Why the Wireless SiP modules is the enabler for IoT revolution?

Tom Nordman

Tom Nordman,
Marketing Director,
Wireless IoT Modules & Site Manager Finland,
Silicon Labs.

In past few years, the IoT industry has aggressively expanded its scope towards 2.4GHz-based protocols such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Zigbee. These protocols have their pros and cons but there is one common denominator – these protocols are not controlled by teleoperators and their interests. Companies could implement the IoT systems quite flexibly the way they wanted, and the interoperability was mostly managed by the protocol alliances such as the Bluetooth SiG, guaranteeing the interoperability between different vendors. But protocol compliance testing is just a minor part of the total cost of ownership for an IoT device. How do you manage CE, FCC, and other country regulations? It is quite straightforward to manage global regulatory certifications for a single device, but what if your product portfolio includes tens of devices you are selling around the world?

When considerable products in a company’s product mix starts to have IoT functions, they begin to realize that discrete design regulatory certification management becomes a burden, and the need for affordable, small, high-quality and pre-certified modules rapidly increases.

Number of Standards-Based IoT Devices is Exploding

There are thousands and thousands of applications currently enabled by the standards-based IoT protocols, which are expanding rapidly. It will soon be nearly impossible to find electronic devices that are not somehow IoT enabled – nearly everything is about to become connected, as the integration costs are reasonable. The result is a large number of companies are not used to hiring and maintaining electronic/RF engineers or protocol experts. These companies are also joining the IoT revolution en masse, where in the past they were developing products that are not generally considered technology products. Construction equipment suppliers, agricultures devices, and home automation companies are a few examples. These kinds of companies have been mainly focusing on mechanics or quite simple electronic functions. Advanced RF engineering for IoT functionality is not in their core know-how. The relevant question is, how can these companies efficiently - and with reasonable investments - transform their products in the IoT era and meet the compatibility requirements? These companies need something easy to implement and manage. The very good solution for these companies is to consider new system-in-package (SiP) modules to meet the perfect balance of time to market, pre-certification, size, and cost.

Growing Number of IoT Ecosystems

Companies are forming up ecosystems around their IoT enabled devices, and they are inviting partners and subcontractors to join. These ecosystem builders are in front of the interoperability challenge – do the devices work seamlessly together with best possible performance? How do you make sure the devices in the ecosystem fulfills the end-user expectations? A good example of these ecosystems is building automation systems – connected lighting, whitegoods, etc. How do these companies ensure the journey to IoT Ecosystem and success?

A very good candidate to solve this issue is a pre-certified SiP module quarantining the flexible designs, interoperability, performance, right cost, easy product management and fast time-to-market.

Why the System in Package (SiP) Modules are Beneficial for Ecosystem Development?

SiP is a term for advanced semiconductor packaging where an IC is assembled together with passives into the substrate. The look and feel of the SiP IoT module is just like an IC/SoC, but unlike the IC the SiP module integrates all functionality needed for IoT operation in the same size and scale as an SoC. In other words, the SiP modules are completely integrated, certified systems ready for IoT functionality.

What makes the Silicon Labs SiP modules so feasible for IoT ecosystem creation? A proper high-performance RF design is not trivial, nor easy to implement and manage in a way that ensures radio good performance, which is the key into robust functionality. The RF design burden is taken away when designers use a completely integrated SiP module. The SiP allows flexible placement of the module into any electronics device with small footprint. The compact size has benefit as it allows the rest of the device to be flexibly engineered.

Why Are SiP Modules So Convenient?

The patent pending antenna of our SiP modules is in the substrate, and it is engineered the in a way that makes it possible to gain 70% antenna efficiency. Another great benefit of our SiP modules is that they do not easily detune off from the band. And if it does, it is easy to fix it by simple means without time-consuming RF engineering methods. This impressive 70% antenna efficiency is hard to beat, even by seasoned RF engineer designing the system from discrete components with significant amount of time and testing budget. The SiP modules have achieved high performance and small size on a scale no longer easily achievable by discrete designs.

The ecosystems utilizing such precisely engineered SiP modules will have significant advantages in compatibility, RF range, robustness, time-to-market and pre-certification.

It is crucial to have a good wireless range from the IoT device to make sure the RF link is robust. Even in short distances an RF design is only as good as the amount of interference it can tolerate and still achieve fast data rates and lower power consumption. Another great benefit of the SiP module for the ecosystem is its full protocol certifications such as FCC and CE. This means the end-user of the module inherits certifications from Silicon Labs and avoids RF or protocol testing completely. It is our responsibility to make sure our products comply, leaving the IoT developer free from compliance worries and regular re-certifications to meet the ever-evolving RF regulations.

What’s New With Silicon Labs SiP Modules?

Silicon Labs just released its most advanced SiP module, the BGM13S for Bluetooth and MGM13S for Zigbee. The BGM13S module is empowered with powerful and reliable DIE, having state of the art Bluetooth 5.0 Low Energy and Bluetooth Mesh implementation including long range Coded phy. The module has 512Kb memory capable of doing over the air updates. Its several power TX variants offer line-of-sight range even up to 700 meters. This is an extremely good figure considering the module’s size of only 6.5 x 6.5mm, including antenna that uses customer PCB as part of the antenna structure. This very advanced design of the SiP makes it possible for and OEM to optimize the RF range without any RF engineering. We also have been improving the manufacturability of this module by using popular 0.5 soldering pitch. The more relaxed soldering pitch makes it possible to manufacture the devices even in lowest cost contract manufacturers.

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