameters and automatically generate the commands needed to configure the wireless MCU with the desired settings, Silicon Labs’ Wireless Development Suite greatly simplifies radio configuration for the entire Si106x/8x wireless MCU family. It can also ease RF evaluation and range testing while providing code examples that accelerate application development.

Supplied in a 36-pin 5 mm x 6 mm QFN package, the Si106x/8x wireless MCUs are available now for sampling and in production quantities with prices starting at $2.25 (USD) each in 10,000-unit quantities. Silicon Labs is also offering six wireless MCU development kits, spanning the 434 to 915 MHz frequency range. They are available now for $299 (USD) each (MSRP).

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