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Jennic offers evaluation kit for large nets

Posted: 16 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Jennic? IEEE 802.15.4? 802.15.4? wireless networks? ZigBee Alliance?

To ease the way from small-scale, experimental IEEE 802.15.4 wireless networks to larger nets for office and factory automation, fabless design house Jennic Ltd is launching an evaluation kit for networks of up to 100 nodes.

Moving to larger mesh networks can be tricky because of HW/SW co-development and the complexities of debugging and tuning a large network. The Zigbee Alliance updated its spec a few months ago to address stability in large nets, which can scale to 65,000 nodes.

CEO Jim Lindop said Jennic's early work in device development kits has paid off, with more than 1,000 kits recently shipped. But as customers move from small networks to field trials of large ones, they are slowed down by HW/SW co-development issues.

"What we're seeing is that if you can enable people to go through a field trial quickly, it's a good way of capturing that business," Lindop said. "So now that we have seen the results of the field trials coming in, we are also noticing that customers are asking for help. The first thing that the customer is looking for is confidence that they can build out a large number of nodes. They also want some level of stability and ease of deployment."

The network evaluation kit includes wireless sensor nodes, software and network-monitoring tools. The nodes provide a building-monitoring application with temperature, humidity and light sensors, coupled with switches and lights. The nodes can be used as endpoints, routers, coordinators and gateways, with a mix of standard and high-power modules powered by AC or batteries. Each node also has an RS-232 serial port for configuration and monitoring.

The nodes' preconfigured building-monitoring application runs on Jennic's standard Zigbee network stack, but the nodes and tools can also work with proprietary stacks, the company said.

As Zigbee-based 802.15.4 networks grow more popular, companies with in-house software expertise may have an edge in winning customers. That has spurred a few recent buyouts of specialists in 802.15.4 and Zigbee protocol stacks.

Most chip vendors without internal Zigbee stacks are either developing them now or soon will. The network-level analysis tool is another differentiator, but not all companies feel the need to offer it yet. One other company doing so is Ember Corp., with its InSight Desktop. Other companies, believing such tools are useful but too far down the tool supply chain, are teaming with third-party vendors like Daintree Networks to offer them in development kits.

Jennic's network evaluation kit uses software based on the Zigbee 2004 version, not the latest release of Zigbee 2006.

- Mike Clendenin
EE Times

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