Battery-less IoT connectivity enabled by low-power & multi-standard wireless MCU

February 26, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
TI has introduced the first three in a family of SimpleLink ultra-low power wireless microcontrollers that are intended to run for years on small batteries, or operate from harvested (ambient) energy; they have Bluetooth Smart, 6LoWPAN, ZigBee, sub-1 GHz and ZigBee RF4CE air interfaces

With these devices, TI says that designers have the flexibility to develop products that support multiple wireless connectivity standards using a single-chip and identical RF design. The SimpleLink ultra-low power platform supports Bluetooth low energy, ZigBee, 6LoWPAN, Sub-1 GHz, ZigBee RF4CE and proprietary modes up to 5 Mbps.

The SimpleLink ultra-low power platform is – TI asserts – the most integrated with an ARM Cortex-M3 MCU, Flash/RAM, analogue-to-digital converter, peripherals, sensor controller and built-in robust security on chip. The platform comes with ready-to-use protocol stacks, TI RTOS, Code Composer Studio integrated development environment (IDE), development tools, online training and E2E community support. Minimal RF expertise is required with available reference designs, which simplify development and layout. TI makes it easier for users to connect to the cloud through the TI IoT cloud ecosystem.

The first members of the SimpleLink ultra-low power wireless MCU platform are the CC2640 for Bluetooth Smart, and the CC2630 for 6LoWPAN and ZigBee. The CC2650 wireless MCU supports multiple 2.4 GHz technologies including Bluetooth Smart, 6LoWPAN, ZigBee and RF4CE. The multi-standard support helps future-proof designs and configure a chosen technology at the time of installation in the field. Additional members of the platform – the CC1310 for Sub-1 GHz operation and the CC2620 for ZigBee RF4CE – will be available later in 2015.

The ultra-low power platform is designed for low power operation, and includes an integrated sensor controller that interfaces external sensors autonomously while the rest of the device sleeps. The platform includes radio peak currents below 6.2 mA and MCU active current of less than 61 µA/MHz. The complete chip can stay in standby at only 1.1 µA with memory retention and RTC (real time clock) running. This enables the platform to claim half the power of other MCUs according to EEMBC’s ULPBench with a score of 143.6. TI has an on-line post about how battery-less operation is achieved, here.