Home > Three new offerings for IEEE 802.15.4 wireless networking from Microchip

Three new offerings for IEEE 802.15.4 wireless networking from Microchip

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article image MRF24J40

 Microchip Inc., a leading provider of microcontroller and analogue semiconductors has released three new offerings for IEEE 802.15.4 wireless networking. Microchip's first RF transceiver, the MRF24J40, is a 2.4GHz IEEE 802.15.4 transceiver targeted for the ZigBee protocol, and proprietary wireless protocols, in RF applications requiring low power and good RF performance. The ZENA wireless network analyser tool further enables development of ZigBee protocol systems using Microchip's semiconductors. Finally, the MiWi protocol is a small-footprint protocol developed by Microchip for customers who do not need ZigBee protocol interoperability but want to use IEEE 802.15.4 transceivers in low-cost peer-to-peer, star and mesh networks. In fact, the MiWi protocol provides low-cost fully functional network protocol for IEEE 802.15.4 transceivers.

According to In-Stat, the market for IEEE 802.15.4 wireless Personal Area Networking, via the ZigBee specification network layer and other proprietary protocols, could grow 200% by 2009, with annual shipments surpassing 150 million units in 2009. Microchip is currently addressing the needs of this market with the only zero-cost-license and royalty-free ZigBee protocol stack, which is one of the small in the industry and provides a source-code format that allows designers to customise their product, utilising Microchip's broad portfolio of compatible PIC microcontrollers.

With the MRF24J40 transceiver, Microchip now offers a complete ZigBee protocol platform through the addition of a highly integrated RF transceiver that requires few external components. Microchip's radio also offers low power consumption and performance that exceeds all IEEE 802.15.4 specifications, with full Media Access Controller (MAC) support and an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) hardware encryption engine.

According to Microchip, it's MRF24J40 IEEE 802.15.4 transceiver can be combined with roughly 200 8-bit and 16-bit PIC microcontrollers, and dsPIC DSCs, to provide cost-optimised wireless networking solutions. In combination with Microchip ZigBee protocol stack, Microchip now offers a complete solution for one of the fast growing technology market segments.

Alternative protocols

Due to the fact that the ZigBee protocol has grown too large and complex for many applications, a large percentage of the market for IEEE 802.15.4 wireless Personal Area Networking is likely to use alternative, proprietary protocols, such as the MiWi protocol. Additionally, ZigBee protocol certification is costly and cumbersome for small and medium size companies. Microchip's MiWi protocol provides a simpler, lower-cost solution for customers, who do not need interoperability but still want to use robust IEEE 802.15.4 radios. No certification is required for MiWi protocol systems, and the protocol stack is provided under a free license, when the combination of Microchip's microcontrollers and MRF24J40 transceiver is used.

The MiWi protocol addresses the market need for a protocol that is simpler and lower cost to implement than the ZigBee protocol. Microchip recognised this need and developed the MiWi protocol for smaller networks that can be implemented on lower-cost PIC microcontrollers.


Regardless of which protocol a design engineer selects, Microchip's complete solution enables them to rapidly evaluate and begin developing a vast array of wirelessly networked IEEE 802.15.4 applications, including: building/home automation (security, lighting, HVAC, access); industrial (monitors, sensors, automation, control, lighting); personal healthcare (diagnostic tools, monitors); and consumer electronics (RF wireless remotes for TV/VCR/DVD/CD, toys, personal-computer peripherals).

Development tools

Microchip's new ZENA wireless network analyser tool (part # DM183023), uses a simple graphical interface to configure the Microchip ZigBee and MiWi protocol stacks. This enables customers to reduce the code size of the stacks by removing optional features; cuts development time by simplifying the interactions with the stacks; and allows customisation of the stack to fit a particular need. Consisting of both hardware and software, the ZENA wireless network analyser is an IEEE 802.15.4 protocol analyser that is capable of decoding ZigBee and MiWi protocol packets, from the low layers to the top of the stack (including the security modules). The network-configuration display window allows users to see the traffic in real time, as it travels from one node to another. A session can also be saved to a file, to allow further analysis of all the network traffic.

This augments Microchip's existing IEEE 802.15.4 development tools, including the PICDEM Z 2.4 GHz Demonstration Kit (part # DM163027-4), which is an easy-to-use evaluation and development platform for IEEE 802.15.4 application designers. The kit includes all of the hardware, software source code and printed circuit board (PCB) layout files needed to rapidly prototype wireless products. Additionally, an instructional application note is available on Microchip's Web site. This development platform is based on Microchip's PIC18 high-performance microcontroller family, which supports IEEE 802.15.4 applications and offers a wide selection of products with 32 Kbytes to 128 Kbytes of Flash program memory in 28- to 100-pin packages.

Transceiver availability

Microchip's MRF24J40 IEEE 802.15.4 transceiver is available now for samples through Microchip's local sales offices, and production is planned for December.

Microchip customer support

Microchip is committed to supporting its customers by helping design engineers develop products faster and more efficiently. Customers can access four main service areas. The Support area provides a fast way to get questions answered; the Sample area offers evaluation samples of any Microchip device; microchipDIRECT provides 24-hour pricing, ordering, inventory and credit for convenient purchasing of all Microchip devices and development tools; finally, the training area educates customers through webinars, sign-ups for local seminar and workshop courses, and information about the annual MASTERs events held throughout the world.

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