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Atmel solution eases 802.15.4/ZigBee migration

Posted: 30 Jun 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Atmel? AVR Z-Link? 802.15.4? ZigBee?

Atmel Corp. has announced an 802.15.4/ZigBee solution that promises seamless migration to wireless networking for the more than 30,000 AVR-based designs in automotive, industrial, and building control applications.

According to the company, the AVR Z-Link solution includes Atmel's ultralow-power, high-sensitivity 2.4GHz AT86RF230 802.15.4 radio, an ultralow-power ATmega1281 or ATmega 2561 AVR microcontroller, and a small-footprint, fully compliant media access control (MAC) software optimized for the AVR architecture. This chip combination consumes less power, has a higher link budget, and a wider operating range than any 802.15.4 solution on the market today under comparable operating conditions, said Atmel.

Network and application layer software are provided by the Atmel's network of third-party vendors who offer optimized solutions in the IEEE 802.15.4 standard and the ZigBee protocols.

Atmel said the -100dB receive sensitivity and 3dB transmit power of the Z-Link radio give it the highest link budget of any 802.15.4 radio on the market today. The AT86RF230 has line-of-sight range up to 2.8 times that of competing radios, the company said, reducing the total number of nodes required in the network and cutting 802.15.4 system cost by as much as 60 percent. The 103dB link budget of the radio is achieved without external power amplifiers, resulting in a low BOM cost. Only six external components are required for the radio function, said to be the industry's lowest component count.

Low-power radio/controller combo
802.15.4/ZigBee end nodes are usually battery-powered, mandating multiyear battery life. With radio power consumption of 17mA during transmission, 15mA during receive mode, and 0.7A in sleep mode, Atmel said the Z-Link radio, with true 1.8V operation, consumes the least power of any 802.15.4 radio on the market.

In a real-life application with one transmission per minute, the new chipset consumes significantly less than 0.01mA hours on average, resulting in a battery life of greater than 5 years using two AA 2700mA hours batteries. The battery life of an Atmel end-node is predicted to be limited by the other non-radio/MCU system components, such as sensors or actuators, or by the shelf life of the battery.

The new Atmel solution is supported by the company's AVR family of 8bit RISC microcontrollers with flash memory densities ranging from 32- to 256Kbytes. Existing AVR applications can be converted to 802.15.4 functionality by porting the legacy code to an AVR with a larger flash memory to accommodate the MAC and security layers.

The Z-Link radio is available as an add-on to STK 500/501 AVR starter kits. This RZ502 accessory kit allows existing STK500 users to easily upgrade to a wireless connection option. The demonstration kit contains five radio controller boards with the Z-Link 2.4GHz 802.15.4 radio and ATmega1281 microcontroller, plus AVR ISP programming dongle, all the necessary cables, batteries and antennas to allow users to create a simple five-node network for application evaluation.

Pricing and availability
The AT86RF230 Z-Link radio is available in a 5-by-5mm QFN package. The ATmega1281 and ATmega2561 microcontrollers are available in 9-by-9mm QFN packages. The AVR 802.15.4 chipset is available in the following bundle configurations, in quantities of 10,000 or more units: ATmega64RZA Bundle of ATmega644 and AT86RF230, $4.93; ATmega128RZA Bundle of ATmega1281 and AT86RF230, $6.78; and, ATmega256RZA Bundle of ATmega2561 and AT86RF230, $7.63.

The RZ502 AVR Z-Link Accessory Kit is available for $99. The RZ200 AVR Z-Link Demonstration Kit is available for $499. All kits include a fully featured 802.15.4 media access controller software stack at no extra cost.

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