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Technologies That Drive Communication Devices

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Technologies That Drive Communication Devices

Personal networking connections. Unny says, “An exciting new development is Bluetooth mesh networking, which will allow Internet of Things (IoT) devices to be connected using Bluetooth, over large networks.”

ZigBee modules also provide a system to connect a mesh network. These often provide dedicated software, which provides a user-friendly graphical interface in configuring the modules. “Serial data monitoring with data logging, wireless range test applications, framing data packets, discovering neighbouring ZigBee modules and forming mesh networks with drag-and-drop configuration are some additional features,” adds Kaustubh Karnataki, chief engineer, FluxGen Engineering Technologies.

The high-speed capability of Wi-Fi allows gaming among a group of friends or accessing a private server as some of the non-Internet uses of Wi-Fi. With ever-developing protocols it can also be used for the setup of a private Intranet system, accessible only to specified users.

Low power and cost, high applicability. We have Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity modules, with battery consumption in milli-amperes that find heavy use in IoT applications. XR and ZR modules from Atmel integrate a low-power Bluetooth system on chip (SoC) with an Atmel SMART ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller (MCU) and a Bluetooth transceiver.

“We are excited to bring additional BLE solutions to the rapidly-growing wearable and IoT markets. Catering to wireless application designers of all levels, these give designers the critical tools to quickly and easily integrate Bluetooth Smart systems and connectivity,” says Bert Fransis, senior product marketing manager – Bluetooth Solutions, Atmel Corp.

CC3200 SimpleLink Wi-Fi and IoT solution, a single-chip wireless MCU, is another Wi-Fi module from Texas Instruments. This well-established module consists of an integrated MCU, reducing the need of peripherals. ARM core based Nordic nRF51822 and 8051 based TC CC2540 are other options.

Such products allow designers with no/less prior Bluetooth or RF design experience to add BLE connectivity to their designs. The new modules add to the existing BLE solutions, giving designers additional options to select from, cost-effective, ultra-small modules that require an external antenna or from fully FCC/CE/IC-certified modules with integrated antennae.

Comparing these BLE chips to the time when we carefully switched off Bluetooth after every use seems overkill.

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Multiple applications in a small form factor. A major trend has been the integration of multiple technologies into a single chip. Anand agrees, “Today we are merging at least two technologies together like BLE+RF or BLE+Wi-Fi.” Multiple chipsets on a single chip reduce integration of several different components and also bill of materials.

LILY-W1 is a single-band 802.11n 2.4GHz Wi-Fi transceiver module from U-Blox. It provides Wi-Fi connectivity to a very broad range of products, along with LTE connectivity. Sized at 10mm×14mm, this module supports connectivity through secure digital input output (SDIO) or universal serial bus (USB), and can operate concurrently in client and micro-access point modes.

Bluetooth Smart with handy NFC. NINA-B1 BLE (Bluetooth Smart), a standalone module with integrated NFC capability, was recently announced by U-Blox. Comprising an antenna, radio transceiver, an embedded ARM Cortex M4F MCU and a BLE stack, the chip is design-ready for applications. The application memory of 512kB flash and 64kB RAM allows for future firmware upgrades to be performed over the air.

Other strong competitors like Texas Instruments CC2540, 2541 and 2564 have been popular in the market for quite some time now. Featuring an 8051 processor, 256kB flash and 8kB RAM, these handy chipsets support a 12-bit ADC, comparator, temperature sensor and battery monitor, hence reducing the cost on several peripherals.

Data transfer speed. Manufacturers have been trying to increase data transfer speeds for a while now. Entities like Intel, Qualcomm and Hitachi are working on yet another faster Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ad. With an ideal speed of about 7Gbps, transmission speeds are expected to reach a new high.

In recent news, Intel and Qualcomm claim to have gotten their respective 802.11ad (WiGig) chips and antennae to successfully link up. This offers speeds of up to 4.6Gbps under ideal conditions. Intel WiGig is very handy in removing the hassle of wires all over the desk. A docking station supports an Ethernet port and connectivity for an external Internet connection.

Hi-speed NFC. NTAG I2C plus NFC tags from NXP Semiconductors combine a passive NFC interface with a contact I2C interface. Features in the chip include hi-speed transfer, password protection, full memory-access configuration from both interfaces, an originality signature for protection against cloning and four times higher pass-through performance, along with energy-harvesting capabilities.

PN7462 family of single-chip NFC reader solutions from NXP combine a microprocessor with USB, for contact and contactless interfaces. According to a press release by NXP, “It is specifically designed for use in readers in applications including corporate access, hospitality or home banking.”