Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mesh networking module simplifies Thread and ZigBee IoT connectivity

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Silicon Labs has used the Gecko low power wireless technology it acquired with Energy Micro to develop a family of modules that support Zigbee and the Thread IoT protocol. 

The MGM111 module is the first in this comprehensive family of multiprotocol modules based on the Mighty Gecko system-on-chip (SoC) device. The MGM111 module is supported by Silicon Labs’ mesh protocol stacks and wireless software development tools. The module’s combination of onboard stacks, antenna options and RF regulatory certifications helps developers reduce cost, complexity and time to market for an array of mesh networking applications including home and building automation, connected lighting, smart metering, security systems and other IoT platforms.

The MGM111 module gives developers a rapid on-ramp to the IoT, enabling them to bring mesh networking products to market quickly and easily with minimal engineering and certification costs. Mighty Gecko modules and wireless SoCs have similar technical features and application programming interfaces (APIs). This hardware and software compatibility makes it easy to migrate from modules to SoCs while enabling developers to preserve their investments in tools and software with little to no system redesign.

The MGM111 module combines a 2.4 GHz Mighty Gecko SoC, high-efficiency chip antenna, crystals, and RF matching and shielding into a complete, ready-to-use mesh networking module supporting ZigBee and Thread protocol stacks. This high level of integration frees developers from complex RF/antenna design and testing and allows them to focus on their end applications. The MGM111 module complies with the IEEE 802.15.4 standard used in ZigBee and Thread stacks and will be pre-certified for compliance with the following regulatory requirements: FCC (North America), IC (Canada), CE (Europe), RCM (AU/NZ) and KC (Korea).

“As the market leader in mesh networking silicon and software, Silicon Labs offers more than a decade of leadership in developing and certifying standards-based mesh networking solutions,” said Skip Ashton, VP of IoT software at Silicon Labs and a member of the board of directors for the ZigBee Alliance and the Thread Group. “Our customers rely on our deep understanding of mesh technology and RF certification. They also appreciate that we offer the tools and stacks they need to simplify the development process, as well as an upgrade path that safeguards their IoT products from being stranded on older technologies and standards.”

Silicon Labs has shipped more than 100 million mesh networking SoCs and modules to customers worldwide. A long-time member of the ZigBee Alliance, Silicon Labs is the leading provider of silicon solutions running ZigBee PRO mesh networking software. In addition, Silicon Labs is a founding member of the Thread Group and has been instrumental in defining and developing the Thread software specification.

The MGM111 module comes in a compact 12.9 mm x 15 mm package that is footprint- and pin-compatible with Silicon Labs’ BGM111 Blue Gecko module supporting Bluetooth low energy technology. This compatibility eases migration and enables developers to support multiple wireless protocols with a common, future-proven system design.

The MGM111 module is supported by Silicon Labs’ Simplicity Studio development platform, a comprehensive suite of development and debugging tools that accelerates IoT product design. Key Simplicity Studio tools include AppBuilder, allowing developers to easily configure wireless applications while ensuring software reuse across designs based on Wireless Gecko technology; Network Analyzer, providing full visibility and debugging of wireless networking activity by using the module’s packet trace port; and Energy Profiler, enabling developers to minimize the energy consumption of their code and extend battery life.

The module uses a 40 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 core and 256 kB flash and 32 kB RAM and supports AES, ECC and SHA algorithms with a hardware cryptography accelerator as well as standalone or network co-processor (NCP) architectures. With up to +10 dBm transmit power, the radio consumes only 9.8 mA (receive mode) and 8.2 mA @ 0 dBm (transmit mode). 

Pre-production samples of the MGM111 Mighty Gecko module are available now for engineering evaluation and prototyping, and volume quantities are planned for Q4 when certifications are expected to be complete. 

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