Communications

SoCs suit smart energy and home automation designs

24th February 2014
Nat Bowers

Expanding the company's ARM-based Ember ZigBee SoC portfolio for the IoT, Silicon Labs’ EM358x SoC family provides additional flash and RAM memory options. Meeting the needs of more complex smart energy and home automation designs, the SoCs also offer USB connectivity and a local storage bootloader to help reduce BOM costs and system complexity.

The EM358x SoCs offer a suitable mesh networking platform for feature-rich, next-generation ZigBee applications for the IoT, which can often incorporate multiple processors. The family consists of six SoCs which combine a 2.4GHz IEEE 802.15.4 RF transceiver, an ARM Cortex-M3 processor, 256 or 512kB of flash memory, 32 or 64kB of RAM and powerful hardware-supported network-level debugging features. The additional memory can eliminate the requirement for a separate system processor. This enables developers to collapse some or all of their multi-processor designs into a single ZigBee SoC, resulting in reduced BOM costs and reduced size of the final product. Smart energy applications, such as smart meters, often require more code space to store new firmware and additional RAM. With larger flash and RAM memory options, the SoCs enable developers to future-proof these applications with product lifespans of up to 20 years.

An on-chip USB peripheral simplifies system programming and eliminates the need for an external USB controller, further reducing system cost. The USB port can also be used to download new firmware images onto the device, reducing maintenance cost. The local storage bootloader eases application development and enables the embedded software to be field-upgraded after the Ember ZigBee-enabled product leaves the factory. This capability eliminates the need for external flash memory to support over-the-air upgrade images by using the SoC’s on-chip flash to store firmware images for bootloading. Additionally, this enables smart meters or security sensors based on EM358x SoCs to be easily field-upgraded as new platform features are deployed.

Geir Førre, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Microcontroller and Wireless Products, Silicon Labs, comments: “Ember ZigBee SoCs provide a key enabling wireless technology for the Internet of Things with numerous applications in smart energy, home automation, connected lighting and security. By offering more memory and connectivity options, our EM358x SoCs make it easier and more cost-effective to deploy ZigBee in a wide range of home automation and smart energy applications.”

Pin- and software-compatible drop-in replacements for the company’s EM351 and EM357 ZigBee SoCs, the EM358x SoCs are supplied with compatible cross-platform software libraries and tools for easy migration. They also complement Silicon Labs’ portfolio of EZRadio and EZRadioPRO sub-GHz transceivers and Si10xx wireless MCUs. Available in a 48-pin 7x7mm package, the EM358x Ember ZigBee SoCs are sampling now, with production quantities planned for Q2 2014.

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