How does this wireless module cut size and power elements of 4.1 Bluetooth apps?

30-03-2016 |   |  By Paul Whytock

A module that is pre-certified, Bluetooth 4.1 compliant and features 3dBm output power for apps requiring up to a 50 metre range has been developed by Texas-based Silicon Labs. It is based on the company's Blue Gecko wireless SoC.

Being 4.1 compliant is important for a number of reasons. Firstly it helps cut power consumption because it lets system manufacturers choose the reconnection time intervals for their designs which can save on power. It also lets Bluetooth and 4G connectivity operate more efficiently together and stops the signal degradation that can occur which reduces battery operating times.

Another operational advantage of 4.1 compliance is it means Bluetooth devices can act as a hub and end device which therefore lets peripheral devices communicate autonomously. This factor is particularly important when it comes to the levels of connectivity that the Internet of Things will need and the data transfer requirements that it will create.

Development System

Developers can also work on creating further energy savings using the company's Energy Profiler, which is part of Silicon Labs' development system called Simplicity Studio. This lets designers benchmark the energy efficiency of their IoT system designs. The Energy Score helps developers see which design iteration provides the highest battery life score. Energy Profiler also has an enhanced graphical capability like an oscilloscope. Developers can zoom in on the X (time) and Y (power) axes of the graph to visualise the details of energy consumption performance.

High Efficiency Antenna

Silicon Labs' BGM113 module combines a 2.4 GHz Blue Gecko wireless SoC and a high-efficiency chip antenna and the modules are field-upgradable using device firmware upgrades to Bluetooth 4.2 and beyond.

The company believes the modules will free developers from complex RF design or protocol decisions, allowing them to focus on the end applications.

Why Pre-Certified?

Pre-certified solution modules cut the time, effort and risk required for FCC/CE/IC certifications in North America and Europe and certifications for Japan and South Korea.

A pre-certified RF module means the manufacturer has committed time and money to certifying that particular module. Manufacturers should certify the module in all countries where the final product will be sold.

Modules that are pre-certified provide much faster time to market but can mean designs are restricted to certain antenna types.

Development Software

Backed by Silicon Labs’ development software, the BGM113 module is claimed by the company to be a good choice for space and energy sensitive RF applications such as smart phone accessories, wearable sports and fitness products, wireless locks and point-of-sale devices.

It is supported by the company's development system called Simplicity Studio. This provides quick access to design tools, documentation, software and support resources for EFM32, EFM8, 8051, Wireless MCUs and Wireless Gecko SoCs. Simplicity Studio 3.3 now features an enhanced real-time Energy Profiler, 3x faster execution speed and an easier, faster installation process.

Using the BASIC-like syntax of Silicon Labs’ BGScript scripting language, developers can create Bluetooth applications quickly without adding external MCUs to run the application logic.

The BGM113 module is footprint-compatible with Silicon Labs’ BLE113 Bluetooth module. This enables customers to migrate to an ARM Cortex-M4 Bluetooth platform with higher application processing power and lower power consumption while opening a path for Bluetooth 4.2 upgrades. The BGM113 module also complements Silicon Labs’ larger footprint, higher output BGM111 module.

The Blue Gecko modules and SoCs have similar technical features and identical software and application programming interfaces. This compatibility makes it easy to migrate from modules to SoCs in wireless designs with full software reuse and minimal cost and software development effort.

In summary, key features of the Blue Gecko BGM113 Module are:

  • Size: 9.2 mm x 15.8 mm x 1.83 mm
  • Up to +3 dBm supporting range of up to 50 meters
  • Bluetooth 4.1/4.2 software stack
  • Blue Gecko SoC with a 2.4 GHz transceiver with a 40 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 core
  • Consumes 8.7mA (peak receive mode) and 8.8mA at 0 dBm (peak transmit mode)

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By Paul Whytock

Paul Whytock is Technology Correspondent for Electropages. He has reported extensively on the electronics industry in Europe, the United States and the Far East for over thirty years. Prior to entering journalism, he worked as a design engineer with Ford Motor Company at locations in England, Germany, Holland and Belgium.

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