MCUs feature support for BLE & IEEE 802.15.4 applications

22nd June 2015
Siobhan O'Gorman

A wireless MCU family with support for Bluetooth Smart/BLE and IEEE 802.15.4 applications has been released by Freescale Semiconductor. The KW40Z MCUs integrate a 2.4GHz multi-protocol radio that provides the ability to access one BLE network and one 802.15.4 network from a single device while achieving strong RF performance and low current consumption. 

The low-power radio runs in receive mode at 6.5mA with excellent co-existence characteristics, and provides years of operation on standard coin cell batteries. An integrated DC/DC converter configurable for buck or boost operation optimises power consumption, and the devices also incorporate a high precision DAC and a 16-bit ADC for highly accurate sensor measurement for wireless sensor networks.

Freescale support for the KW40Z MCU family includes a comprehensive software package that helps speed and simplify development for customers. It includes a royalty-free Freescale BLE host stack with 20 GATT profiles and is fully compliant to the BLE 4.1 specification. In addition, the BLE stack is planned to support the upcoming Bluetooth Smart Mesh networking protocol. The family also includes an 802.15.4 MAC layer as the foundation for ZigBee 3.0 and the highly anticipated Thread IP-based mesh networking protocol. All stacks support over-the-air firmware updates and are fully integrated into the Kinetis SDK with support for multiple RTOS options, including FreeRTOS and Freescale MQX.

The BLE and 802.15.4 protocols are increasingly important to the continued evolution of the IoT. Demand continues to grow for power-efficient BLE functionality in the health and fitness wearables market, which includes fast-growing product categories such as smart watches, beacons and portable accessories that communicate with consumer’s smartphones and other wireless devices. Meanwhile, the 802.15.4 standard has been widely adopted as the premier ultra-low power, low-cost, mesh networking technology for home automation applications, with the possibility of more growth ahead due to increased adoption in commercial and industrial applications such as lighting and building automation. With a capability to reach extended temperature ranges from -40 up to +105C, the KW40Z family is a suitable choice for applications with increasingly rugged operating requirements.

“The KW40Z MCU family reinforces Freescale’s MCU technology leadership and adds the very latest in BLE and 802.15.4 solutions for the IoT space including silicon, software and reference designs,” said Emmanuel Sambuis, Director of MCUs, Microcontroller Group, Freescale. “Our first of many BLE-enabled products provides customers the multi-protocol functionality and secure connectivity they need to connect and control products in multiple markets, helping the IoT realise its potential.”

“There is a clear trend toward connectivity across a broad range of markets with low-power protocol stacks predicted to exhibit very strong growth,” commented Tom Hackenberg, Embedded Processing Principal Analyst, IHS Technology. “Low-power connectivity isn’t specific to consumer wearable devices, but as these devices proliferate, growing interest in smart building and home automation applications will spark new opportunities linking a wider variety of networks and devices. A robust development platform including a MCU that can support the Bluetooth and 802.15.4 connectivity protocols can keep product line development overhead down, as well as open the door to a host of future emerging IoT applications.”

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