Silicon Labs has announced a major expansion to its ARM-based Ember ZigBee system-on-chip (SoC) portfolio to support the advance of IoT capability. The company’s new EM358x SoC family is claimed to offer additional flash and RAM memory options to meet the needs of larger, more complex smart energy and home automation designs.
The company’s EM358x SoC family is said to provide an ideal mesh networking platform for feature-rich, next-generation ZigBee applications for the IoT, which today often incorporate multiple processors. This family includes six SoC products that combine a 2.4GHz IEEE 802.15.4 RF transceiver, an ARM Cortex-M3 processor, 256kB or 512kB of flash memory, and 32kB or 64kB of RAM with powerful hardware-supported network-level debugging features.
The additional memory is claimed to minimise the need for a separate system processor, enabling developers to collapse some or all of their multi-processor designs into a single ZigBee SoC to reduce BOM cost and the size of the final product. By offering larger flash and RAM memory options, this family supports future developments in smart energy applications such as smart meters, which often require more code space to store new firmware and additional RAM enabling product lifespans of up to 20 years.
These devices are said to offer an on-chip USB peripheral to simplify system programming and eliminate the need for an external USB controller, further reducing system cost. Many ZigBee-enabled devices require a USB connection to provide an easy-to-use serial application interface or a service port to the device. The USB port can also be used to download new firmware images onto the device, reducing maintenance cost.
The EM358x SoC family features a local storage bootloader that can ease application development and enable the embedded software to be field-upgraded after the Ember ZigBee-enabled product leaves the factory. The new bootloader capability eliminates the need for external flash memory to support over-the-air upgrade images by using the SoC’s on-chip flash to store firmware images for bootloading, reducing the component count, cost and size of the product. Products such as smart meters or security sensors based on EM358x SoCs can be easily field-upgraded as new platform features are deployed, avoiding costly truck rolls.
These SoCs feature a configurable total link budget up to 110dB with 8dBm transmit power that can eliminate the need for an external power amplifier (PA) in many applications, especially in Europe and Asia, where regulatory limits do not allow much higher transmit power. Because radio systems must operate in the presence of many types of interference, the SoCs are designed to deliver exceptional immunity and reliable co-existence with other 2.4 GHz devices.