Our Bluetooth Xpress BGX13 Bluetooth 5 modules make it easy for developers to add Bluetooth to their products without requiring any firmware development. In this Tech Talks session, field applications engineer, Andrew Krenz, describes how easy it is to simply drop-in our BGX modules and connect. Watch our video of this Tech Talks session for an in-depth description of BGX modules and a live-recorded demo. Click here to register for future Tech Talks. Highlights from Andrew's session are below.
What is BGX?
Our fully integrated Bluetooth Xpress (BGX) modules provide the simplest method for adding Bluetooth to your designs. Based on our certified Bluetooth wireless modules, BGX modules are pin-compatible with BGM13 and support all of Bluetooth 5's PHYs (1M, 2M and long-range coded PHYs). They offer multiset advertising and can act in either a central or peripheral role, so they can advertise and scan at the same time.
BGX modules are pre-programmed with software that provides a simple, easy-to-use UART serial interface. They are pre-certified in the US, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Europe, and are available in the following two sizes:
PCB guidelines are easy to follow and compatible with BGM counterparts, giving developers a forward migration path if they ever wish to add more features.
Security and power management are covered by low-energy secure pairing and a simple power management framework that allows the BGX to go into sleep mode while the UART is still active.
The two most common use cases for BGX are:
Xpress Mobile Framework Tool Simplifies Design
The Xpress Mobile Framework for iOS and Android enables wireless communication with smartphones and other Bluetooth Xpress devices. This framework abstracts low-level, core Bluetooth API functionalities behind a unified, high-level API and handles everything for the user with a minimum level of complexity. Firmware and Over-the-Air (OTA) updates are attainable with the smartphone app. A recent update involving the Xpress command API enables smartphones to read and write data, thus eliminating the need for an MCU.
Follow these simple steps to get started on your design:
Adding Bluetooth to your products is now easier than ever. Our BGX modules and Xpress Configurator tool help you streamline the design process, enabling a faster time to market for your product.
For more information on our Wireless Xpress modules, contact your Silicon Sales representative.
In this Tech Talk session, Mark Hallam and David Seymour, Field Applications Engineers (FAE) for Silicon Labs, provided useful tips and tricks that they’ve collected from fellow FAEs and real Simplicity Studio users. Click here to watch the complete webinar and register now for future Tech Talks. Here are some key points from Mark and David’s session.
We Put the Simplicity in Simplicity Studio
It is the tool that has it all – Simplicity Studio integrates all the tools and resources you need for your MCU and wireless projects in one place. You will get not only an eclipse-based IDE with wireless stack support but also comprehensive documentation with demos and software examples. Simplicity Studio also comes with advanced tools that can help you with your development like Energy Profiler, Network Analyzer, AppBuilder, and Hardware Configurator.
We Have the Complete Solution to Enable your Bluetooth Products
Silicon Labs development solutions help enable your Bluetooth products, including:
To put it simply, as an integral part of these solutions, Simplicity Studio is a collection of tools, applications, utilities, and documentation that can save you a lot of development and debugging time, provide efficient support for your projects, and allows your products to meet the stringent design, features, power, and performance levels that you want to provide your own product users.
Useful Tips when Using Simplicity Studio
Start your Wireless product development with BG22 SoCs. Register to join our Hands-on Virtual Bluetooth Workshop to get help with the development of your secure IoT device on a Thunderboard kit.
The Tech Talk ended with a Q&A session, and you can find the transcript here.
At first glance, a system-on-a-chip (SoC) might seem like the most cost-efficient option for your wireless design. However, the hidden design costs of using an SoC could mean that a wireless module is the better choice. In this Tech Talks session, product marketing manager, Joe Tillison, outlines the criteria for making the best choices for your design. Click here to watch the entire session and register now for future Tech Talks. Here are some of the key takeaways from Joe's presentation.
Today's highly integrated SoCs provide the lowest possible bill of materials (BoM) cost option. However, SoCs are more challenging to design with and thus require research and development (R&D) budget, specialized measurement equipment, and staff expertise in RF design and compliance testing. While modules are more expensive, they are easier to use and come pre-certified for RF compliance agencies, enabling faster time to market. So, how do you decide which option to use? Joe recommends starting with a break-even analysis.
The following break-even analysis table shows that, at lower volumes, the SoC profit is negative due to the upfront costs of using an SoC in your design.
The annual break-even volume between SoCs and modules in this example is around 300,000 units. Although the break-even point may seem surprisingly high, there is a simple reason: as chip pricing has come down, so has the gap between chip pricing and module pricing. At high volumes, there can be as little as $1 price difference between chips and modules.
If you're only comparing chip pricing to module pricing, you're ignoring some hidden costs. Development with SoCs requires RF engineers with specialized skills, which adds to overhead development cost. Additionally, SoCs must undergo compliance testing and require the use of specialized lab equipment and facilities. Any issues discovered during compliance testing can be costly to fix in terms of redesign and lab expenses, all of which can cause time to market delays.
Wireless modules eliminate many of the risks associated with SoCs. They are easy to use in designs and involve only a few simple guidelines. Additionally, modules are fully tested and characterized by the vendor. End products using pre-certified modules inherit the module's certifications. Overall, modules provide a faster path to revenue.
When choosing between an SoC or a module for your wireless design, consider the following important factors:
Silicon Labs offers the best of both worlds. Our module and SoC families use the same tools and software, so the developer experience is the same no matter which option you choose. Our pre-certified modules, which have already been tested to meet alliance standards and RF regulatory requirements, ensure certification of your end products. Silicon Labs’ reference designs, technical documentation and support teams assist experienced RF engineers in efficiently designing with our SoCs and enable developers with little to no RF experience to add wireless connectivity to their IoT products using modules.
When it comes to adding wireless functionality to your products, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Let us help you find the best choice for your wireless development needs. To learn more about our wireless module and SoC solutions, contact your Silicon Labs sales representative.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, online retail was forecast to make up 22% of global retail sales by 2023. That forecast will increase as our world adjusts to a new reality imposed on our world by the pandemic. However, a massive 75% of consumers still prefer in-store shopping for many items that don’t translate well online. That means there are millions of shoppers who need to feel the fabric before they buy, check produce freshness before they put it in their cart, and examine the inventory of various item colors, sizes in-person. More examples abound.
Now more than ever, retailers need to implement omnichannel strategies, which include in-store experiences that integrate seamlessly with their online presence. As the pandemic has made clear, all in-store experiences going forward must reliably be safe, efficient, and convenient for shoppers and store staff alike. One of the single most effective ways to achieve this critical goal is through the implementation of smart retail solutions.
There are many effective, reliable smart retail technologies that brick and mortar stores can implement today across their retail footprint that enable both safe and enjoyable in-store experiences as well as reduce overhead retail costs. Examples include dynamic pricing, real-time location tracking (RTLS), electronic shelf labels, item self-scanning, in-store navigation. Hence, customers and staff know exactly where in the store to go for what they need, contactless self-service checkout that eliminates bottlenecks when shoppers are ready to leave with their purchases and much more.
Join our webinar on May 27th at 10 AM CDT and get your questions answered during our Live Q&A session at the end. Experts from Silicon Labs, Rainus, Zliide, and Quuppa will discuss the latest smart retail trends and wirelessly connected infrastructure technologies that help retailers get back to business by helping customers get the most out their in-store experiences.
Navigating the various requirements for qualifying and certifying your Bluetooth, Zigbee and Z-Wave-based IoT products can be challenging. In this Tech Talks session, Silicon Labs field applications engineer, Marius Turculet, walks you through each stage of the RF regulatory qualification and standards certification process for these wireless protocols and explains how Silicon Labs can support these procedures. Click here to watch the entire Qualifications session and register now for future Tech Talks. Here’s a summary of Marius's key points.
Wireless certification requirements fall into two categories:
RF Regulatory Certification
Regional RF regulatory bodies set the standards for testing requirements. Certification requirements vary slightly by country or region and involve one of the following approaches:
Silicon Labs provides numerous solutions to ease the RF certification process. We maintain our own documentation and offer pre-certified modules for the U.S., Canada, Japan and Korea. Our supporting collateral includes module data sheets, application notes, test reports, layout guidelines and installation instructions with tips pertaining to regulatory certification. These materials, as well as RF certification instructional videos, are available on our website.
Wireless Standards Certification – Bluetooth, Zigbee and Z-Wave
Wireless certifications are defined by the respective wireless alliance groups for Bluetooth, Zigbee and Z-Wave. These requirements ensure conformance to the alliance standard and promote interoperability of devices. Certification from an alliance comes with several benefits, including guarantees of interoperability with alliance devices; licensed IP; access to logos and trademarks that you can use on your products, marketing materials and website and the ability to market your product through the alliance group's website.
While each alliance has its own unique certification requirements, they all involve the following procedures:
Once the application for certification is approved, the product is listed on the alliance website, and all benefits associated with the alliance become available.
As a member of the Bluetooth SIG, Zigbee Alliance and Z-Wave Alliance, Silicon Labs offers a complete solution for your wireless development needs, including qualification and certification expertise. We provide the following components to streamline the certification process:
Certification and testing processes can be time consuming and costly and can delay development. Support from your silicon provider is crucial because it provides peace of mind, knowing that your final product will pass certification tests without delaying time to market or adding costs.
To learn more about our wireless solutions, including certification and qualification support, contact your Silicon Labs sales representative.
As COVID-19 continues to impact communities worldwide, I asked our offices around the world, “what can Silicon Labs do to help?” The question didn’t have a “one size fits all” answer, as the current impact of the pandemic varies based on where you live and work.
The conversations did yield two big takeaways:
At the beginning of the year, the Silicon Labs community relations team supported relief efforts in China via Give2Asia, and as incidents of COVID-19 moved across the globe, our response followed. We announced a contribution to the American Red Cross and the All Together ATX fund from our headquarters in Austin, driving support to that community which helped incubate Silicon Labs’ innovation for the past 24 years. Of course, core to that innovation is our global workforce, so the next step in our process was to designate COVID-19 relief funding for each of our offices outside of headquarters.
But we didn’t want to just designate funding from the corporate office - we wanted every employee to have a say in how they could support their local communities during the pandemic. Getting feedback from employees at 22 sites might seem daunting, but our teams combined a passion for giving back with a knack for process.
In the past few weeks, each of these sites has identified relief organizations making an impact in their local communities, polled their sites to get employee feedback and submitted their selection for approval through our partnership with the Austin Community Foundation. The end result is a portfolio of nonprofits that showcases just how wide-ranging the impact of COVID-19 has been on the world. Here are just a few examples:
These are just a few of the fantastic organizations our global teams are supporting during this crisis. During the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more about these contributions on social media, so be sure to follow @siliconlabs #siliconlabsgivesback
To learn more, go to our Silicon Labs COVID-19 Response page.
Since its inception, Silicon Labs has engaged with good causes to give back to the communities where we are located. We regularly volunteer, provide community grants, and match employee contributions through #siliconlabsgivesback. More recently, we’ve been looking for opportunities to join the fight against COVID-19, with community initiatives like #ieatlocal, global disaster relief grants, and identifying and prioritizing customers who have projects or products designed to treat or prevent infections.
As such, when the United Nations Development Programme and Hackster.io invited Silicon Labs to join and support their new COVID-19 Detect and Protect Challenge, it was an easy and natural choice for us to say YES!
The initiative calls on innovators from across the world to develop new tools that combat the threat posed by COVID-19. The focus is on affordable, efficient designs that support the diagnosis of coronavirus and help prevent the spread of future outbreaks.
Matt Johnson, our SVP/GM of IoT said “Joining forces to innovate solutions that can accelerate humanity's ability to detect and protect against COVID-19 is very much in line with our mission and values. We are so proud to be part of it.”
As part of our engagement, Silicon Labs is offering 100 free Thunderboard Sense 2 kits to developers. The Thunderboard Sense 2 kit has the EFR32MG12 SoC at its heart, enabling developers to work with multiple wireless protocols such as Bluetooth, Zigbee or Thread, and is packed full of environmental sensors including light and UV, audio, temperature, humidity, and motion.
In addition to the many prizes for contest winners selected by Hackster.io and UNDP, those who submit ideas to the challenge at Hackster.io can be selected to receive one of 100 free Thunderboard Sense 2 boards – a feature-rich and sensor-packed development kit – to help build your project. Need help getting started with Thunderboard Sense 2? Here are some links to additional resources:
Follow this challenge on Twitter for the latest news #COVID19DetectProtect
Last month, we had the opportunity to speak with the CEO and founder of OnAsset Intelligence Adam Crossno. OnAsset Intelligence is a leading provider of supply chain monitoring and tracking technology that helps companies track high-value or mission-critical assets across the global supply chain. The company works across a wide range of sectors and tracks everything – from life-saving immunotherapy treatments and vaccines to perishables and high-value goods. The company has created Bluetooth sensing devices that track valuable assets throughout an item’s travel to give asset owners continuous visibility into the object’s location and shipping conditions, along with a guarantee the item is getting to the right location.
Adam explains how the company started, how the technology works, and why the adoption of asset-tracking technology has ramped up dramatically in the past few years.
Can you provide some examples of the types of mission-critical assets you track?
We do a lot of work in the life sciences, electronics, pharmaceutical, and food industries. We track items not only requiring rapid transportation but some form of conditioning involving temperature handling parameters.
We are among the few asset tracking providers in the world that are fully compliant with airline regulations, and the aviation supply chain carries 35% of world trade by value. Our customers are diverse, from manufacturers to logistics companies and airlines, to specialist transportation security providers. We handle anything you can imagine that someone wants to ship that is mission-critical or high value. Customers are willing to put additional solutions in place to have visibility beyond what logistics providers typically offer. Some of our assets are extremely fragile, such as human organs for transplant that must travel within a matter of hours, and clinical trials with cutting-edge apheresis treatments that must be processed and returned to the patient in less than 48 hours. We also support the transfer of high-value servers and IT assets that need a guaranteed secure chain of custody and other theft-prone items, including truckloads of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms and even items such as high-end military equipment with special conditioning and access requirements.
How did OnAsset Intelligence get into this business?
We found our way into the market starting with RFID technology in manufacturing for visibility of goods and process flows inside a facility, and then ultimately grew into providing the same level of visibility for shipments. As you can imagine, there are numerous items within the global supply chain where the people shipping product want better visibility than entering a tracking number into a web site to see the last place the bar code was scanned. Our customers expect their items to be connected and to be visible at any point and time during shipment – that’s the service we provide.
How does your product work?
The highlight of our solution is the SENTRY, which is a fully autonomous, reusable tracking and sensing device that can be applied all the way to pallet and package level. To support the SENTRY, we recently launched Sentinel tags. The SENTRY coordinates and reports the status of a shipment while also acting as a gateway for Sentinel tags. Even if the shipment may have 50 or 100 pieces, a Sentinel captures environmental parameters for each piece, and that data is transmitted to our cloud platform through the SENTRY. The SENTRY can also be installed as a fixed gateway at origin or destination to enable Sentinel tags to be read when they hit certain supply chain milestones.
What makes this solution unique is it can be deployed at a facility or can work on the move and create seamless visibility. We are capable of moving high volumes at high velocity because we can read tens of thousands of Sentinel tags very quickly, which is critical as some of these distribution centers that have cross-docking operations and are moving hundreds of thousands of individual packages and assets through a facility. We also gain secondary benefit from the network of fixed SENTRY gateways because they provide real-time sensor information for facilities monitoring. Our cloud platform captures this data and provides a dashboard delivering real-time location and condition while alerting upon any excursions detected.
What do the Sentinel tags look like?
The tags come in a variety of sizes, depending on what the customer wants to do. The most popular size is about two-thirds the footprint of a credit card. We even have smaller devices with a slightly larger footprint than the coin cell battery powering it. We also have quite a few customers that integrate Sentinel technology into other assets, such as smart packaging and intelligent containers.
Our tags also work directly with smartphones and other Bluetooth enabled devices. Silicon Labs’ Bluetooth SoCs allow us to leverage all of these compatible devices that exist within the industrial environment. We are fortunate to be in a position where we can leverage this standardized technology instead of requiring our customers to buy a highly proprietary solution. Bluetooth becomes the bridge, providing a guaranteed compatibility path, and customers don’t need to worry about being engineered into a corner.
How has the market reacted to your asset tracking technology?
From the outset, we were a bit ahead of the curve. Most people were in a tire-kicking mode or were skeptical about the visibility we offered and struggled to recognize the value that our data delivers. But the smartphone revolution convinced people this technology could perform accurately. Ever since then, our growth has been steady, and in the last three years, we’ve experienced our most explosive year-over-year growth to date. Potential customers used to debate if they should deploy the technology or not, but now it’s not a question of if, it’s about which partner will we pick and how quickly can we roll it out. Online retailers are out there providing visibility for shipments arriving at customers’ doors, and people expect the commercial supply chain to be doing the same thing.
Why did you select Silicon Labs’ wireless technology for your solution?
Our initial exchanges with Silicon Labs’ staff were warm and accommodating, while some of the other players in the market were more standoffish. But really, Silicon Labs’ wireless product (EFR32 Bluetooth LE SoCs) performs better than other options. We tested all of the alternatives, and at the end of the day, performance wins. And Silicon Labs’ product, in conjunction with our designs, outperformed everything else. Not only did we enjoy the relationship and spirit of innovation and your product roadmap direction, but Silicon Labs simply has a better product.
Did you have any design challenges when building the product?
Our biggest challenge was network density. Bluetooth is a great technology, but it’s not known for its range and density characteristics. Bluetooth opens the door for its ubiquitous global compatibility, but it required some special engineering to make it work in industrial scenarios. These scenarios involve heavy equipment surrounded by other heavy metal and machinery. It’s not hard to design devices and conduct a small-scale trial and show customers you can capture data, but where you really differentiate yourself is deploying technology at scale in a demanding industrial environment. We also tackled real-world challenges, such as provisioning 12,000 devices in rapid succession and ensuring the data is captured, and nothing is lost when the devices transition from one location to another. It’s also important to prove in these settings that the people managing the process can do so easily, especially as many workers are often apprehensive about adopting new technology in day-to-day operations.
Have you worked with any COVID-19 related customers?
I initially thought business might slow down during the pandemic, but it’s been busier than expected. Our customers have shifted to moving a lot of COVID-related material, and we have also been tracking cutting-edge vaccine trials. Many of our airline customers are now adapting aircraft to move more cargo. The focus has shifted, but the need for real-time visibility has only increased. The pandemic is highlighting the value of this level of visibility because companies that were prepared with technology have been able to move product more quickly and offer specific information on location and delivery. But companies that are not forward-leaning on technology have experienced strains because there are so many issues impacting final-mile delivery right now, such as personnel available for transport. Many of the benefits of our tracking technology are being magnified under the current pandemic environment.
Where do you see the IoT going in the next 5-8 years?
Pressure always exists to bring solution costs down. Ideally, our customers want every single unit tracked if they can afford it, but that can sometimes be cost-prohibitive. Not long ago, if someone was looking to do this, they used a fully-featured device with its own cellular communication capabilities. Now we see a future where many wireless sensors will work together collaboratively to get the job done, making each one less complex and more cost-efficient. IoT is going drive proliferation of less complex, more cost-effective devices used in much larger volumes rolling up to more feature-rich devices. Today our technology can support tens of thousands of units sitting at a dock door or port, whereas in 3-5 years, I see it being millions of units.
Additionally, there is an increasing focus on AI and supply chain automation, and our solutions play heavily in this direction. To make more efficient decisions and self-manage certain aspects of the supply chain process, more assets and shipments need to be connected and communicate with each other – this is an evolution that we are calling Cognitive Logistics. We’re excited to be collaborating with Silicon Labs to make it a reality.
In this Tech Talk session, Jake Johnson, Field Applications Engineer for Silicon Labs, provided a demonstration of measuring and debugging network performance using Simplicity Studio’s Network Analyzer. Click here to watch the complete webinar and register now for future Tech Talks. Here are some key points from Jake’s session.
We Offer a Comprehensive Portfolio of Solutions
We enable wireless products through our industry-leading products and tools:
Simplicity Studio – the Right Tool Set for Developing your Wireless Products
Featuring a cross-platform development environment for MCU and Wireless products, Simplicity Studio offers a wide variety of tools and features for your development needs. Simplicity Studio has an eclipse-based IDE and contains demos/software examples along with complete product documentation, including API documentation, quick start guides, and reference designs. It also comes equipped with advanced tools like AppBuilder, Radio Configurator, Commander, Energy Profiler, and Network Analyzer.
Network Analyzer – the Optimum Visualization Tool
Developed by our own Zigbee networking engineers to develop and debug our stacks, the Network Analyzer tool provides visuals for all the radio activities within multiple nodes in your wireless networks, including radio packet tracing in real-time. Network Analyzer can debug both multiple wireless protocols and multiprotocol networks. The backbone of this tool is its Packet Trace Interface (PTI). This peripheral provides direct feedback from baseband radio, implemented in hardware and radio sequencer. The traces are captured and timestamped by our Wireless Starter Kit as illustrated below:
The Tech Talk ended with a Q&A session, and you can find the transcript here.