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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bluetooth 5 chip adds mesh, Thread and Zigbee support

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

We've followed the Gecko low power controllers from the very start with Energy Micro, and now Silicon Labs has added new multiband Wireless Gecko devices with full Bluetooth 5 connectivity and more memory options. 

The EFR32xG13 SoCs offer developers greater flexibility and more capabilities for applications using a single wireless protocol or requiring more memory for multiprotocol solutions, larger customer applications or for storage of over-the-air (OTA) images. This is driving the takeup of tri-mode designs.
From an embedded perspective, the design includes an on-chip oscillator to reduce bill of materials (BOM) cost, security acceleration, capacitive sensing, low-power sensing and enhanced RF performance.

The new EFR32xG13 family supports all Bluetooth 5 features and capabilities, enabling four times the range, twice the speed and eight times greater broadcasting capacity than Bluetooth 4, as well as improved co-existence with other wireless protocols. The EFR32xG13 SoCs feature a 2 Mbps PHY that supports faster throughput or reduced power consumption due to lower transmit (TX) and receive (RX) times. The SoCs also integrate a new 125 kbps and 500 kbps coded PHY that enables much longer communications, quadrupling the range of Bluetooth connections compared to existing devices running Bluetooth 4.

The EFR32xG13 SoCs provide sufficient flash memory (512 kB) and RAM (64 kB) to run applications using zigbee, Thread and Bluetooth 5 in single-protocol mode and to support multiprotocol combinations of Bluetooth with zigbee, Thread or proprietary stacks (running on sub-GHz or 2.4 GHz networks). 

This means the family can be used for Bluetooth mesh applications as the SoCs are designed to run both Bluetooth mesh and Bluetooth 5 stacks and to support both smartphone and Bluetooth mesh connectivity.

The new SoCs include an on-chip oscillator that eliminates the need for an external 32 KHz crystal typically required for Bluetooth low energy devices. This integrated precision low-frequency resistor-capacitor (RC) oscillator (PLFRCO) enables developers to save approximately $0.15 in BOM cost when used in high-volume designs requiring a 32 KHz crystal to meet Bluetooth low energy sleep clock accuracy specifications. The PLFRCO is differentiated from similar integrated oscillators offered by other Bluetooth devices as it guarantees robust, reliable Bluetooth low energy connections across the devices’ entire operating temperature range.

The low energy of the Gecko designs means sleep current is now six percent lower than EFR32xG12 SoCs and 44 percent lower than first-generation Wireless Gecko devices.

The EFR32xG13 family is pin-compatible with all Wireless Gecko SoCs in QFN48 packages, further extending flexible memory, peripheral and feature options for existing customers. The Wireless Gecko portfolio is supported by Silicon Labs’ free Simplicity Studio development tools.

Samples and production quantities are available now in 7 mm x 7 mm QFN48 packages. Pricing for EFR32xG13 SoCs in volume quantities begins below $2.00 USD. 

An updated SLWSTK6020B Blue Gecko development kit, now supporting Bluetooth 5, is priced at $149. Additional radio boards for Mighty Gecko, Blue Gecko and Flex Gecko are available for $49 each. To order EFR32xG13 samples and development kits, visit www.silabs.com/wirelessgecko.

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