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imec develops record low power multi-standard transceiver for sensor networks

imec's and Holst centre's ultra low power multi-standard 2.4GHz transmitter compliant with four wireless standards (Bluetooth Low Energy, Zigbee, IEEE802.15.4/4f/6)

imec and the Holst Centre have announced a 2.3/2.4GHz transmitter for wireless sensor applications compliant with four wireless standards (IEEE802.15.6/4/4g and Bluetooth Low Energy).

According to imec, the transmitter has been fabricated in a 90nm cmos process and consumes 5.4mW from a 1.2V supply (2.7nJ/bit) at 0dBm output – this is three to five times more power efficient than the current state of the art Bluetooth-LE solutions. The results were obtained in collaboration with Panasonic, within imec and Holst Centre's programme for ultralow power wireless communication.

Applications for wireless sensor networks, personal healthcare, remote monitoring, smart building and logistics require wireless low power solutions and are often required to operate for a reasonably long period on a small battery or harvester source. Standardisation bodies have defined 2.4GHz wireless standards in the worldwide available IMS band for such applications. These include IEEE802.15.6 (BAN) for body area networks, IEEE802.15.4 (Zigbee) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). However, all recent transmitters that comply to these standards use in the range of 20-50mW, which is still too high for use in autonomous and semi-autonomous sensor nodes.

imec claims its new transmitter saves at least 75% of power consumption by replacing several analogue blocks with digitally assisted circuits. The result is a transceiver that is compliant with all four standards that runs on a 4.5mA from a 1.2V supply. According to imec, the multi-standard transceiver is highly reconfigurable and has been demonstrated to support the required modulations and data rates from 50k to 2Mb/s. With the SD-DPA for the generation of the time variant signal envelope, it is also said to be the first published ultralow power 2.4GHz-ISM band IEEE802.15.6-compliant transceiver.

Chris Shaw

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