Design Con 2015

imec and Renesas: Improving ULP radio power efficiency

-May 29, 2013

I had a very interesting chat recently with Harmke de Groot, imec Program Director ULP Circuits regarding collaboration for strategic research to enhance Ultra-low Power (ULP) wireless technologies for short-range communications. Sensor networks in the automotive and industrial sector are the prime targets.

 

The team will address multi-standard radio solutions for small battery-operated or harvested wireless handheld devices. By combining innovative architectures, advanced IP ULP design and efficient low power circuits, they hope to further reduce power consumption significantly lower than today's radios. Additionally, the goal is to maintain ULP high-performance radios that are compliant with state-of-the-art wireless standards, in Bluetooth Low Energy (2.4GHz band) and ZigBee (2.4 GHz band). Interoperability is critical in this effort.

 

By 2020, imec projects billions of devices connected to the internet and that eventually the number of short range radios will outnumber smart phones and tablets.

 

imec plans to work with a CMOS process in this effort. Some ideas are to be similar to GSM and have the capability of different radios on each side.

 

There have been previous studies with concurrently supporting multiple radios with different capabilities and interfaces on a single sensor node platform. There have been experimental studies on hardware multi-radio platforms, using two representative radio technologies such as 802.15.4 and 802.11 and bottlenecks could be identified and design tradeoffs can be made that are usually overlooked and that might have a significant impact on the sensor network’s performance and energy efficiency.

 

Some key questions that must be answered are1:

 

1 How to efficiently interface a heterogeneous set of processors to a heterogeneous set of radios.

2 Identify the desired feature set of a high-bandwidth radios specifically designed for sensor network applications.

3 How to design energy efficient data transmission protocols that are congestion aware

 

Please give us your thoughts, including ideas for Energy harvesting techniques.

References

1 Towards Energy Efficient Design of Multi-Radio Platforms for Wireless Sensor Networks, Dimitrios Lymberopoulos, Nissanka B. Priyantha, Michel Goraczko and Feng Zhao,

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