Silicon Labs claims dynamic multi-protocol support for IoT devices

Silicon Labs has aims to address the issue of fragmented connectivity for the Internet of Things with ‘dynamic multi-protocol software’ for its Wireless Gecko modules and chips.

Many IoT chip providers, such as NXP, Texas Instruments and Nordic, now embed multi-protocol capabilities into their hardware, but Silicon Labs claims to have gone a step further, enabling devices to connect to Zigbee and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) dynamically, and at the same time.

Daniel Cooley, general manager of IoT products at the chip supplier, said fully dynamic switching is unique in this market – other solutions do not switch in real time. Some use cases will rely on this dynamic operation, or at least will benefit from it – dynamic time slicing is needed if a primary ZigBee or Thread network must periodically transmit BLE beacons, said Silicon Labs, which said it has saved OEMs the complex work of developing these capabilities themselves.

Cooley told EETimes: “Think about a wireless network like Zigbee… a low duty cycle radio network that doesn’t really need to be on all the time. In contrast, BLE is an unforgiving wireless network that must be maintained all the time.”

Another important advantage is to allow IoT device users to “commission, update, control and monitor ZigBee mesh networks directly over Bluetooth with smartphone apps”, often a preferred mechanism for consumers. And users can control smart home applications with mobile devices, without having to go to the internet.

Some of the technology has come from Micrium, a real-time operating system supplier which Silicon Labs acquired a year ago. This has seen the parent firm evolving the RTOS towards being an optimized IoT OS, and support for dynamic radio schedulers has come as part of that activity, building on the existing real-time functionality of the platform.

The multiprotocol software is available now to customers using Silicon Labs’ EFR32MG12 and EFR32MG13 Wireless Gecko SoCs and associated modules, at no extra charge.