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Start-up brings wireless to embedded systems

Posted: 18 Feb 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:802.11b connectivity  Wi-Fi chip  host controller  sensor networks 

Internet connectivity fray
The start-up faces a range of competitors trying to squeeze Internet connectivity into the tight power, cost and size budgets of sensor networks and other embedded systems.

For example, Gainspan Corp. announced a Wi-Fi chip in May 2008 that it claims can run for ten years on a single AA battery. It has gained a design win with one thermostat maker and has deals with third parties who will provide modules.

"We should be announcing some major wins in the next few months," said Bernard Aboussouan, VP of marketing at Gainspan. "Financially, we are doing well with no need to raise money for at least 12 to 18 months, and our prospects are very good in smart energy home, building automation, asset tracking and cold storage monitoring," he added.

Another competitor, G2 Microsystems Inc., launched in October 2008 its chip, which includes interfaces for RFID and sensor networks. The chip is now in production and a module using it will ship in a few weeks.

"At CES, we demonstrated a wireless speaker and Wi-Fi headphones," said Lisa Payne, VP of marketing at G2. "We have developed other Wi-Fi peripheral device demos for Wi-Fi personal area networks [PANs] and believe we are a good fit for battery-powered PAN devices," she said.

"Due to the economic climate, we decided not to do any fundraising before the end of the year," Payne added.

Colleran said the competitors are full SoC designs that drive greater costs than ZeroG's part, which leverages an existing host controller.

Many other chipmakers are trying to serve similar markets with networks such as Zigbee. Indeed, many companies and standards groups are defining IP capabilities for embedded and sensor networks over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 802.15.4 nets.

Colleran described Zigbee as a good point-to-point and mesh network. "But it wasn't really designed to connect to the Internet and offer configuration capabilities via an iPhone or Blackberry with Wi-Fi," he said.

Separately, start-up Ozmo has tailored a Wi-Fi chip for use in short-range PANs at data rates as high as 9Mbps.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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