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Thursday, February 22, 2018

ST launches multiprotocol Bluetooth 5 mesh and 802.15.4 IoT chip

By Nick Flaherty

STMicroelectronics has launched a dual core wireless chip that supports both Bluetooth 5 and 802.15.4 Zigbee/Thread protocols.

The STM32WB wireless System-on-Chip (SoC) devices combine a fully-featured Arm Cortex-M4-based microcontroller to run the main application as well as an Arm Cortex-M0+ core to offload the main processor and offer real time operation on the BLE5 and IEEE 802.15.4 radio. The radio can also run other wireless protocols concurrently, including OpenThread, ZigBee, or proprietary protocols, giving even more options for connecting devices to the Internet of Things (IoT).

This allows the developer to manage the user application and the radio separately for optimum performance and with the higher performance of an M4 and up to 1MByte of flash memory. 

The chip also includes the balun for connecting to the antenna, which engineers must usually design themselves with multiple components, as well as hardware encryption and customer-key storage for brand and IP protection.

The 2.4GHz radio consumes only 5.5mA in transmit mode, and as little as 3.8mA when receiving. The STM32WB has an RF link budget of -102dBm and is capable of +6dBm output power.

The new devices use the STM32 digital and analogue peripherals such as timers, ultra-low-power comparators, 12/16-bit SAR ADC, a capacitive touch controller, LCD controller, and industry-standard connectivity including crystal-less USB 2.0 FS, I2C, SPI, SAI audio interface, and a Quad-SPI supporting execution in place.

“The STM32WB series delivers the advanced integration and uncompromising dual-core performance that developers now need to meet relentless end-user demands for even better and more affordable smart connected objects,” said Michel Buffa, Group Vice President, Microcontroller Division General Manager at STMicroelectronics. “Moreover, compatibility with the STM32 development ecosystem brings design advantages that can significantly reduce time to market for new products like lights, fitness trackers, medical monitors, beacons, tags, security devices, and many others.”

The M0+ core suppots certified protocol stacks including ST’s OpenThread stack and the Bluetooth 5 stack with Mesh 1.0 support, which comes with multiple profiles. The radio’s generic HCI and Media Access Control (MAC) layer gives developers the flexibility to use their own choice of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) stack, or other IEEE 802.15.4 proprietary stacks.

State-of-the-art protection features -- essential to protect users’ data and help product vendors protect their intellectual property in all smart connected devices -- include embedded customer-key storage, an elliptic curve encryption engine for Public Key Authentication (PKA), and hardware support for AES 256-bit cryptography. Vendors can also future-proof products in the field, leveraging Secure Firmware Update (SFU) and support for Root Secure Service (RSS) to authenticate Over the Air (OTA) updates.

To assist development, the STM32WB platform is served by a dedicated connectivity tool, STM32CubeMonitor-RF, which simplifies radio testing. Users can also take advantage of the STM32CubeMX pinout/clock configurator and code generator, as well as peripheral drivers, middleware, code examples, and a dedicated STM32 Nucleo board to accelerate time to market.

STM32WB devices will be available in a choice of 48-pin UQFN, 68-pin VQFN, or 100-pin WLCSP with up to 72 general-purpose I/Os (GPIO). Each can be specified with any of three memory configurations, giving a choice of 256KB Flash and 128KB RAM, 512KB-Flash/256KB-RAM, or 1MB-Flash/256KB-RAM. 

Engineering samples of the STM32WB in packages up to 100-pin WLCSP will begin sampling to lead customers in Q1 2018, priced from $1.56 for high-volume orders.
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