Dialog Semi Releases “World’s Smallest and Most Power Efficient” Bluetooth 5.1 SoC Module for IoT ApplicationsNovember 04, 2019 by Robin Mitchell
Dialog Semiconductor today announced a new BLE SoC—one it claims is the smallest and least power-hungry on the market.
Dialog Semiconductor has announced its latest Bluetooth SoC, the DA14531, which Dialog claims is the smallest and most power-efficient of its kind in the world.
Power consumption is at the heart of IoT design. With this in mind, Dialog Semiconductor has announced its latest product, the DA14531, which aims to power the next 1 billion devices.
Dialog Semi asserts that the DA14531 is the world’s smallest and lowest-power Bluetooth 5.1 SoC packed with features and peripherals. The core of the DA14531 is an ARM Cortex M0+, which features 48kB RAM, 144kB ROM, and 32kB of OTP memory.
The DA14531. image from Dialog Semiconductor
The DA14531 also integrates a range of peripherals including an RTC, SWD, two UARTs, SPI, I2C, a quadrator decoder, keyboard control, multiple timers, an ADC, and a temperature sensor. Applications that require GPIO will be easily served with the DA14531's 12 GPIO (if using the FCGQFN24) or 6 GPIO (if using the WLCSP17).
Smaller Size, Lower Power Consumption, Lower Costs
But the three main features that make the DA14531 stand out is the size, power consumption, and price. The DA14531 is available in packages as small as 1.7 x 2.0 mm which makes it useable in many low-profile applications including RFID tags, smart labels, and styluses.
The DA14531 uses half as much energy as its Dialog Semi predecessor, the DA14580, while the on-board DC-DC converter enables it to operate on a wide range of voltages (1.1 V to 3.3 V). This voltage range allows the DA14531 to run on small batteries, which widens its potential applications to wearable electronics as well as medical electronics (such as glucose monitoring).
"World's Smallest"—Records in EEMBC Benchmarks
According to Mark de Clercq, Dialog's Director of Low-Power Connectivity Business Unit, Dialog is basing its claims off of data from the EEMBC, the Embedded Microprocessor Benchmarking Consortium. The EEMBC, de Clercq says, is "one of the leading consortiums for benchmarks for microprocessors... usually focusing on the power and the performance of the microprocessor."
In a benchmark designed to represent a realistic edge node scenario (sensing, processing, and communicating environmental data), the EEMBC compared the DA14531 to what de Clercq calls a "key competitor" in the IoT space.
As de Clerqc puts it, "...with this benchmark, we actually managed to achieve a record number which also showed that we were 35 percent better in our efficiency compared to our key competitor in this industry."
A representation of the DA14531-buck compared to a competitor in EEMBC benchmarking. Image from Dialog Semiconductor
The device is capable of receiving software updates over-the-air (SUOTA) support. Regarding the security issues that come part-and-parcel to modern connectivity, de Clercq explained that there are built-in security features in the SoC:
"The Bluetooth standard provides industry-standard security features such a AES128 and ECC, both of which TINY supports, to secure the Bluetooth communication link. We have also included asymmetric crypto algorithms (ECC) in the ROM (Read Only Memory) of TINY that enable users to verify the signature of the SW prior to executing it; whether it’s the current image or the new image that has been downloaded."
Costs, Tradeoffs, and Tools
Dialog Semi aims for the DA14531 to be attractive to designers who are looking for an inexpensive BLE solution. Oftentimes, engineers must balance project costs with demands on decreasing time-to-market. According to de Clercq, the Smartbond TINY addresses this pressure to choose between accelerated development and lowering costs on two fronts: the hardware and the software.
On the hardware side: "...our Smartbond TINY module is a great way to accelerate development time as it provides a complete design including certification. Though not optimal from a cost perspective, it helps designers shave several months from their development time." He went on to say that, in the long run, engineers could use the module for initial designs and then optimize by using replacing the module with the chip.
On the software side: "...we provide several easy-to-use software packages that enable developers to accelerate their development time. For designers who do not have experience with Bluetooth, our CodeLess software package of AT commands allows designers to enable Bluetooth low energy communication through very simple and basic commands—without the need to write code and be familiar with the Bluetooth standard. Similarly, for developers who are familiar with Bluetooth, our software examples are a great way to kick-start their development by reusing the code provided in these examples as a starting point."
Have you designed Bluetooth IoT devices? What SoCs have you used in these applications? Share your experiences in the comments below.