Ad block

Bluetooth 5.2 SoC Extends Coin-Cell Battery Life Beyond Five Years

By Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

Silicon Labs presented at CES a new system-on-chip (SoC) EFR32BG22 (BG22) that offers hardware and software stack combinations to meet market demand for battery-powered high-volume IoT products.

IoT is a reality present and used in the “consumer” world, with the adoption by consumers of many products/services already widespread from wearable items to “smart” appliances and upcoming transports, connected vehicles, and autonomous/assisted driving.

The advent of the IoT is steering the future of electronics toward a world where physical objects will all be connected and wireless communication will offer higher levels of freedom and flexibility. There is a growing demand for ultra-low-power wireless connectivity from consumers seeking to extend their wireless experience to compact electronic devices with small batteries. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology brings low-cost wireless connectivity to small, long-lasting devices. It was designed from the ground up to meet the need for energy efficiency and design simplicity.

Market analysts at the Bluetooth SIG predict that shipments of Bluetooth devices will grow by 26% by 2023 and that 90% of all Bluetooth devices will include Bluetooth Low Energy by 2023. The key requirements of the market are secure connectivity, i.e., that the devices work with only genuine and reliable firmware and extremely low power consumption.

Silicon Labs Looks to Apply AI to IoT

Energy consumption in BLE SoCs is generally due to the processor and radio module. The processor can absorb several milliamps during operation. Some BLE radios may peak at 20 mA during transmission. Which part consumes more depends primarily on the application and duty cycle. Most BLE products are designed to sleep as much as possible to save energy, wake up to process, and send data.

With a high-performance, low-power Arm Cortex-M33 core (27 µA/MHz active, 1.2 µA sleep), the new SoC supports the new Bluetooth 5.2 standard, Bluetooth mesh, and direction finding with sub-meter accuracy. The SoC EFR32BG22C112 addresses high-volume and cost-sensitive applications. It has an operating temperature of up to 125°C and extends flash memory up to 512 kB. Target applications include low-power Bluetooth mesh network nodes, smart port locks, and personal health and fitness devices (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Silicon Labs BG22 Secure Bluetooth 5.2 SoC block diagram
Silicon Labs BG22 Secure Bluetooth 5.2 SoC block diagram

“From fitness trackers and health and wellness sensors to smartphone accessories and PC peripherals, low-power data transfer represents one of the biggest and fastest-growing application opportunities for Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity,” said Mikko Savolainen, senior marketing manager at Silicon Labs. “Silicon Labs’s EFR32BG22 Bluetooth 5.2 SoCs, announced this week at CES 2020, are ideal for these Bluetooth LE applications, as they require extremely low power consumption to maximize battery life, as well as compact size and the right price points for mass-market IoT products. The new BG22 SoCs provide an optimal combination of energy efficiency, wireless performance, security and software tools, and stacks to meet the market demand for high-volume, battery-powered IoT products.

“In addition to supporting Bluetooth LE data transfer, the SoCs are a great option for Bluetooth mesh low-power nodes and for direction-finding and asset-tracking applications requiring sub-1-meter accuracy. Bluetooth remains the protocol of choice for creating proximity solutions used for point-of-interest information, item finding, and real-time asset-tracking (RTLS) solutions and indoor positioning systems (IPS). BG22 SoCs support Bluetooth 5.1/5.2 direction-finding features, including Angle of Arrival [AoA] and Angle of Departure [AoD], and can be used to build some of the smallest, lowest-power asset tags and beacons as well as RTLS locators.”

Although IoT devices extend the functionality of various machines and components, at the same time, they increase the vulnerabilities of all devices connected to the network. New companies will need to pay attention and move on two fronts, the technological one to capture the potential and the security one to avoid compromising situations.

BG22 SoCs respond to an essential issue of IoT devices: security. The Secure Boot functionality of Silicon Labs with Root of Trust and Secure Loader offers a simple and efficient solution. SoCs support comprehensive fault analysis, allowing developers to investigate problems without erasing the flash. Developers achieve this through the secure debugging of Silicon Labs with lock/unlock encryption capabilities.

T&M Solutions for Automotive Visions into Reality

By Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

LAS VEGAS — Keysight is supporting the automotive industry through their latest innovations shown at the Consumer Electronics Show 2020. The technological transformation with the advent of IoT, 5G, and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications leads to several challenges that require the implementation of sophisticated test and measurement solutions to maintain automotive safety in the era of autonomous driving.

Next-generation vehicles need to develop different applications in multiple areas such as infotainment, telematics, driver assistance, and autonomous driving with maximum reliability, safety, and privacy.

V2X can be used in many different ways to improve road safety while leveraging the existing smart traffic infrastructure. 5G is a significant challenge for all players in the wireless market. It will take time for it to be fully deployed worldwide and will not be delivered in a single major release — with a significant network deployment program planned for 2020 and beyond.

Engineers are working on autonomous driving technologies to make our roads much safer. Their “weapons of choice” are accurate test and measurement solutions — essential tools to make sure their designs work perfectly. The technology that will enable vehicles to make the leap to standalone driving and V2X platforms (implementing solutions to leverage big data) will improve the driver experience and the transport system as a whole. The standard will also support next-generation infotainment systems, with over-the-air updates and multimedia downloads.

Keysight provides automotive designers and manufacturers with the latest innovations in design and test solutions to help create high-quality, high-performance products while mitigating safety risks with comprehensive solutions for e-mobility charging and interoperability testing, inverter efficiency, radar sensor technology, and safety.

“At CES, we are seeing automotive innovation orders of magnitude smaller than just a few years ago — smaller, more capable electronics with higher levels of integration,” said Jeff Harris, vice president of global marketing at Keysight. “At Keysight, we are excited to see how fast our customers innovate once they have the right design and test capabilities.”

The widespread application of technologies in the automotive market is proliferating. In addition to sensor technology, connection technologies have also seen developments. It all started with elite vehicles, but more and more trucks and utility cars are now using radar sensors, for example, mainly for increased safety and convenience. The solution offered by Keysight Automotive Radar Research and Development offers full coverage at 77/79 GHz, as well as analysis and signal generation over 5 GHz and excellent displayed average noise level (DANL) performance in the industry.

The aim will be first and foremost to have a valid connection between vehicle and vehicle and between vehicle and infrastructure. 5G is ready for this revolution in order to meet the growing challenges required by the market. The 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) consortium is working to define the standards that will govern this revolution.

Keysight is partnering with many leading global wireless regulators, leading companies, and universities to enable the next generation of wireless communication systems. Many solutions allow you to test security systems and various traffic scenarios by correctly testing the vehicle according to the type of driving, the person, and the operating environment. Keysight’s 5G network emulation solutions enable the device ecosystem to simplify workflows, share information, and accelerate time to market.

The data rate of in-vehicle systems continues to increase, and the signal integrity of interconnections dramatically affects system performance. Analyses of interconnection performance in both time and frequency domains are therefore critical to ensure a reliable system.

Arduino Portenta for IoT Development

By Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

At the cost of $99.99 for its elite version, the new Arduino Portenta H7 was announced at CES. The new board is the first solution in a series for industrial IoT. At its heart is the STMicroelectronics STM32H747 microcontroller, with a dual-core Cortex-M7 and Cortex-M4 on the chip, operating at 480 MHz and 240 MHz, respectively, and a temperature range of –40°C to 85°C.

Laurent Hanus, ecosystem marketing manager at STMicroelectronics, said that Arduino Portenta H7 reflects the exceptional performance of the STM32H747, also offering the usability of the new platform for cloud applications.

Arduino Uno arrived in 2005. The technology par excellence in Italy has become one of the pillars of the maker movement. Many things have changed in recent years. The collapse of hardware prices and the arrival of boards that run MicroPython and JavaScript have changed the ecosystem of open hardware in a profound way. The form factor inherited from Arduino Uno is still around and will surely remain in the minds of developers, but the newer Arduino boards use the more modern MKR form factor.

The Arduino MKR family was born for engineers and makers to offer an extremely fast time to market for the industrial market. What sets the MKR boards apart from the others in the Arduino family is, in addition to the family form factor of 67.64 × 25 mm, the integrated connectivity and potential for any project involving the internet of things.

The fundamental step toward change began with the Maker Faire in Rome, where it was done with the Arduino Pro Development Environment, a definite step ahead of the Arduino IDE. Despite this, the Arduino team also made available in Altium Designer a series of symbols to reduce the time between prototyping and production.

Today, with the new Portenta H7 module, we are preparing for a new maker market. The module is able to run Arduino code natively and can support running Arduino code on the open-source IoT Arm Mbed OS to provide enterprise-grade features while maintaining the familiar Arduino development environment. In addition, it can run Python and JavaScript code, making it more accessible to a wider range of developers.

Portenta H7 has low-power cores capable of processing video from a camera and displaying it on the USB-C connector with DisplayPort. It also has the ability, through the M4 cortex, to perform system tasks such as sensor acquisition and power management. In its complete configuration, Portenta H7 features 32 Mbytes of SDRAM in addition to 1 MB of processor, 128 MBytes of flash in addition to 2 MB of processor, and Ethernet, high-speed USB, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0 (Figure 1).

The wireless module can manage the protocols simultaneously. The Wi-Fi interface can be used as an access point, and Bluetooth supports Bluetooth Classic and BLE. The MKR form factor ensures scalability for a wide range of applications by merely updating the Portenta board to the one suitable for your needs.

Figure 1: Arduino Portenta [Source: Arduino]
Figure 1: Arduino Portenta (Source: Arduino)

“Portenta H7 is the perfect match for crossover applications where considerable computing power is required, but power constraints are very tight,” said Fabio Violante, CEO of Arduino. “Applications include machine learning/AI, motor control, IoT gateways, edge computing, human-machine interfaces, and more.”

The module is directly compatible with most Arduino libraries and can run TensorFlow Lite, JavaScript, MicroPython, Mbed OS, and, of course, Arduino. This means that the solution is able to perform real-time tasks without the need to run real-time operating systems. Cortex M7 has more computational power than most Linux-based processors but consumes even less than some other microcontrollers. At the same time, the M4 core can be used to reduce power consumption further and perform additional tasks without the complexity of multitasking.

“The scalability of the board allows, for high-volume applications, custom-tailoring the cost/feature balance, providing a solution to every need,” said Fabio. “Last but not least, all these features are going to be available through the renowned Arduino simplicity.”

The new Portenta family has been designed to offer scalable processing with complex technologies while maintaining a small footprint. The high number of pins allows reducing the size of the final application while offering good robustness and signal integrity.

Navitas is showing GaNFast chargers

By Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

LAS-VEGAS – Navitas was at the Consumer Electronics Show showcasing the world’s leading GaNFast power IC technology, in addition to the announcement of major consumer brand partners adopting the technology.

Navitas’ integrated GaN solutions (GaNFast) enables chargers to efficiently operate up to 100 times faster than those with conventional silicon. As an example, chargers based on GaNFast solutions should be able to recharge smartphones a lot faster.

This technology is based on gallium nitride (GaN), which allows the creation of smaller and more efficient dedicated integrated circuits. It can be used in many fields ranging from solar panel power supplies to charging systems for electric cars or computer applications such as charging computers, smartphones, and tablets. The free GaNFast chargers range from 27W to 65W with USB-C and USB-A options to cover a wide range of smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

“Navitas’ main goal at CES is to educate consumers about a next-generation of fast chargers that are smaller, lighter and faster than before. The concept is ‘work hard, play hard, charge less’. Our method is to show that GaN is the new silicon and that GaN is proven technology — high performance and low risk,” said Stephen Oliver, VP sales & marketing, Navitas Semiconductor.

He continued “Having 30+ production chargers on display, in live demonstrations and as part of our $50,000 GaNFast Give-Away, is clear proof of high performance, high production capacity, and high trust in GaN and Navitas from many customers.”

“We will also have fun with a ‘$50,000 GaNFast Give-Away’ where we will give away over 1,000 new GaN chargers as prizes and as a trade-in on old silicon chargers. We also have a $1,000 cash prize if you get the fastest lap on our race simulator!”

Navitas is going to show key consumer brand partners who adopt the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020. Over 25 state-of-the-art mobile chargers and adapters with GaNFast power IC. GaNFast is a technology designed for the integration of chargers for smartphones and notebooks that offers a higher charging speed compared to traditional devices. By using unique materials, you can create robust power supplies that take up less space at the same time.

The implementation of GaNFast by Navitas reduces energy consumption by a whopping 40% compared to the silicon transistors. GaNFast also works with non-proprietary Power Delivery specifications, which are common among USB Type-C laptops and some smartphones.


Wi-Charge is showing the IR-based Wireless Power Technology for the future of IoT

By Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

LAS VEGAS — Wi-Charge was at the Consumer Electronics Show to demonstrate its AirCord Technology for long-range wireless power transmission.

Wi-Charge’s patented light-based wireless power supply technology provides a remote power solution for smart home wireless devices, supporting 24/7 operation with increased functionality. PowerPuck (R1) is the latest solution of Wi-Charge; it is a compact long-range wireless charger for smart and IoT devices built with Wi-Charge’s AirCord technology. The charger plugs into a wall outlet or screws into a lightbulb socket, and powers compatible devices wirelessly from distances up to 30 feet.

AirCord technology

Battery-powered devices are portable, but battery capacity limits functionality, and users hate to replace batteries. Power cables provide a lot of power, but the devices are thus tethered to an outlet. According to a 2018 survey by Parks Associates, longer battery life is the most desirable feature for smart home devices.

Wi-Charge’s technology efficiently delivers 100 times the power of batteries, remotely, but offers the convenience of wireless portability and complies with UL, US FDA, and international standards. The increase in the number of smart devices means that wired battery replacement and charging is becoming an impractical and significant concern.

iPropertyManagement estimates that there will soon be over 26 billion IoT devices currently implemented and predicts a three-fold increase by 2025. Suppliers are trying to improve the performance and functionality of IoT devices, but limited battery life slows these efforts.

Facility managers are turning to long-range wireless power to reduce device downtime, eliminate the cost and effort of battery replacement, and reduce the environmental impact of battery disposal.

Developing a wireless power delivery system requires years of research and study to finalize best the source to use. It is important to initially consider various sources such as magnetic fields, radio-frequency waves, ultrasound, and of course, light. The parent company has carried out numerous studies and found that light offers the best combination of power, distance, efficiency, and safety (Table 1).

Infrared light Radio Frequency Waves
Power Up to several watts Small number of milliwatts while remaining within safety limits
How power changes with distance Nearly constant power regardless at distance Power significantly diminishes with the square of the distance
Energy efficiency High efficiency. In the Wi-Charge system, 100% of the transmitted energy reaches the receiver Because of the physical properties of RF, only a small portion of transmitted power reaches the receiver.
Safety UL, FDA and IEC approval for the Wi-Charge system. Certified consumer device. Regulatory approval currently available only for micro-power systems. Excess RF radiation baths the environment.
Potential interference Does not impact cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth or other communication networks Potentially interferes with Wi-Fi, cordless and cellular communications
Type of energy Natural light. IR is nature’s preferred way of energy delivery. Man-made radiation. Living organisms are not accustomed to it.

Table 1: Comparing light and radiofrequency radiation as possible sources for wireless charging technology [Source: Wi-Charge].

Power is delivered with millimeter precision using safe, focused, and invisible rays of light. The transmitter uses the standard power supply and can cover about 25 square meters, while the various receivers include a small photovoltaic cell (essentially a small solar cell) to convert the light received into abundant usable electricity.

The receivers can be integrated into a device or connected to an existing charging port. The process of sending energy is fully automatic and safe and supports many simultaneous and moving devices. The technology requires no configuration and provides extensive coverage. Multiple transmitters can be combined to increase coverage and power. It does not interfere with cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, or other communications, and also does not emit ionizing radiation (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Functional layout of Wi-Charge AirCord technology: the transmitter automatically finds devices to be powered, power is delivered with pinpoint accuracy by an invisible beam; if the light is blocked, then the transmission is stopped once the path is clear again [Source: Wi-Charge]
The shortest distance between the receiver and transmitter is a straight line. A path that includes a reflection is longer, thus significantly reducing the energy. For some technologies, power is significantly reduced with distance due to air absorption and reflections. For these technologies, it is particularly essential to achieve straight-line transmission between transmitter and receiver. For Wi-Charge, safety is crucial, which is why the line of sight parameter is also crucial (figure 2). AirCord uses the line-of-sight to offer maximum transmission efficiency, ensuring that all power goes to the transmitter.

Powered by Wi-Charge’s AirCord infrared beam technology, the device requires no configuration, calibration, or tuning — making it the first plug-and-play wireless power solution for smart devices.


Figure 2: Line of sight [Source: Wi-Charge].
It can transform a standard home into a wirelessly-powered smart home, or help convert a commercial building into a smart building. The R1 is slightly larger than a Nest Thermostat and is easy to install in a variety of ways. For example, an Edison screw adapter makes it compatible with numerous light fixtures, and a socket adapter allows the R1 to plug directly into a standard wall outlet (figure 3). The receivers can be as small as 0.5 x 0.5 inches and are typically embedded in the charged devices themselves. The PowerPuck showed at CES 2020 and is slated to begin shipping in 2020 and become readily available at that time.

Figure 3: The PowerPuck (R1) device of Wi-Charge [Source: Wi-Charge]


Inside a vehicle, charging cables are not cheap and also pose a safety risk. In addition to mobile devices, you may also need to power sensors (such as rear seat belt sensors), and their wiring is expensive. Wi-Charge helps to solve this problem by installing a power transmitter near the vehicle’s interior light, thus providing enough energy to charge devices and sensors.

The Wi-Charge solutions power smartphones anywhere in the office. Ceiling-mounted transmitters provide power for all devices safely placed on a table. An intelligent application is a lock for opening and closing doors. Unlike old mechanical locks, intelligent locks add new functionalities. Some locks include an electronic keypad. Others allow you to control the lock from your phone via Bluetooth or WiFi. Some locks include bio-metric security, such as fingerprints. Others add cameras with facial recognition. Design issues are, as always, power and power management issues. In particular, power consumption and battery life.

Power consumption limits the functions that can be added to the system. Battery life is an issue for consumers. If you forget to replace batteries, you may find yourself locked out of your home. By integrating a wireless receiver into the lock, charging and maintaining power may no longer be an issue. The lock gets all the power it needs to enable new features such as video recording without ever replacing the batteries. Wireless charging eliminates the trade-off between functionality and battery life.

The long-range wireless power supply by Infrared Light allows you to freely deliver power without the need for cables. With wireless power, batteries never need to be replaced or wired to a charger.

Ad block