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Archive for the ‘Microcontrollers’ Category

November 5th, 2018

Enhanced Wireless Microcontroller Enables Affordable Design

By Sree Durbha, Head of Smart-Connected Business, Marvell Semiconductor

Today, we are at the peak of technology product availability with the releases of the new iPhone models, Alexa enabled devices and more. In the coming days, there will be numerous international consumer OEMs preparing new offerings as we approach the holiday selling season. Along with the smartphones, voice assistant enabled smart speakers and deep learning wireless security cameras, many devices and appliances are increasingly geared toward automating the home, the office and the factory. These devices are powered by application microcontroller units (MCUs) with embedded wireless connectivity to help users to remotely control and operate them via phone apps, voice or even through mere presence. This is part of an industry trend of pushing intelligence into everyday things. According to analyst firm Techno Systems Research1, this chipset market grew by more than 60% over the course of the last year and is likely to continue this high rate of growth.

The democratization of wireless connectivity intellectual property and the continuing shift of semiconductor design and development to low cost regions is helping give rise to new industry players. In order to help customers differentiate in this highly competitive market, Marvell has announced the 88MW320/322 low-power Wi-Fi microcontroller SoC. This chipset is 100% pin-compatible and software compatible with the existing 88MW300/302 based designs. Although the newly released microcontroller is cost-optimized, there are several key hardware and software enhancements in this chipset.

Support for extended industrial temperature operation, from -400 C through to 1050 C has been added. Unlike its predecessor, the 88MW320/322 can be implemented into more challenging application areas – such as LED lighting and industrial automation. No RF specific changes have been made within the silicon, so the minimum and maximum RF performance parameters remain the same as before. However, other fixes made have helped improve typical RF performance as reported by some of our customers when evaluating samples. Since there was no change in form, fit or function, the external RF interface remains the same as well. This enables customers to leverage existing 88MW300/302 module and device level regulatory certification on 88MW320/322. A hardware security feature has also been incorporated that allows customers to uniquely tie the chipset to the firmware running on it. This helps prevent counterfeit software to run on the chipset.

This chipset is supported by the industry-leading Marvell EZ-Connect SDK for Apple’s new Advanced Development Kit (ADK) and Release 13 HomeKit Accessory Protocol SDK (R13 HAPSDK) with software-based authentication (SoftAuth), Amazon’s AWS IoT and other third-party cloud platforms. The Apple SoftAuth support now allows customers to avoid the cost and hassle of adding the MFi authentication chip, which was previously required to get HomeKit certification. On the applications side, we have added support for the Alexa Voice Services library. With MP3 decoder and OAUTH2 modules integrated on our SDK, our solution now allows customers to add an external audio-codec chipset to offer native voice command translation for basic product control functions.

As previously announced, we continue to partner with Dialog Semiconductor to offer support for BLE with shared antenna managed coexistence software with our Wi-Fi on 88MW320/322. Several of our module vendor partners have announced support for this chipset in standalone and Wi-Fi + BLE combo configurations. You can find a complete list of modules supporting this chipset on the Marvell Wireless Microcontrollers page.

The 88MW320/322 has been sampling to customers for a few months now and is currently shipping. The product comes in 68-pin QFN package (88MW320) and 88-pin QFN package (88MW322) formats. It is available in commercial, extended, industrial and extended industrial temperature ranges in both tray and tape and reel configurations.

Watch this space for future announcements as we extend the availability of Marvell’s solutions for the smart home, office and factory to our customers through our catalog partners. The goal is to enable our wireless microcontroller solutions with easy to install one-click software that allows smaller customers to use our partner reference designs to develop their form factor proof of concept designs with hardware, firmware, middleware, cloud connectivity software, collateral and application support from a single source. This will free up their resources so that they can focus on what is most important to them – which is to work on application software and differentiation.

The best is yet to come. As the industry demands solutions with higher levels of integration at ever lower power to allow for wireless products with several months and even years of battery life, you can count on Marvell to innovate to help meet customer needs. For example, the 802.11ax standard specification is not just for high efficiency and high throughput designs, it also offers provisions for low power, long battery life designs. 20MHz only channel operation in the 5GHz band and features such as target wake time (TWT), which helps extend the sleep cycle of devices; dual sub-carrier modulation (DCM), which helps extend the wireless range; uplink and downlink OFDMA, all contribute to make the next generation of devices worth waiting for.

1. 2017 Wireless Connectivity Market Analysis, August, 2018

November 8th, 2017

Redefining the Connected Home

By Sree Durbha, Head of Smart-Connected Business, Marvell Semiconductor

The concept of a fully ‘connected home’ has been discussed for more than 20 years. However, widespread proliferation has taken far longer than anyone could have originally imagined. For a long time, deployment activity seemed to be limited to a relatively small number of high value installations. These installations were generally complicated to implement and their operation was not very user-friendly. Most importantly, they were composed of an amalgamation of isolated subsystems from different suppliers rather than a single universal system.

Even as home automation started to become accessible from smartphones and tablets, market fragmentation meant that each aspect of the automation technology installed within a home was still based on its own proprietary mechanism that needed a separate app to control it. As a result, home automation systems have often proven inconvenient and frustrating for those operating them and has unquestionably held back their adoption by consumers. The industry fragmentation and lack of interoperability between different vendor ecosystems meant that the consumer couldn’t really take advantage of the connected capabilities of all the various platforms.

The industry is innovating with solutions that seem finally likely to help broaden the appeal of home automation and accelerate its future progression. Through its HomeKit™ technology, Apple is looking to consolidate all the various verticals under a single, comprehensive home automation ecosystem that works together easily and securely. The HomeKit Accessory Protocol (HAP) is enabling hardware from different suppliers involved in home automation to communicate with Apple products (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch) via a single, consistent, complete platform. This is done via wireless technologies like Bluetooth® Low Energy technology, as well as IP connectivity. The list of different ‘behaviors’ covered by the HomeKit hardware and software technology is extensive. Selecting a playlist for the audio system, turning on the lights in a particular room, remotely starting up home appliances (such as a washer/dryer), adjusting the heating and cooling, and activating the door entry system are just a few examples. But, because all of these functions are controlled via the Apple Home app or by asking Siri (rather than multiple apps), they can now work in tandem. For instance, settings can be configured so that if the curtains in a room were drawn, then the lighting would simultaneously turn on, or the ambient lighting could be changed to fit a certain music playlist.

Marvell is placing itself at the forefront of next generation smart home development through its support of Apple HomeKit. Our family of wireless SoC devices was the first in the industry to secure certification for the original HAP specification three years ago and has consistently been at the forefront as evidenced with our latest HomeKit Accessory Protocol Release 9 (HAP R9) specification. The low power 88MW30x ICs each possess an integrated microcontroller with Cortex®-M4 processing core, plus single-band IEEE 802.11n Wi-Fi® functionality. The truly transformational change this time is our SoCs’ certification for iCloud implementation, which enables remote control of HomeKit compliant devices using voice as well as the HomeKit App using iCloud® remote access. This means that OEMs serving the home automation market will be able to make their systems much more streamlined and convenient to seamlessly implement through iCloud. As a result, new use cases are now possible. For example, you can remotely start your thermostat to heat or cool your home using the Apple Home app (or Siri® voice control) while you are still on your way home from work and have the right temperature set for when you arrive.

This technology is showcased in the Marvell® EZ-Connect® HAP software development kit (SDK), which is designed to facilitate the implementation of HomeKit-enabled home automation accessories – accelerating our OEM customers’ design cycles and allowing products to be brought to market more quickly. Complementing its 802.11n wireless connectivity, the incorporated bridging functionality also allows interfacing with equipment using other RF protocols like Bluetooth low energy technology. For example, Marvell has partnered with a leading Bluetooth low energy vendor to offer a combo module reference design that is commercially available today through one of our module vendor partners, Azurewave. Our emphasis on security, encryption and memory partitioning allows secure, over-the-air firmware upgrades so that customer applications can run securely from external Flash memory while being encrypted on the fly. Our SDK also supports Amazon’s popular AWS cloud platform and Google’s Weave/Cloud as alternatives. To accompany the SDK, Marvell intends to provide OEMs with all the collateral necessary to get their products through the HomeKit certification process as rapidly and painlessly as possible and into the market quickly. Useful project examples are also provided.

Marvell understands how crucially important a robust software solution is to enable a hassle free home automation user experience and has developed industry leading software capabilities in support of Apple HomeKit. This has allowed us to get ahead of the game.