The Need for Narrow Band IoT
When the term "IoT" first became popular, it caused some confusion as to what it really represented. In truth, the IoT is nothing new or special but is instead the phenomena of connecting many simple devices to the internet that can gather data from their environment.
Most IoT devices use Wi-Fi to connect to the internet but, as anyone who owns a smartphone or who has used the ESP8266 will know, Wi-Fi devices are often very power consuming. Part of this issue is that Wi-Fi, despite its short range, is designed for high throughput which in turn results in a larger power consumption (when compared to other radio communication techniques).
This problem with power consumption led the industry to ask a very simple question: “If an IoT device needs to send less than 200 bytes, why are we using Wi-Fi?”
The answer to this question is simply that Wi-Fi networks are plentiful and, as a result, many IoT SoC manufacturers only produce Wi-Fi products. But is there a better way of transmitting this data without having to consume large amounts of power?
In trying to answer this question, several new cellular network standards have been introduced, including EC-G SM-IoT and LTE Cat NB1. These networks are still in their trial phases and are expected to be put into mainstream use in 2018.
Narrow band IoT (NB IoT) speeds vary but are often less than 1Mbit/s. However, this lower bit rate significantly reduces the power consumption of the connecting device and can further extend the operating life on a single charge.
Cellular networks could provide the future of IoT applications.
So, narrow band technology could be potentially huge for the IoT industry and some manufacturers are preparing for this market growth. It's been tested by various parties over the last year or so (for example, u-blox and Huawei tested it in pet-tracking wearables in Brazil) for efficacy and scalability.
CEVA announced on the 25th June that they are releasing a new design to meet this emerging market.
Enter the Dragonfly NB2
CEVA, a licenser of signal processing platforms, has announced their latest IoT solution, the Dragonfly NB2, which provides designers with a single chip solution for NB IoT applications. The system has been optimized for the Cat-NB2 specification, which is due to be rolled out in the coming year by major network operators. The Dragonfly NB2 builds on CEVA's previous NB IoT solution, the Dragonfly NB1, which has already seen licensing in many areas including smart cities, transport, and consumer electronics.
At the heart of the Dragonfly NB2 is the CEVA-X1 DSP control processor which includes an enhanced instruction set architecture as well as providing a unified processor environment that helps with both physical and protocol stack workloads.
- Single core custom Harvard architecture low power processor
- Battery life of 5 to 10 years is achievable
- Architecture and C compiler natively support RTOS
The Dragonfly NB2 also integrates an RF transceiver, power amplifier, and all modules needed to create a complete NB IoT product which helps to reduce the cost of the final product. The SoC has been proven to function on both 55nm and 40nm processes, which helps to lower the entry barrier for any designer who has not worked with cellular design before.
But the Dragonfly NB2 platform does not just handle cellular communication and power consumption; it also includes a power-optimized GNSS hardware module. The NB2 GNSS system outperforms the NB1 by up to 8 times which allows for faster responses in applications such as tracking and geo-fencing. The NB2 also supports the use of voice activation and commands in situations where the system needs to always listen. The CEVA ClearVox voice front-end software package is one example of a software feature that can be implemented which provides clear voice pickup in scenarios such as emergency calls and panic situations.
“The widespread commercial deployment of NB-IoT is well underway across the globe," says Michael Boukaya, VP and GM of the wireless business unit at CEVA. "With the introduction of CEVA-Dragonfly NB2, we have built on the considerable success we achieved with our first generation solution, and delivered a unique, silicon-proven eNB-IoT Release 14 solution for our customers that is unprecedented in terms of system completeness, performance and power efficiency.”
Featured image courtesy of CEVA.
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