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Zigbee SoC tailored for industrial apps

Posted: 10 Jun 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Zigbee? industrial application? processor? communications?

Ember Corp. will start shipping in Q3 a Zigbee networking SoC targeting industrial rather than consumer applications, and specifically smart metering in the medium term.

Based on an ARM Cortex-M3 processor, the EM300 series are said to pack the industry's highest wireless networking performance and application code space into the lowest power-consuming chipset.

Zigbee is increasingly looking to be the networking technology of choice for in-the-home wireless links to smart meters, both in Europe and the United States.

"We are very encouraged by the many recent announcements from utilities around the world about the trials and commercial plans for smart metering, and this third generation of Zigbee devices is specifically developed to tap into this opportunity," said Robert LeFort, CEO of Ember.

Last month, the European Smart Metering Industry Group (ESMIG) said it was working with the Zigbee Alliance to define interoperable communications standards for smart metering technology across the European Union.

Several of Ember's ecosystem and technology partners contributed to the development of the SoC. For instance, LeFort revealed it incorporates some IP from STMicroelectronics, who also has a stake in the 802.15.4 networking standard chip specialist, and the flash memory IP comes from TSMC, who will also make the part on its 0.18?m process.

Initially, there are two versions of the device: the EM351 integrates an ARM Cortex-M3 processor, 2.4GHz IEEE 802.15.4 RF transceiver, 128Kbyte flash, 12Kbyte RAM and the EmberZNet PRO network protocol stack which supports the Zigbee PRO feature set. The EM357 version is optimized for applications requiring additional memory, and it has up to 192Kbyte flash.

In addition, the chips are supported by the EmberZNet PRO Zigbee-compliant stack. The stack supports the Zigbee PRO feature set including the Zigbee smart energy and home automation profiles. The devices deliver a total Link Budget up to 109dB and Ember says the high transmit power virtually eliminates the need for an external PA in most applications, at least in Europe and Asia. Sleep current is said to be as low as 400nA.

The one drawback is that the parts are expected to cost $3 in volume. "The volume will drive the price down, and, of course, once you have a network in place in the home, that will drive other Zigbee applications. But certainly, this series is not targeting in-home applications," said LeFort.

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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