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Novel radio enables low-power WiFi over 900MHz

Posted: 23 Jun 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Imec  WiFi  radio  wireless charging  millimetre-wave radar 

A team of researchers at Imec is presently working on a number of radios for everything from wireless charging to millimetre-wave radar targeted for the Internet of Things. The emerging 802.11ah specification for running low-power WiFi over 900MHz at distances up to a kilometre is one of the most promising new radios.

"We believe this new standard is a very strong candidate for IoT applications in smart homes and buildings where a WiFi router is nearby," said Kathleen Philips, who heads an ultra-low-power wireless research program at the Holst Centre, a partner with Imec in the Netherlands.

Home and building automation has been a fragmented market served by a host of incompatible wireless protocols including EnOcean, 6LowPAN, WirelessHART, ANT and RF4CE, most requiring their own gateways. "The definition of this WiFi extension can be a major catalyst for these markets, because it will communicate with already available infrastructure, resolving interoperability issues," Philips stated.

Her group is designing an 11ah chip that aims to send 100Kb/s distances of up to a kilometre with a peak transmit power consumption of 12mW and 5mW for the receiver. "Since this is expected to be one of the new mass markets, vendors will differentiate on cost, battery life, robustness and distance," she said.

Holst also is researching far-field RF wireless charging over a distance of 5-10m as an alternative to inductive approaches that require close alignment of coils. The approach is geared for IoT devices that cannot be easily moved to align with an inductive technique and do not have access to other energy sources.

"With a 3W EIRP source transmitting at 915MHz, we can harvest 30uW on a continuous basis from up to 5m away from the source," Phillips noted, describing her group's current work.

In other efforts, the Holst team is developing a radio for personal area networks that consumes 5.1mW, has a -95dBm sensitivity and supports Bluetooth 4.0, IEEE 802.15.4 and Zigbee protocols. It is also working on a radio for smart buildings that consumes 4mW in receive mode, has a -120dBm sensitivity and supports multiple protocols.

High-volume apps emerging for millimetre wave radios

Researchers see a broad set of high-volume apps emerging for millimetre wave radios.

At the high end of the spectrum, Imec is among a growing set of researchers that see many mass-market applications emerging in the millimetre wave spectrum from 60-90GHz, spanning automotive radar to 5G cellular links.

Imec reported earlier this year on its work on a 79GHz radar transceiver in 28nm CMOS that has more than 10 per cent efficiency. It is now measuring results of its work, aiming to integrate the transceiver into a cm2 SoC with a phased array antenna.

Such millimetre wave designs will benefit from emerging work in massive MIMO antennas, indicated Liesbet Van der Perre, a group science director in wireless research at Imec. She predicted that 2020 base stations could use the technique to deliver backhaul connections at 1.17Gb/s at power consumption levels of 90W. That's up from 270Mb/s for today's base stations consuming 700W.

Separately, Van der Perre discussed early work on a reconfigurable 10Gb/s radio module for 5G, targeting the 16nm node. It would integrate past work in basebands, transceivers and frequency-flexible front-end modules.

The group's work is focused on CMOS, which she claims is catching up to the millimetre wave capabilities of silicon germanium at the 20nm node.

CMOS will catch up with SiGe's millimetre wave capabilities at 20nm

CMOS will catch up with SiGe's millimetre wave capabilities at 20nm, Imec stated.

- Rick Merritt
  EE Times

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