Marvell boosts IoT ecosystem with complete end-to-end solutions

Marvell boosts IoT ecosystem with complete end-to-end solutions
Marvell offers a total solution for smart home industry with hardware and software solutions to speed up time-to-market. Its product portfolio comprises MCU, wireless connectivity chips, Kinoma and EZ-Connect platforms. The company positions itself as a one-stop solution provider of edge devices, IoT gateways, carrier network equipments, and data centers for the IoT E2E market.

Wei-Ning Gan, Head of SEEDS Business Unit, Marvell Semiconductor, explained the company’s strategies and product development on the smart home market.

Smart home is a buzzword for silicon vendors. What are Marvell’s solutions for this booming market? 

Smart home is part of Internet of Things (IoT), which consists of car, wearable and industrial applications as well. The smart home market can be categorized into two parts—sensor and gateway. We offer solutions for both sides. Our solutions for Apple’s HomeKit are related to the sensor side. The sensor refers to the client sides or nodes, such as smart plugs, light bulbs and alarm sensors.

We offer IoT modules, or so called smart modules, which comprises microcontroller and wireless connectivity solutions based on Wi-Fi, BLE and ZigBee standards. For example, we offer IoT modules for Xiaomi’s smart plugs and air purifiers, and for home appliance makers like Whirlpool, and Midea.

What’s Marvell’s strategy for the market?  

As a global leading silicon vendor, we act as a strategic SoC partner for the industry players, enabling the ecosystem instead of creating our own.

We work with Google for its Brillo IoT platform. Google’s IoT gateway incorporates Marvell’s ARMADA 385 SoC, and 88E6176 switch IC. Google offers more openness to developers and consumers. I believe Google’s growth would be exponential.

We believe smart home is one of the killer applications for IoT in addition to the industrial application. Time-to-market is the key to success. To accelerate the IoT and smart home development, we develop EZ-Connect and Kinoma platforms. The EZ-Connect platform comprises IoT chipsets and EZ-Connect SDK, available with three wireless microcontrollers—MW300 for low-power Wi-Fi, MB300 for Bluetooth and MZ100 for ZigBee. The solution supports Apple HomeKit, and makes it easy for device manufacturers to integrate control devices throughout the home compatible with iPhones and iPads running iOS8. Kinoma supports JavaScript to let developers to create their own user interface (UI). Marvell has open sourced the KinomaJS application framework which is designed to build the core applications of embedded devices using JavaScript.

What are design trends? 

The IoT design should emphasize on high connectivity rather than high bandwidth. We believe there are a considerable number of sensors that require low data rate. The reliable connectivity is essential. How to extend battery life of wireless connected devices is also critical.

In terms of connectivity technology, I think Bluetooth LE (BLE) with mesh technology will be a promising technology. IPv6 allows significantly more people, processes, data, and things to be connected. We see transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is accelerating. Hence, Marvell has joined The Thread Group to add support for the IP-based wireless networking protocol within 2015.

Concerning reliability, we think powerline communication (PLC) technology is an ideal solution. We promote powerline technology because it’s an open standard standardized by the ITU-T. The home networking technology operates over any type of wires like power lines, phone line, coaxial cables, and plastic optical fiber (POF). To boost the ecosystem, we work with leading carriers like China Telecom and Verizon.

Moreover, we plan to release Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi extender, and Wi-Fi to powerline extender to create stable home networking environment.

Lower cost, less power consumption and small size have been three major silicon challenges. At present, very short battery life is a key challenge for wide adoption of wireless connected devices. To solve the problem, Marvell develops FLC (Final-Level Cache) technology to extend battery life by redefining main memory hierarchy. With FLC, there will be increase in standby time by 10 times, and 100 times increase with MRAM FLC in the future. The design enables solutions with smaller form factor and less power consumption. 

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