PORTLAND, Ore. In hopes of simplifying wireless-system design, Freescale Semiconductor Inc. has tucked analog radio-frequency components with an ARM7 microcontroller into a single chip it calls a Platform-in-Package.
Wireless devices for everything from consumer remote controls to industrial ZigBee network nodes previously had to add the RF components to a circuit board alongside a microcontroller. Freescale's MC13224 integrates both.
"Wireless-device manufacturers choosing our new MC13224 will only have to add a quartz crystal and an antenna," said Brett Black, operations manager for wireless connectivity at Freescale (Austin, Texas). "All the other hardware they need is on a single chip, which is why we call it a Platform-in-Package." The device is now sampling, Black said.
Freescale has been active in wireless networking, providing software for its microcontrollers to run popular protocols like ZigBee, SMAC and IEEE 802.15.4, as well as its own Synkro protocol for wireless remote controls.
Freescale has been promoting Synkro among consumer device makers. "Last fall, we worked with Sony to create the Synkro network protocol stack," Black said. "It is currently being used for Sony's newest Bravia TVs and Blu-ray DVD players in Japan, with several other name-brand companies rolling out their products using Synkro in time for the next Consumer Electronics Show," in January. "But since then, there has been a proliferation of protocols, which we also want to support."
These new entries include WirelessHART, an extension of the HART protocol for industrial automation; ISA100; 6LoWPAN (for "IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks") and the PopNet wireless-mesh protocol from San Juan Software LLC.
At the Freescale Technology Forum this week (June 16-19) in Orlando, Fla., San Juan Software won "Best in Show" for demonstrating that its PopNet could coexist with ZigBee and Synkro applications. The company used an iPhone to send wireless commands to a Freescale gateway board containing a MC1322x processor. In a high-tech twist on Rube Goldberg, the processor parsed the commands to control lights on a home-automation network running ZigBee, to dispense a soda from a vending machine running PopNet and to start a DVD player running Synkro.
"What we have demonstrated is three different network protocolsPopNet, Zigbee and Synkroall running at the same time on a Freescale reference board," said Tim Gillman, vice president of San Juan Software (Friday Harbor, Wash.).
Freescale's MC13224 will likewise be compatible with RF4CE ("Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics"), a new protocol that Freescale last week announced it was developing with Oki, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony and Texas Instruments.
Besides the necessary RF components, the MC13224 also packs a 32-bit ARM7 microcontroller running at 26 MHz, two 12-bit analog-to-digital converters, an on-chip IEEE 802.15.4 transceiver, flash memory, RAM, ROM, balun and all necessary RF matching components. The Platform-in-Package provides what Freescale claims is best-in-class RF performance, supporting speeds of 250 kbits/second while requiring just 28 milliamps to transmit, 21 mA to receive and 1 microamp during sleep mode. Maximum output power is +5 dBm and receiving sensitivity is -100 dBm.
"The MC13224 device is a very powerful solution," said Heino Kahler, development manager for wireless modules at Panasonic Electronic Devices Europe GmbH. "We have selected it for our next-generation [RF] module family."
The MC13224's land-grid array package can run on 1.8 to 3.6 volts and can operate at temperatures as high as 105°C, making it compatible with automotive and other ruggedized applications. Development kits are available now, with volume shipments scheduled for September. Pricing is expected to be about $5 each for lots of 10,000 parts.