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Thursday, January 04, 2018

Riot Micro claims lowest power narrowband cellular IoT chip

By Nick Flaherty

Vancouver chip startup Riot Micro has developed a low power baseband modem chip for the cellular Internet of Things (IoT) using NB-IoT and eMTC systems. 

The RM1000 uses Bluetooth Low energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi architecture techniques and an ARM M0 core to reduce the power consumption and cost of cellular IoT modules and nodes by half, says the company, although power figures and duty cycles are not yet available. 

The NB-IoT and eMTC capability targets asset management, home automation, industrial, point-of-sale, smart energy, vending and automotive applications.

To develop the RM1000, Riot Micro assembled a team of engineers with extensive expertise in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and LTE design to create an LTE PHY and L2/L3 protocol stack specifically optimised for 3GPP release 13 requirements for Cat-NB1 NBIoT and Cat-M1 eMTC. It had previously been developing LTE IP for licensing.

By providing granular control over system resources in hardware rather than software, the architecture minimises active power consumption in all use cases. This significantly reduces silicon area and active power consumption compared to alternative signal processor-based solutions. 

“Riot Micro’s innovative approach, leveraging proven design techniques from BLE and Wi-Fi into the world of LTE, will drive down system cost and power. We want to enable cellular IoT mass deployment. That will require the cost and energy needs driven to similar levels as BLE, and our approach gets us there,” said Peter Wong, CEO of Riot Micro. “Lead customers and partners have confirmed that we offer the only viable NB-IoT platform to enable the price points and battery life required for mass deployment of IoT applications.”

The PHY layer implemented completely in hardware enables minimal cycle power consumption and extremely fast wake/sleep transition times with a lower core frequency.  Alternative solutions typically require a 100MHz+ processor speed, external memory, and on-chip PLLs for a high-speed clock, increasing silicon area, power consumption, and cost. Software-based PHY solutions also have longer startup and shutdown due to firmware load and processing, which ultimately costs battery life.

  • LTE-M Baseband supporting 3GPP Release 13
  • NB-IoT Baseband supporting 3GPP Release 13
  • Digital data and control interface to popular RFICs (RBDP/DIQ/SPI)
  • Dedicated ARM Cortex-M0 processor for communications protocol stack:
  • Integrated instruction & data memory
  • LTE-M/NB-IoT L1/L2/L3 protocol stack
  • IPv4, IPv6, TCP, UDP, SSL support
  • AT Command stack
  • QSPI Flash interface
  • SIM interface with power control
  • Integrated power management for external components
  • 3 UART interfaces
  • General purpose I/O
  • -40 to +85C operating range

The RM1000 is available now, supplied to OEMs and module manufacturers developing
custom solution, in an 8mm x 8mm 68 pad QFN package or a 3.5×3.2 mm WLCSP
package. Riot Micro offers a full-range of customer support services, including reference
designs, for evaluation and module design.

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