Less Power Means More IoT for New Wi-Fi Devices
Mitchell Gracie posted on January 30, 2019 |

Like any finite resource, concerns about power consumption pervade every facet of engineering. With the number of Internet of Things (IoT)­–connected devices expected to push beyond 21.5 billion in 2025, ensuring that these devices are both efficient while effective remains a crux for IoT, as Industry 4.0 inches closer to the present.

The unveiled WGM160P, WFM200, and WF200 Wi-Fi portfolio. Lower power consumption means more communication between IoT devices for nearly half the energy costs. (Image courtesy of Silicon Labs.)
The unveiled WGM160P, WFM200, and WF200 Wi-Fi portfolio. Lower power consumption means more communication between IoT devices for nearly half the energy costs. (Image courtesy of Silicon Labs.)

Enter Silicon Labs’ latest, to-be-released generation of Wi-Fi modules and integrated circuits (ICs).

The Texas-based company is excited and for good reason. "Our Wi-Fi portfolio enables IoT product designs that weren't possible until now," said Matt Johnson, Senior Vice President and General Manager of IoT products at Silicon Labs.

By reducing their transmission current by over 50 percent—down to 138mA—and their receiving current by over 30 percent, Silicon Labs hopes to step into a new era of low-power Wi-Fi products. "IoT developers now have a Wi-Fi solution that is truly optimized for their application requirements and addresses their major concerns around power," Johnson continued.

Efficiency in power consumption isn’t the only concern that is addressed by this new suite of products. Silicon Labs hails advanced security and superior radio frequency (RF) blocking performance, among other features, as new, critical improvements over competitors as well as their own previous generations.

“With Wi-Fi being a cornerstone of IP-connected wireless solutions, we’re seeing a growing need for Wi-Fi optimized for the unique requirements of IoT applications,” said Siddharth Sundar, Senior Product Manager of Wi-Fi Products at Silicon Labs. “For this reason, Silicon Labs has delivered a Wi-Fi portfolio of ICs and modules that cut power consumption in half compared to competitive offerings in the market, while providing excellent RF performance including superior RF selectivity in the face of large blockers.”

The freshly rolled-out portfolio also touts “best in-class security features to thwart online and physical hacking,” according to Sundar. Such features include a secure boot with anti-rollback, secure link, and efficient implementations of industry-standard encryption such as WPA3. Additionally, the new modules and ICs can ignore adjacent noise using RF selectivity. That means in IoT–dense places, such as smart homes, the new modules and IC can maintain connectivity even when local channels are crowded.

Moreover, consumers have optional access to simple-to-use development tools and a wireless starter kit with embedded and Linux host drivers. Silicon Labs offers Gecko OS, the IoT-device operating system which they developed to simplify complexities with respect to IoT. Additionally, pre-certification allows for faster development times and less risk.

The Products

Three products have been unveiled.

The first is the WGM160P module with 2MB of flash storage and 512kB of RAM. The extra memory is an improvement, allowing for better combinations of the best features Silicon Labs has to offer: the onboard Gecko microcontroller, host support, integrated antenna, precertification, and extensive peripheral capabilities including capacitive touch.

The second is the WFM200 module: the smallest pre-certified Wi-Fi system-in-pack with an integrated antenna. Its 105ºC temperature support makes this module perfect for tighter, industrial situations where heat sinks may not be conveniently available.

The third is the WF200 transceiver IC. This IC allows already-existing IoT set-ups to be built upon, adding support for antenna diversity, smoothing out a user’s IoT experience.

Samples are available now, with an expected release in Q2 2019.

The Future

Guessing what is ahead is a difficult endeavour. However, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how decreasing IoT devices’ appetites for power while communicating with one another ought to be sought after. Less power-hungry sensors and transceivers means less of a burden on the power infrastructure of homes, cities, and nations. As mentioned before, a total 21.5 billion IoT–connected devices are expected to surround us by 2025. With 21.5 billion devices each using an average of 200µA at 3.5V gives us 15.05MW of power necessary if consumption remains unchanged. That is the equivalent draw of nearly 13 thousand average American homes. Progress like Silicon Labs frees half that energy to be available elsewhere.

Regardless if it is the green aspect of saving energy you support or the lowering of your utility bills—or perhaps you just want to see the number of IoT devices increase even faster—the benefits to this breakthrough in decreasing power consumption are opening new doors and blazing trails for the future ahead.

To learn more, visit the Silicon Labs website.

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