Design trends from semiconductor specialists for smart home

Design trends from semiconductor specialists for smart home
Semiconductor companies are enablers and accelerators for the growth of the IoT industry. Connectivity and video monitoring ICs are thriving segments in the smart home space.
 
Taking an agnostic approach to wireless technologies, the vendors who provide connectivity ICs prefer to support multiple wireless communication protocols for better interoperability among connected devices. We’ve seen lots of new solutions supporting ZigBee 3.0, BLE Mesh and Thread launched in early 2016. Besides, low-power consumption and voice control are two key features for the new announcements.
 

Thread works with ZigBee

Thread has its first stand at CES this year. The group itself rattled the market by introducing product certification program to the market in 2015. At CES 2016, the 227 active member partners currently under its belt made a buzz with Thread enabled products. According to the group, Thread is a wireless network stack based on open standards, and no licenses or royalty fees is required for developers to use the software stack. Furthermore, the ZigBee Alliance and the Thread Group established a liaison agreement in April 2015 for bringing ZigBee’s widely deployed applications library to the newly developed Thread networking protocol. The cooperation helps to streamline product development, improves interoperability and enhances consumer’s experience.
 
NXP offers smart home development and evaluation solutions. Its reference designs for lighting products support Thread, ZigBee 3.0, BLE and NFC technologies. The company provides a turn-key solution incorporating NFC technology for tap and connect commissioning, used for occupancy and motion sensors, smart plugs, smoke detectors and various nodes from global partners.
 
GreenPeak Technologies GP712 is the industry’s first radio communication controller to support ZigBee and Thread in a single device with fully independent channel selection – at the cost of a single protocol solution. It simultaneously supports up to three network protocols in a concurrent and transparent way on different channels and allows interoperability between ZigBee PRO, ZigBee RF4CE and Thread.
 

Lower power & CPU consumption

Bluetooth Low Energy (Blutooth Smart) is one of the popular low-power technologies that meet the growing requirements of battery-operated or low-power products in the smart home industry.
 
Atmel launched a low-power BLE 4.1 SoC, Smart BTLC1000, which features power saving at least 30 percent in dynamic mode compared to available solutions, taking less than 4mA in RX and less than 3mA in TX at 0dbm. The chip's all-important sleep current is 1.1uA and the receiver has -95dBm sensitivity.
 
MediaTek introduced low-power MT7697 SoC, applied for applications such as home appliances, home automation, smart gadgets, IoT bridges and cloud connectivity. The chipset supports BLE for the short-range communication among connected devices, and Wi-Fi for long-range and better Internet access. MT7697D, the dual-band Wi-Fi version of the chipset, supports 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
 
Realtek RTL8762A is a BLE 4.2 SoC that includes an ARM Cortex-M0, 2Mbit eFlash, Voice ADC, and IR Tx/Rx. It also supports the OTA/UART/SPI interface. It can be applied for Bluetooth remotes for controlling TV, STB, air conditioner, and other smart appliances. It requires no directional pointing of the controller device. Featuring Bluetooth Voice, it supports voice control over a toy car, or smart lights.
 
Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI) has launched a new Bluetooth Smart 4.2 System-on-Chip (SoC) family—CSR102x family. It can be used in wireless remote controls, simple smart watches, home automation solutions and beacons, where balancing performance, battery life and cost is critical. Supporting voice command capabilities and ultra-low power consumption, the solution can be applied for remote controls with always-on voice and CSRmesh support for home automation manufacturers looking to create whole home systems.
 
Based upon the Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 processor, QTI introduced a smart home reference platform, The solution provides computing, voice recognition, audio, display, camera, connectivity, and control capabilities for smart home control hubs, speakers, home appliances, multimedia devices like TVs and set-top boxes. It offers a prototype hardware design available to OEMs.

Broadcom's BCM4908 includes the 1.8GHz 64Bit quad-core ARM CPU and Broadcom's Runner network packet processor to deliver more than 5 Gbps of system data throughput without taxing the CPU. The BCM4908 enables OEMs and service providers to deliver the extra CPU power needed for smart home and Internet of Things applications while unleashing the higher Internet speeds coming into the home.
 

Google Brillo compatible

Apple and Google have created two major ecosystems, where connected devices in the ecosystem can be interoperable with each other. Several semiconductor companies introduced HomeKit- and Brillo-compatible solutions at CES.
 
Realtek Semiconductor demonstrated two solutions, Ameba (RTL8711A) and iCOM (RTL8871AM), for Apple HomeKit devices and Linux-based Google IoT gateway respectively.
 
Marvell is among the first semiconductor companies to have launched a Brillo-compatible solution with its Andromeda Box IoT platform, for IoT gateways and smart home devices. Brillo is an Android-based operating system with native support for Weave communication protocol. Besides, Marvell announced low-power Avastar 88W8977 combo IC, supporting Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 (with future Bluetooth 5.0 features). By leveraging 28nm technology and Marvell’s advanced radio architecture, the SoC improves power consumption efficiency, ideal for wearables, wireless audio and smart home security cameras which demand low power to extend battery life. Moreover, it supports 802.11mc and BLE Angle based Location for indoor navigation.
 

Video solutions

The video monitoring application has been a thriving field. Ambarella introduced the S3L SoC family that brings the low bit rate benefits of H.265 to both cloud-based home monitoring and mainstream professional cameras. The company sees increasing demand for analytics for smarter cameras, H.265 technology for lower bitrates, improved low light, HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging, smart zoom capability and wide-angle lens support. Besides, the company views the video doorbell camera as a new category with features like 180-degree wide-angle viewing and image de-warping. The company mentions another class of cameras called “sensing” cameras, which capture video purely for analyzing and extracting data from the image. The company expects that sensing cameras will support a number of home applications and those typically require very low power, analytics and good imaging in challenging lighting conditions.
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