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Zigbee vet strives to reduce cost of solutions

Posted: 01 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Jennic? Zigbee devices? wireless microcontroller? IEEE 802.15.4? processor performance?

Wireless microcontroller specialist Jennic is putting the marker down for next-generation Zigbee-compliant devices at sub-$2 prices in 100,000-plus units.

The company's single-chip JN513x device and related modules were demonstrated in January at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And they are already being designed into products, according to Jim Lindop, CEO of Jennic.

"We are executing and delivering on our road map, and we expect wireless microcontrollers that are IEEE 802.15.4-compliant to be selling at under $2 in volume by the end of this year or early 2008," said Lindop.

Besides achieving an aggressive price threshold, the devices offer processor performance and power improvements over Jennic's first-generation JN5121 devices. The 513x series preserves the pinout and package of the JN5121 and can use the same integrated development environment, providing an easy upgrade path for developers of wireless-networking products conforming to the 802.15.4 standard, the company said.

Jennic has designed 802.15.4b and Zigbee variants of the JN513x family and, as with previous devices, has produced evaluation kits for both versions.

Modern architecture
The latest chip's extended range of up to 1km is achieved with a new modem architecture that provides 97dB receive sensitivity and is more robust in noisier environments, with greater tolerance to carrier offset and error vector magnitude. Transmit power is also improved to +3dBm.

The protocol stacks are embedded in the chip's ROM. Lindop said he saw little motivation in offering simpler protocols for 802.15.4 in the manner of Freescale Semiconductor and Microchip Technology, because "once Zigbee protocols move to ROM, it's easier just to cost-reduce the silicon." More than 90 percent of new personal-area-network designs at Jennic are using the full Zigbee stack, he said.

The on-chip ROM includes an 802.15.4b media-access protocol layer, provision for a range of external serial EEPROM devices, over-the-air download, hardware abstraction layers and a simple serial interface. Lindop said that embedding these features in ROM frees up memory space and allows simple dongle products at low cost.

- John Walko
EE Times

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