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Imagination aims WiFi6 IP at low power IoT

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

New technologies added to WiFi6 to boost data rates and reliability also lend themselves to low power operation, and Imaginations Ensigma division in Chepstow has used this for a full chip design in a 40nm process that has a long battery life in the IoT.

WiFi is not traditionally considered for IoT and industrial applications as a result of the power consumption, but over 4bn WiFI devices are predicted to ship in 2021, giving a huge installed base to connect to.

The iEW400 full chip WiFI6 design adds 20/40MHz operation for low-data-rate applications to conserve battery power, as well as Target Wake Time (TWT) that extends deep-sleep periods, improving current consumption and extending battery life. It uses orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) so that the bandwidth can be segmented, allowing multiple devices to receive data in the same time frame. This increases data transmission efficiency and reduces power consumption for network applications.

New features such as Basic Service Set (BSS) Colouring in WiFi6 increases robustness in dense environments, enabling improved data throughput in areas where there are multiple access points and many clients, such as large crowds. With BSS Colouring , each data from each access point is prescribed a “colour”, so clients can identify which one is transmitting, resulting in improved network performance.

When signal robustness is paramount, iEW400 also supports a dual-carrier mode. Dual subcarrier modulation (DCM) is where the same information is modulated on a pair of sub-carriers, which can ensure data gets through even in noisy environment such as the factory floor.

“In recent years Wi-Fi has seen strong growth for battery-powered applications, driven by increased adoption of low-power IEEE 802.11n devices. IEEE 802.11ax enables these products to enjoy improved power consumption and efficiency, along with enhanced performance and robustness,” said Richard Edgar, Senior Director of Product Management at Imagination. “This makes low-power Wi-Fi 6 devices the next step in the evolution of Wi-Fi in battery-constrained applications.”

Gerry Conlon, Executive Vice President Ensigma, Imagination Technologies, adds; “Wi-Fi 6 IP has the potential to completely disrupt the connected IoT sector. By providing a total solution, comprising of integrated RF and baseband from a single source, any microcontroller company wishing to enter the connected MCU market can easily do so with iEW400. Furthermore, it can be paired with our Bluetooth Low Energy solutions for a true Wi-Fi 6 plus Bluetooth Low Energy v5.2 combo IC.”

The iEW400 contains RF, baseband and the lower and upper MAC components to simplify the design process.

The optional upper MAC offloads work from the host processor to reduce total system power consumption, and there is also an optional power management unit (PMU) that supports 2.7-4.5V inputs.

The iEW400 is supplied as a silicon-ready design, with a 6.84 mm2 die area including analogue pads, in TSMC’s 40nm LP process. This allows it to be pre-certified to conform to Wi-Fi Alliance standards to ensure interoperability at the system level.

It is supplied as hard macro for analogue and synthesisable RTL for digital, enabling maximum flexibility and the fastest time to market along with reduced development costs.

“We are excited to see Wi-Fi 6 innovations from companies such as Imagination Technologies deliver improved battery life and greater efficiency to Wi-Fi users so they can connect new applications, including those for the burgeoning IoT market,” said Edgar Figueroa, President & CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Andrew Zignani, Principal Analyst, ABI Research, says; “The emergence of IoT-centric Wi-Fi 6 IP and chipsets that can more efficiently and reliably address wearable, smart home, industrial, and other IoT market requirements, represents a key milestone in enabling the next generation of low-power Wi-Fi. Solutions such as iEW400 will become increasingly critical in providing these devices with longer lifespans, improved reliability and robustness, and enhanced performance in dense deployment scenarios.”

www.imgtec.com

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