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Affordable Design With Wireless Microcontrollers

The trend of pushing intelligence into everyday things means demand for low power, cost-sensitive designs.

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Today, we are at the peak of technology product availability with the releases of the new iPhone models, Alexa-enabled devices, and more. In the coming days, there will be numerous international consumer OEMs preparing new offerings as we approach the holiday selling season. Along with the smartphones, voice assistant enabled smart speakers and deep learning wireless security cameras, many devices and appliances are increasingly geared toward automating the home, the office and the factory. These devices are powered by application microcontroller units (MCUs) with embedded wireless connectivity to help users to remotely control and operate them via phone apps, voice or even through mere presence. This is part of an industry trend of pushing intelligence into everyday things. According to analyst firm Techno Systems Research, this chipset market grew by more than 60% over the course of the last year and is likely to continue this high rate of growth.

The democratization of wireless connectivity intellectual property and the continuing shift of semiconductor design and development to low cost regions is helping give rise to new industry players. In order to help customers differentiate in this highly competitive market, Marvell has announced the 88MW320/322 low-power Wi-Fi microcontroller SoC. This chipset is 100% pin-compatible and software compatible with the existing 88MW300/302 based designs. Although the newly released microcontroller is cost-optimized, there are several key hardware and software enhancements in this chipset.

Support for extended industrial temperature operation, from -40C through to 105C has been added. Unlike its predecessor, it can be implemented into more challenging application areas – such as LED lighting and industrial automation. No RF specific changes have been made within the silicon, so the minimum and maximum RF performance parameters remain the same as before. However, other fixes made have helped improve typical RF performance as reported by some of our customers when evaluating samples. Since there was no change in form, fit or function, the external RF interface remains the same as well. This enables customers to leverage existing 88MW300/302 module and device level regulatory certification on 88MW320/322. A hardware security feature has also been incorporated that allows customers to uniquely tie the chipset to the firmware running on it. This helps prevent counterfeit software to run on the chipset.

This chipset is supported by Marvell EZ-Connect SDK for Apple’s new Advanced Development Kit (ADK) and Release 13 HomeKit Accessory Protocol SDK (R13 HAPSDK) with software-based authentication (SoftAuth), Amazon’s AWS IoT and other third-party cloud platforms. The Apple SoftAuth support now allows customers to avoid the cost and hassle of adding the MFi authentication chip, which was previously required to get HomeKit certification. On the applications side, we have added support for the Alexa Voice Services library. With MP3 decoder and OAUTH2 modules integrated on our SDK, our solution now allows customers to add an external audio-codec chipset to offer native voice command translation for basic product control functions.

As previously announced, we continue to partner with Dialog Semiconductor to offer support for BLE with shared antenna managed coexistence software with our Wi-Fi on 88MW320/322. Several of our module vendor partners have announced support for this chipset in standalone and Wi-Fi + BLE combo configurations. You can find a complete list of modules supporting this chipset on the Marvell Wireless Microcontrollers page.

Our goal is to enable wireless microcontroller solutions with easy to install one-click software that allows smaller customers to use our partner reference designs to develop their form factor proof of concept designs with hardware, firmware, middleware, cloud connectivity software, collateral and application support from a single source. This will free up their resources so that they can focus on what is most important to them – which is to work on application software and differentiation.

The best is yet to come. As the industry demands solutions with higher levels of integration at ever lower power to allow for wireless products with several months and even years of battery life, new innovations will meet customer’s needs. For example, the 802.11ax standard specification is not just for high efficiency and high throughput designs, it also offers provisions for low power, long battery life designs. 20MHz only channel operation in the 5GHz band and features such as target wake time (TWT), which helps extend the sleep cycle of devices; dual sub-carrier modulation (DCM), which helps extend the wireless range; uplink and downlink OFDMA, all contribute to make the next generation of devices worth waiting for.



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