Different wireless protocols to work in parallel for some time: Silicon Labs

Different wireless protocols to work in parallel for some time: Silicon Labs
Silicon Labs considers IoT as a “multi-decade opportunity” and is heavily invested in this area. It is a big strategic focus for the company, said Matt Saunders, Vice President of Marketing and Applications of Silicon Labs’ IoT Business Unit.
 
Silicon Lab’s IoT Business has two segments: smart home and industrial/commercial applications. Smart home has seen fast growth because it is a consumer type of market. “We see a very strong demand,” Saunders said. Smart home is just part of the IoT market, which is expected to witness sustained growth, Saunders noted.
 
Saunders made the remarks in a Silicon Labs press event to promote its Series 2 Wireless Gecko platform, which consists of a small system-on-chip (SoC) with a dedicated security core and an on-chip radio. The platform includes not just one component, but an array of products supported by common tools and common software stacks that are easy to use.
 
IoT applications have very constrained development requirement. Compared with computers and handheld devices, IoT devices cost much less (US$10 per device on average) and require a 10-year battery life, Saunders said. “To deliver on this is actually quite a hard task.” The Gecko platform is designed to help manufacturers develop IoT devices rapidly, Silicon Labs said.
 
Silicon Labs’ SoC supports Zigbee, Thread and Bluetooth mesh multi-protocol communications.“There is a need for the variety of protocols that exist, because of the variety of use cases that IoT represent,” Saunders said. “I don’t believe there will be a consolidation in protocols. All of them will work in parallel for some time.”
 
If it is just smart home, then maybe one to two protocols would be enough. But there are also smart industries, smart cities and other applications. This is why more protocols are required, Saunders explained.
 
The kind of data that smart home would transmit versus what a smart factory would transfer is different. The environments in which these IoT products exist are also different.
 
From Silicon Labs’ viewpoint, usage of different protocols continue to grow. In Europe and the U.S., Zigbee is the dominant choice for home applications. In Asia, Bluetooth mesh networking is the more popular choice.

Silicon Labs’ solution for Zigbee light switch

 Silicon Labs’ solution was recently adopted in the Friends with Hue program. Philips Hue smart lightbulbs have had an issue with traditional light switches. When users turn off the light, they also shut off the main power to the lightbulb. In this case, the smart bulb is no longer smart. And users can no longer control it from their smartphones or through voice commands.

Lutron worked with Silicon Labs to create a battery-powered smart switch that is compatible with the Hue bulb. It allows the Hue bulb to function even if the switch has been turned off.
 
The light switch uses the Zigbee protocol to communicate with the Hue bulb. This allows for uninterrupted performance even if there is a Wi-Fi outage.
 
Signify, the new brand name for Philips Lighting, wrote a piece of proprietary software that defines how smart switches integrate into the Hue system. Silicon Labs wrote another software that enables the Hue specifications. Silicon Labs’ software can be used by any switch vendors that want to be part of the Hue program and Lutron is one of them.


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