Silicon Labs Releases New Developer Reference for ZigBee Home Automation

Posted 11/17/2015 2:00:37 PM by STUART PARKERSON, Publisher Emeritus

Silicon Labs Releases New Developer Reference for ZigBee Home Automation
Silicon Labs has released a new series of reference designs that can help reduce time to market and simplify the development of ZigBee-based home automation, connected lighting and smart gateway products. 

The cost effective reference designs are the first in a series of IoT solutions from Silicon Labs that include the hardware, firmware and software tools that developers need to create interoperable and scalable connected home products based on Silicon Labs’ ZigBee “Golden Unit” Home Automation (HA 1.2) software stack and ZigBee system-on-chip (SoC) mesh networking technology.

The Silicon Labs reference designs can reduce the complexity of connecting ZigBee devices, such as lights, dimmer switches and door/window contact sensors, in a connected home network. This design is meant to offer ease of use for consumers who are purchasing “do-it-yourself” connected home products at outlets such as home improvement retailers.

Silicon Labs’ ZigBee connected lighting reference designs offer wireless lighting boards as well as a plug-in demo board suitable for quick demonstrations and testing. The Golden Unit ZigBee stack allows LED lights to join, interoperate and leave a mesh network, as well as scale from a few to hundreds of light nodes on the same network. The connected lights can support white, color temperature tuning and RGB color settings as well as dimming. 

Silicon Labs’ ZigBee-based home automation reference designs include a capacitive-sense dimmable light switch and a small-form-factor door/window contact sensor. The light switch provides color, color tuning and dimming control capabilities that traditional switches cannot achieve. The wireless, battery-powered switches have no moving parts and are easy to place anywhere in a home. 

The switch design features Silicon Labs’ EFM8 capacitive sensing MCU to detect different user gestures including touch, hold and swipe. The contact sensor reference design provides all the tools needed to create wireless, battery-powered sensors used to monitor door and window positions (open or closed) which is a practical feature for automatically triggering room lighting. 

Silicon Labs offers two ZigBee gateway options to complement the reference designs: 

(1) A plug-and-play USB virtual gateway that works with any PC development platform and supports the Windows, OS X and Linux environments as a virtual machine. 

(2) An “out-of-the-box” Wi-Fi/Ethernet gateway reference design based on an embedded Linux computer system. 

Both gateway options allow developers to control and monitor ZigBee HA 1.2 compliant end nodes through Wi-Fi with any device with a web browser, such as a smartphone or tablet. Using a web-based user interface, developers can create rules between ZigBee end devices including lights, dimmable light switches and contact sensors.

The connected lighting and home automation reference designs support the following features:

- Silicon Labs’ EM358x mesh networking SoCs, combining an ARM Cortex-M3 processor core with a low-power 2.4 GHz 802.15.4 transceiver.

-  Low-power designs enabling very long battery life: up to three years for dimmable light switches and up to five years for contact sensors on a CR2032 coin-cell battery.

- Silicon Labs’ Golden Unit ZigBee PRO-certified software stack and ZigBee HA 1.2-certified applications, enabling interoperability with other HA 1.2-certified devices.

- Over-the-air ZigBee updates and future-proof upgrades to Silicon Labs’ Thread software.

- Mesh networking capability scaling from tens to hundreds of nodes with individual selectivity, without costly rewiring of existing systems.

- Wireless development kit with configuration and debugging tools to simplify design, as well as packet trace port on EM358x SoCs for network signal debugging.

- FCC/CE pre-certified hardware for easy system configuration and fast time to market

- Complete schematics, layout and bill of materials (BOM)

Silicon Labs’ connected lighting, home automation and smart gateway reference designs are available immediately with the RD-0020-0601 and RD-0035-0601 connected lighting reference designs priced at $49. The RD-0030-0201 contact sensor reference design is priced at $39 and the RD-0039-0201 capacitive-sense dimmable light switch reference design is priced at $29. The USB virtual gateway is priced at $49, and the out-of-the-box Wi-Fi/Ethernet gateway reference design is priced at $149. (All prices USD MSRP). 

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About the author: STUART PARKERSON, Publisher Emeritus

Stuart Parkerson has an extensive background in niche technology publishing.

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