For Internet of Things (iOT) devices, one of the the most important aspect of the product could be the Wi-Fi chip. If the Wi-Fi design causes lags or grey outs, the device will appear not to work properly. Consumers who use smartphones, have come to expect fast data connections that are latency free and “Just Work!”.
Wi-Fi has become an important part of people’s lives. The average home has more than 5 devices on the network, and that number will continue to grow, says IDC research. The number of connected devices will reach 38.5 billion in 2020, reported Juniper Research. With so many devices available to the public, designers will need to safeguard their designs for many situations. According to a study by the Wi-Fi Alliance, nearly three quarters of Americans say always having access to Wi-Fi is important in their daily life, and more than two thirds indicate they would be annoyed if they didn’t have access to uninterrupted Wi-Fi. In fact, a good Wi-Fi connection is so important to some Americans that they would consider changing hotels, homes, stores, and even airlines or restaurants if the Wi-Fi connection was bad.
Device manufacturers/builders or makers will be happy to know that you can greatly improve your user experience if you look for the 10 most important features from a Wi-Fi vendor. Through the years we have been advising hardware developers, we have found that you when designers looking out for the past, present and future needs of their customers their products are more successful and powerful.
Wi-Fi that supports dual-band is becoming more important as the ISM band gets crowded. There are many devices that use the ISM band 2.4Ghz zigbee, ANT+, Bluetooth and 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi all share the ISM band among other things. It is like a giant data traffic jam out there and 2.4GHz freeway. Therefore it makes sense to the 5Ghz car pool lane. Dual-band is especially important in crowded places as airports, hotels and densely populated office buildings.
If you’re doing an audio/video Wi-Fi application you need a good Wi-Fi radio with support for a larger data throughput. The most common data throughput requirements for audio and video streaming applications range from 3-20 Mbps. You can test for this data throughput using a free tool at www.ampedrftech.com Go to the download section and sign up to get access to the test tools. Outside of this range you will be either too slow; above you will be wasteful.
You don’t want to be in the position of having your product fail multiple certification efforts due to noisy RF or other problems Be sure to look for a Wi-Fi chip that has history of passing FCC and the difficult CE certifications. Passing country RF regulator certifications will allow you to plan for production roll out . You can save yourself some time and money and ask if the company has been successful with the kinds of certifications you need the most.
There is a fine line between range and power, your device may need extended range for certain applications. You’ll need a Wi-Fi controller with good range but it may come at the cost of battery drain. We find that with our customers there is a sweet spot of a range vs data throughput. Determine this balance early on in your project to set yourself up for success.
You’ll want to check to see if the chip supports both Linux and/or embedded stack implementation. You’ll also want to be sure that the stack can be modified easily to accommodate your particular requirements. Then you’ll need to plan to be able to get into the stack code to make modification should you need to. It is imperative that your supplier has the able to modify the stack source code.
Some Wi-Fi radios are designed with routers and network devices in mind. These radios consume too much power and also get hot. A great rule of thumb is that if your chip seems to be on the big size it’s likely it was first intended to be used in a router. For large chips, you’ll need a big heat-sink and an overall bigger design which may make the device bigger than needed or useful.
Leading on from the size discussions above; these older router chips need more external FLASH memory to function. This adds to the overall BOM cost of your design. Find out if your choice of Wi-Fi chip needs external memory and make sure to account for that additional cost to your BOM.
Over-the-Air Update Features (OTA)
The ability to use the Wi-Fi module radio to perform an Over-The-Air downloading of new Wi-Fi stack features is very important.