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RF IC delivers 1,024KBps over 5m at <1mW

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RF transceiver? Bluetooth? Zigbee?

IMEC plans to deliver before the end of the year a short-range RF transceiver 10x power efficient than today's Bluetooth and Zigbee chips. The research group demonstrated discrete blocks capable of sending 1,024KBps over 5m while consuming less than 1mW.

The technology could enable body-area network devices that last for up to six weeks, compared to today's devices that last about five days. "This is exactly what we need to go into long term monitoring of patients," said Bert Gyselinckx, general manager of IMEC's Human++ program.

Body area networks are seen as key components for next-generation healthcare devices that monitor patients continuously at home.

The IMEC RF design uses a simple on-off keying modulation scheme and a regenerating receiver. The approach also allows signaling in the range of -10dB, good enough for 5m distances needed for body area networks.

The integrated transceiver should measure 1.6mm x.06mm in 90nm process technology. It will run at 1V to 1.2V.

Radio components eat as much as 47 percent of the power used by wireless networks, making them the first of many targets for IMEC's low power electronics program. "We are making all kinds of ultra low power components to build next-generation, low-power sensors," said Gyselinckx.

The ultimate goal is to drive down the power consumption of electronics for wireless sensor networks so they could run from energy harvesting techniques and not require batteries. But that goal is still years away, in part due to the immaturity of energy harvesting technology.

Today's best harvesting components deliver at most about 3mW of power, said Gyselinckx. But the wireless electronics currently consume more than three times that much power, he added.

"We are stuck with batteries for the foreseeable future," he said.

A separate IMEC team is working on a so-called Bio-DSP that could reduce power consumption for wireless networks another ten-fold.

It's not clear how quickly the industry will adopt low power networks such as Bluetooth Low Energy expected to be built into products this year. Meanwhile, the IEEE has a relatively new study group exploring standards for body area networks.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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