When Silicon Labs launched their wireless Gecko system-on-chip (SoC) last February, the silicon and software provider promised further expansion of the portfolio with improvement in key specs and additional functionality such as an optimized software stack architecture that enables more efficient multiprotocol switching between protocols such as zigbee and Thread mesh networking, Bluetooth 4.2 and 5 standards, and proprietary wireless protocols. With today’s launch at Embedded World of the EFR32xG12 SoCs, Silicon Labs is delivering on the promise with these versatile multiprotocol switching capabilities along with larger memory options, additional low-power peripherals and sensor interfaces, on-chip capacitive sense for touch control, and enhanced cryptography acceleration to help secure the IoT.
The need to switch seamlessly between protocols is particularly significant within connected home environments. While the primary network may be BLE or WiFi, they’ll likely need to coexist alongside priority, zigbee, or Thread networks. This poses challenges to designers who have been designing in one protocol to oe product but now must think of how those products are going to connect with other products using different communications protocols.
“A lot of customers were excited about the multiprotocol capability of our first product,” says Gecko launch manager, Matt Maupin, “because we know that, especially along the edge of the network, there is not going to be just on technology. With the Gecko portfolio expansion, we have now have a very common architecture — with the same bootloader — in all our stacks that support the migration in switching. Our intent, with this scalable hardware platform and a number of reference designs targeted toward the home, is to get the engineer 80 percent of the way through their design from a wireless standpoint.”
The Wireless Gecko portfolio offers the highest output power (up to +19 dBm) in the multiprotocol SoC market, reducing system size, cost and complexity by eliminating the need for an external power amplifier. EFR32xG12 SoCs also offer exceptional sensitivity in the 2.4 GHz band (-102.7 dBm for zigbee and Thread and -95 dBm for Bluetooth low energy) as well as improved sub-GHz performance for applications using proprietary protocols. The combination of highest RF output power and best sensitivity enables excellent wireless range, greater reliability and improved battery life for IoT applications such as smart meters.
EFR32BG12 Blue Gecko SoCs feature a 2 Mbps Bluetooth PHY, providing ample throughput for applications running Bluetooth 4.2 and Bluetooth 5-compliant stacks. The Bluetooth 5 standard enables four times the range, twice the speed, 800 percent greater broadcasting capacity and improved co-existence with other wireless IoT protocols.
To help secure the IoT, the EFR32xG12 SoCs include a second on-chip security accelerator dedicated to the multiprotocol radio and a NIST-certified true random number generator (TRNG). This additional hardware cryptography block runs the latest security algorithms with higher performance and lower power than conventional software implementations.
One of the big changes in the portfolio is the significant increase of Flash and RAM to run more complex IoT applications supporting multiple stacks, real-time operating systems such as Micrium OS, backup images for devices and over-the-air (OTA) updates for field upgrades to extend the life of IoT products. The EFR32xG12 SoCs offer four times more flash memory (up to 1024 kB with a dual-bank architecture) and eight times more RAM (up to 256 kB) than previous-generation Wireless Gecko devices.
The SoCs’ expanded set of digital and analog peripherals gives developers greater design flexibility and the ability to connect additional components, such as sensors. An autonomous capacitive sensing controller provides direct support for cap-touch interfaces in IoT products, without the cost and complexity of adding external controllers.
EFR32xG12 Wireless Gecko SoC samples are available now in 7 mm x 7 mm QFN48 packages, as well as 65-GPIO 7 mm x 7 mm BGA options for feature-rich applications requiring a large number of I/Os. Pricing for EFR32xG12 SoCs in volume quantities begins below $3.00 USD. For Mighty Gecko, Blue Gecko and Flex Gecko SoC pricing information, contact your local Silicon Labs sales representative or authorized distributor. The full-featured SLWSTK6000A Mighty Gecko Mesh Development Kit, supporting all protocols, is priced at $499. Additional radio boards for Mighty Gecko, Blue Gecko and Flex Gecko are available priced at $49. (All kits USD MSRP.) The Wireless Gecko portfolio is supported by Silicon Labs’ full suite of Simplicity Studio development tools, available to developers free of charge.