Silicon Labs has announced an expansion to its wireless portfolio with the WF200 transceiver and WFM200 module. Both are currently available for early access request, with plans for production availability in the last quarter of 2018.
The WF200 and WFM200 feature:
- 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi capabilities (802.11 b/g/n)
- Low transmission and receiving power (TX: 138 mA, RX: 48mA)
- Average Wi-Fi power consumption of 200µA (DTIM = 3)
- 115 dBm link budget for long-range transmissions over Wi-Fi
- 4mmx4mm (QFN32 transceiver) and 6.5mmx6.5mm (LGA52 system-in-a-package module) footprints
- Integrated antenna (WFM200) and external antenna ready (WF200)
- Secure boot, secure link, and secure debugging features
- Pre-certified by he FCC, IC, CE and both Japan and South Korea
- Development tools and already available host drivers
The WFM200 is being touted by the company as being the world’s smallest system-in-a-package that is pre-certified.
WFM200 Module layout. Image courtesy of Silicon Labs.
The Wi-Fi Portfolio promises to cut energy consumption for Wi-Fi in half, reducing the pressure for power requirements and getting new IoT devices to market faster. This reduced power consumption can be achieved through the selection of passive components and Wi-Fi connectivity philosophies such as only connecting to the network when required, disconnecting when it’s not, and sleeping whenever possible—reducing the number of packets being sent or received, preventing the devices from contributing to overloaded networks, and lowering power requirements (another challenge with IoT Wi-Fi devices).
The WFM 200 Module. Image courtesy of Silicon Labs.
Wi-Fi is an increasingly important feature in IoT applications—many sensors and devices benefit from being able to connect wirelessly, with higher demands for bandwidth when transmitting large quantities of data (video stream, smart sensor information, etc). Wi-Fi also helps expand a device’s range, reaching even further than Bluetooth or Zigbee can.
However, power consumption and battery capacity have both been a limitation when it comes to implementing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and any other wireless communication system. Since battery technology has been slow to evolve, and large cumbersome batteries are not ideal in IoT, hardware design of communication systems has had to adapt and overcome these challenges. Smaller, more power-efficient Wi-Fi IoT devices will have implications in home automation (remote control, home security), consumer health products (blood pressure monitoring, patient monitoring, wearable health devices), security (IP cameras, remote access), and in commercial/retail environments (occupancy sensors, point-of-sale devices).
For Wi-Fi specifically, wide-spread availability has made it particularly important. Industry forecasts also expect the Wi-Fi connected, low-power device market to increase five-fold, from 128 million units in 2016 to 584 million units by 2021.