Wireless migration gets easier

Another innovative wireless-related idea, a 802.15.4/ZigBee solution, offers seamless migration to wireless networking for the more than 30,000 AVR (Atmel RISC microcontroller) based designs in car, industrial, and building control applications.

Atmel's AVR Z-Link development includes the company's low-power, high-sensitivity, 2.4-GHz AT86RF230 802.15.4 radio, an ultra-low-power ATmega1281 or ATmega 2561 AVR microcontroller, and compliant media-access-control (MAC) software optimised for the AVR architecture. This chip combination consumes less power, has a high link budget, and is claimed to possess a wider operating range than any comparable 802.15.4 solution, says Atmel.

The -100dB receive sensitivity and 3dB transmit power of Atmel's Z-Link radio give it a high link budget relative to 802.15.4. The AT86RF230 has line-of-sight range up to 2.8 times that of competing radios, reducing the total number of nodes required in the network and cutting 802.15.4 system cost by as much as 60%, says Atmel.

The 103dB link budget of the radio is achieved without external power amplifiers, cutting the bill-of-materials (BOM) cost. Only six external components are required for the radio function.

Typically, 802.15.4/ZigBee end nodes are battery-powered. With radio power consumption of 17mA during transmission, 15mA during receive mode, and 0.7µA in sleep mode, Atmel's Z-Link radio with true 1.8V operation maintains power efficiency.

In a real application with one transmission per minute, the Atmel chip set consumes less than 0.01mAh on average, resulting in a battery life of greater than five years using two AA 2700mAh batteries. It's predicted that the battery life of an Atmel end-node will be limited by the other non-radio/MCU system components, such as sensors or actuators, or by the battery's shelf life.

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