May 1, 2019

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    IoT Wireless Design Starter Kit

    More Capability Doesn't Have to Mean Bigger Boxes

    Gone are the days of the large block-sized TVs and the bulky technical equipment dominating an entire entertainment center. As Wi-Fi devices proliferate around our homes today, consumers want elegant technology that's subtle, sleek and complements the modern domestic aesthetic.

    So how can design engineers create devices with these requirements in mind? This article discusses some practical ways to accomplish this — offering insight for designing systems that are effective as well as elegant for the modern smart home.

    Wi-Fi Coverage vs. Power Dissipation

    In the last few years, operators typically offered one large router using raw power to achieve wireless coverage throughout the entire home. But with the steady increase of devices, especially around the Internet of Things (IoT), consumers are requiring more coverage in more places than ever before. Unfortunately, simply increasing the power may lead to increases in heat and adding internal components, like an extra fan, to handle the higher temperatures, doesn’t lend well to designing equipment with customer appeal.

    In order to address possible power dissipation problems head on, designers can create more efficient devices that generate less heat from the onset thus eliminating the need for added fans and other bulk-building items. In addition to using fewer internal components — which decreases the overall cost of materials — designing with power efficiency in mind reduces form factor and enables front end module composition that's small and sleek.

    One solution gaining in popularity is the mesh Wi-Fi system. With this method, whole-home wireless coverage can be achieved using multiple smaller, more discrete Wi-Fi nodes. Instead of relying on a single router to spread signals across all living spaces, this concept deploys easy-to-set-up plug-in wireless nodes that are often smaller than a smoke detector — and better looking. Adding to their appeal, some thoughtfully-designed access points offer home-friendly options like hallway LED lights or weather resistance for those outdoor entertainment areas. These elegant products create a mesh of wireless signal which extends connection capabilities across the home and adds additional data backhaul management.

    Filtering vs. Form Factor

    When designing Wi-Fi products, another challenge is accounting for the variety of signals zipping around the modern home — family member's smartphones, gaming systems, wearable fitness sensors, home security systems, even the refrigerator and microwave that communicate through the IoT! Considering signal interference is harder than ever with all those signals being processed simultaneously in today's homes. How can designers manage all of that traffic, so signals aren't dropped or delayed, while keeping the form factor of devices small?

    When fitting Zigbee, Thread and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) capabilities into hardware, they are often provided on separate chips. A big space saver is to use a multi-purpose chip that can send and receive Zigbee, Thread and BLE protocols concurrently. Fitting them onto one chip enables coexistence arbitration to happen on chip instead of needing a separate processor and supporting software code. Merging IoT radio capabilities not only benefits the range but also ensures there's less dropping or latency. And notably, this multi-purpose chip reduces the size of the equipment itself.

    It's important to fortify interference resolution with improved rejection in unused frequencies that allow multiple RF signals to coexist close together. This provides higher capacity and more efficient use of available bandwidth, while maintaining extreme linearity, higher modulation, and long burst broadcast. Additionally, one can improve Wi-Fi range and coverage with interference resolution solutions while maintaining regulatory compliance.

    Smart Home Equipment vs. Design

    Another significant method to increase Wi-Fi design efficiency is using highly integrated discrete front-end modules (FEMs). FEMs can contribute to a 45 percent smaller form factor significantly decreasing the PCB footprint in IP clients, bridges and extenders — allowing designers to create sleeker products that consumers won't mind displaying in their homes.

    These innovations are vital to the connected devices that are quickly making the way we communicate more efficient and easier to implement. With these exciting IoT and smart home products being built today, there's really no need to sacrifice design to achieve the desired wireless capabilities. It is possible to have the performance we need in the style we all want.

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    IoT Wireless Design Starter Kit