There are generally two options:
Option 1: Use a wireless system-on-a-chip (SoC) directly on the product printed circuit board (PCB). A fully-integrated SoC has RF, analog and digital circuitry, and a microcontroller (MCU) on an easy to use, inexpensive integrated circuit.
Option 2: Use a wireless module. It includes the same wireless SoC as Option 1, but most are fully characterized products, including RF and shielding, timing components (crystals), external bill of materials (BOM), regulatory approvals, and standards bodies’ certifications.
There is a point in each product’s life when an “on-board” solution might make sense to save money. But it’s not always obvious, or tied to volume. Even the Apple iPhone 6 uses a Wi-Fi module instead of an SoC and it has shipped something close to 200 million units. Why?
The answer may be one of the six hidden costs to using an SoC that every product development company needs to consider. Check out more detail of the summary bullets in this whitepaper.
It’s not easy to predict all the reasons it might make sense to use a module over an SoC, or when the right time to switch to an SoC might be.
In fact, some companies have many products in production that use either an SoC or a module. When companies use modules and SoCs for the same functionality, they often use the same supplier for both so their software is portable between both types of designs. They can also be sure their support will be consistent for both products.
Silicon Labs offers both wireless SoCs like the wireless Geckos announced at Embedded World 2016, and modules that incorporate them. The software for them is portable, and both are supported by our world-class applications teams making it easy to move from modules to SoCs when the time is right.
Check out Silicon Labs Wireless Solutions.
Check out Silicon Labs Bluetooth Solutions.
Check out the whitepaper on hidden costs of SoCs.