Electronic Design

Network Processor Simplifies ZigBee Design

The ZigBee short-range wireless networking technology adds a complex stack to the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless standard, making it a bear to work with—especially for designers who aren’t so wirelessly inclined. But if you want to do mesh networking, it’s the way to go. Just be prepared for a steep learning curve and a compliance process that takes both time and money.

Or, check out Texas Instruments’ Z-Accel product line, which makes it easier than ever to get a ZigBee project up and running fast and cheap with minimal new learning. To use it, you won’t have to read the ZigBee spec, which is more than 500 pages. And perhaps more importantly, you can use whatever applications processor you want.

The first part in the line, the CCZACC06 ZigBee network processor, packages the 2.4-GHz 802.15.4 radio transceiver along with the ZigBee stack running on an embedded 8051 processor. The application itself runs on an external microcontroller of your choice (see the figure).

In the past, designers had two main ZigBee implementation choices: a separate RF transceiver with their own external processor running the ZigBee stack and application or a complete system-on-a-chip with a radio and ZigBee/applications processor in one package. One of those choices may still be good for you, and TI provides a variety of options to consider.

But if you just want to get a ZigBee mesh network designed and running fast and easy, the CCZACC06 may be the way to go. You don’t have to fool around with the embedded ZigBee Z-Stack, and you can work comfortably with your own applications processor. The two chips talk to one another over a serial peripheral interface (SPI) or a UART interface.

Z-Accel also includes SimpleAPI, software that implements the applications programming. It only has 10 application programming interface (API) calls to learn. Also, it greatly simplifies device configuration, the binding of devices, and the sending and receiving of data. Mesh is a snap.

You can use TI’s eZ430-RFZACC06 demo kit to evaluate this new option. It includes TI’s MSP430F2274 processor and SimpleAPI. Also, its packet sniffer tool helps you design and troubleshoot your application.

The CCZACC06 targets applications for home and building automation, industrial monitoring and control, wireless sensor networks, automated meter reading, and most other short-range applications. It comes in a 7- by 7-mm QFN-48 package. Pricing for 1000-unit quantities starts at $8.10. The USB-based demo kit costs $99.

Texas Instruments Inc.

www.ti.com

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