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Atmel works to smooth Zigbee dev't

Posted: 16 Aug 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Atmel Z-Link protocol? IEEE 802.15.4 stack? Zigbee protocol stack?

Atmel Corp. has defined a Z-Link protocol transition program to move users of its AVR microcontroller to the generic IEEE 802.15.4 stack and the more-specific Zigbee stack. The company is working with external development partners to ease design of Zigbee networks.

D. Chris Baumann, director of BiCMOS products at Atmel, said designers must consider code compactness and media-access control complexity, because 802.15.4 is intended for single-controller personal-area networks (PANs) and Zigbee for a more-complex series of nodes for RF control.

Atmel has defined a two-chip solution, marrying either the ATmega1281 or ATmega2561 AVR controller with an RF device, the AT86RF230, available in two frequency bands for PAN applications. The current, 2.4GHz RF230 will be followed by the RF210, for 868-928MHz bands.

The MAC software is optimized for the 8bit RISC core used in the AVR family. The Z-Link RF device is being touted as offering the best link budget, 103dB, available in a Zigbee solution without external power amps.

The company is rapidly assembling development partners in a list that now includes Crossbow Technology Inc., MeshNetics Inc. and Ubiwave. Baumann said the key to moving from 802.15.4 infrastructures to Zigbee lies in making mesh topologies for sensor networks easy to use. That can be achieved through suites like the Crossbow MoteWorks software.

Several Zigbee chip developers have recognized the importance of software in recent months. For example, Jennic, a Sheffield, U.K. developer of Zigbee application-specific standard products, decided in May to offer its entire protocol-stack software on its Website to simplify Zigbee development.

Jennic chief executive Jim Lindop said the company took some criticism for moving to such an open software model, but "in an era when all communication software is going open-source, we have to be willing to make the software part of the chipset deliverable."

- Loring Wirbel
EE Times

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