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ZigBee starter kit to roll with $200 tag

Posted: 20 Jun 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ZigBee starter? RF design? wireless sensor network?

Continuing its aggressive stance on prices, wireless MCU chip and module specialist Jennic Ltd will start shipping a ZigBee starter kit for under $200 next month.

The kit is targeted at developers who want to add IEEE802.15.4 and ZigBee wireless connectivity to their product ranges but have little or no RF design or software development experience. According to Jim Lindop, CEO of Jennic, "no-one else currently is offering such a kit to help make things as easy as possible to enter this business."

Low-cost, powerful solution
The starter kit provides three hardware nodes (based on Jennic's JN5139 wireless MCU modules) that allow users to evaluate and develop wireless sensor network applications from an easy-to-use, low-cost start point.

"It is imperative to bring costs down to get more design wins with both ZigBee compliant and 802.15.4 radios," Lindop told EE Times Europe.

Designers will be able to experiment with network topologies and test applications via a simple API. "You can start at a really simple level and then expand with more sophisticated design kits and nodes to develop a full mesh network," said Lindop.

The starter kit is particularly suited as a development route for modules, either with an embedded application, or as a dongle to an external MCU.

A simple serial API can be used, either embedded with an application or via the serial or SPI ports to an external microcontroller. This serial API provides users with wireless data communications and control of the JN5139 chip peripherals.

The starter kit comprises three hardware nodes, and the boards are supplied with a 9-pin RS232 connector for interface to PCs and industrial equipment.

Lindop said the ZigBee standards "will stabilize by the fourth quarter of 2007 and network stacks will soon migrate to the ZigBee PRO profile stacks." He said the ZigBee Alliance has to an extend confused the sector by "starting to talk about the PRO version too soon."

Easing net development
Jennic is also updating its suite of API interfaces to include AT-JENIE, a byte-orientated command set that, again, is aimed at making development of sensor networks easier.

This is part of the company's strategy to make migration from ZigBee to the PRO stack as seamless as possible and includes making the Jennic Network Interface (JEN-NET) publicly available.

Separately, Jennic has started sampling a reference design that enables speech to be transmitted over an IEEE802.15.4 link using the company's single chip wireless MCU. The design is targeted at applications from wireless headsets to network wide audio. The design has a BOM cost of under $6 for the complete implementation.

Voice compression is implemented in software on the company's standard 32-bit CPUwhich Jennic says is the only single chip solution capable of delivering the required processing power for ADPCM compression as well as the protocol and application. The design comes with a hardware AES coprocessor, making security transparent to the processor and removing the need for software support.

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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