– Originally written by Omer Cheema, Head of the IoT Business Unit, Renesas –
The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the growing trend of intelligent homes by forcing people to spend more time indoors. There has been a massive increase in people’s desire to use new technology in their living spaces to improve their quality of life.
This is accelerating smart home adoption faster than ever. There are, however, still certain bottlenecks in the adoption of the smart home. In the following paragraphs, we would like to show how low-power Wi-Fi can help us overcome those bottlenecks.
A smart home is currently based on four popular wireless technologies: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, or Zigbee. Wi-Fi and Ethernet are used primarily for high bandwidth applications, while Zigbee and Z-wave are used for low power applications.
Zigbee has several different profiles aimed at each application, but these profiles aren’t compatible with each other, resulting in Zigbee protocol fragmentation. As a result, even if you buy a Zigbee certified product from the market, you can’t be certain if it will work with your existing smart devices at home.
Z-wave is a proprietary protocol that ties manufacturers and end-users to only one supplier.
Moreover, for these protocols to work, you need an expensive hub to let these devices communicate with each other. With that approach, not only are the costs for the end-user high, but the manufacturers of these hubs have also full control over the data pertaining to smart homes.
Manufacturers can limit access with unexpected subscription fees or imposing similar barriers or even leave end-users stranded when run into financial difficulties. This makes hub-based home architecture challenging for the broad adoption of the smart home.
Apparently, a single wireless protocol does not reign over a widely adopted smart home sector which makes home network setup complicated. As a result, many of the devices that we have at home operate independently and are unable to interact with each other.
Today’s smart home architecture
Solution: Ultra low-power Wi-Fi
For Smart Home to be widely adopted, wireless and battery-free applications are essential. Both requirements can be met with low-power Wi-Fi, and it is likely to become the ubiquitous de facto standard for intelligent homes.
Considering the emergence of Wi-Fi 6 and low-power Wi-Fi, it could be possible to solve the protocol fragmentation problem for smart homes now. Wi-Fi 6 will replace the Ethernet-based high bandwidth applications that are currently in use. Having Wi-Fi devices, that don’t require a hub and are easy to set up, reduces the need for cables and allows mobility. This low-power Wi-Fi technology can simplify the smart home architecture.
Smart home built with Wi-Fi
Compared to other Wi-Fi technologies where energy consumption has merely been an afterthought, low-power Wi-Fi from Renesas offers a much more long-lasting battery. As a result, this low-power Wi-Fi will replace Zigbee and Z-Wave. The lowest power Wi-Fi Platform in the industry can deliver a multi-year battery life while maintaining industry-leading range and security capabilities.
Building Smart home with Renesas low-power Wi-Fi
Renesas has a mission to simplify smart homes. We take pride in offering the lowest power Wi-Fi chips in the market that enable a multi-year battery life for a range of IoT applications. Renesas’ leadership in the ultra-low-power Wi-Fi networking SoC market is proven by the achieved highest score on the EEMBC IoTMark-Wi-Fi benchmark.
A Renesas score of 815 corresponds to about 815 days of battery life for an IoT sensor that runs on two AA batteries. Thus, the smart door lock is expected to last for more than three years on a single charge which is up to 50% longer than the closest competitor can offer. It is the first time in the history of Wi-Fi that Wi-Fi can actually offer battery life comparable to Zigbee and Z-wave.
Battery life estimate for door locks (Months @ DTIM 30)
The key behind our DA16200 platform is our patented technology called VirtualZero. It is based on proprietary dynamic power management (DPM) algorithms that optimise sleep and wake-up times using standard Wi-Fi technology.
The technology offers three levels of sleep, ranging from 3.5A down to 200nA and depending on the use case requirements of IoT devices makers.
Three different levels of sleep modes are available based on the application
The SoC supports WPA3 and TLS for Wi-Fi authentication and encryption, further strengthening security and minimising the risk of data leakage. It offers advanced security features like secure boot, secure debugging, and secure asset storage.
Since short time to market is a top concern for developers, we ensure that our unique power-saving features go along with fast development time for our customers. VirtualZero technology over AT Commands enables you to develop battery-powered Wi-Fi devices and achieve multi-year battery life quickly.
The details of DPM operation and power management remain abstracted from developers, simplifying the production process.
The DA16200’s FreeRTOS and GCC-based Wi-Fi development kits offer developers a fast and easy way to prototype IoT designs. In addition to a Wi-Fi module, these kits also include USB interfaces, keys, power profilers, debuggers, connectors, and power profilers to speed the development and debugging of DA16200-based designs.
Given the ubiquity of the Wi-Fi standard, implementing low-power Wi-Fi for smart homes will simplify the architecture and allow wider adoption of wireless products. To enable IoT products of the future, we are proactively engaging with product makers. Easily integrate low-power connectivity into your application today by contacting Renesas.