“Wireless technology plays an important role in the Internet of Things (IoT), but deploying this technology can require a lot of programming. The product’s application must address a range of issues, including features such as secure over-the-air (OTA) updates. In this regard, Silicon Labs (also known as “Silicon Technology”) recently released a new Wireless Xpress solution, and in the Q&A session about this wireless product, Mr. Parker Dorris, senior product manager of Silicon Labs Xpress equipment, discussed wireless applications Some of the problems that arise when programming, and how to overcome these challenges with Wireless Xpress products.
Wireless technology plays an important role in the Internet of Things (IoT), but deploying this technology can require a lot of programming. The product’s application must address a range of issues, including features such as secure over-the-air (OTA) updates. In this regard, Silicon Labs (also known as “Silicon Technology”) recently released a new Wireless Xpress solution, and in the Q&A session about this wireless product, Mr. Parker Dorris, senior product manager of Silicon Labs Xpress equipment, discussed wireless applications Some of the problems that arise when programming, and how to overcome these challenges with Wireless Xpress products.
What IoT applications are Silicon Labs’ Wireless Xpress solutions primarily targeting?
We’re targeting Bluetooth low energy sensors, smartphone-controlled smart home devices, white goods, and machine-to-machine applications, especially those that require additional phone configuration and connectivity options. We have seen an extremely diverse range of applications evaluated and developed using the Wireless Xpress zero programming IoT solution, and the common theme of these designs is enabling wireless connectivity without a steep learning curve. The wireless components work properly, which allows the company to focus resources on the design side, resulting in product innovation and successful adoption in the market.
What is zero programming? Why is it so important to IoT developers?
The goal of our Wireless Xpress portfolio is to lower the barriers to entry for IoT end node designs by providing easy-to-use hardware and software solutions that enable zero-programming designs. Wireless Xpress modular products provide several key advantages:
First, because developers communicate with Wireless Xpress through a high-level Network Co-Processor (NCP) interface called the Xpress command API and communicate with devices, because Wireless Xpress is responsible for as much wireless connection and communication as possible, developers do not have to Becoming a Bluetooth or wireless expert can also get products to market quickly.
While you don’t have to write code for these modular devices, we provide configurable parameters to tune performance characteristics. Developers don’t need to learn the intricacies of the stacking API, and they don’t need to get the module to a certain configuration state, just set a variable. This feature of the Xpress command API can help developers avoid some common design challenges that can prevent developers from working with wireless protocols.
Wireless Xpress leverages Silicon Labs’ Gecko OS, an intuitive, easy-to-use IoT operating system. Wireless Xpress devices also offer a lot of technical support, and since the device handles wireless-related duties across the board with the support of the Gecko OS firmware, developers don’t have to choose an MCU that can handle the low-level wireless maintenance, nor do they have to go through the low-level NCP protocol for granular monitoring. Instead of choosing an MCU that fits their NCP, developers can choose the MCU that fits their application.
What hardware platforms does Silicon Labs offer for IoT end node designs?
We have introduced Bluetooth Xpress module options based on PCB package and System-in-Package (SiP) called BGX13P and BGX13S respectively. We also offer two zero programming Wi-Fi Xpress modules, AMW007 and AMW037. For more product information, please visit: https://cn.silabs.com/products/wireless/xpress
On the software side, what does it take to run a mobile app?
For Bluetooth Xpress, we have launched the Xpress framework for iOS and Android. Developing mobile apps can sometimes be a challenge for product developers, and developing apps that connect with Bluetooth is a special skill in itself. Through the Xpress framework, we have extracted the core Bluetooth APIs of the low-level mobile OS in some easy-to-use APIs.
This is very helpful to developers for two reasons. First, the Xpress framework handles all Bluetooth-specific scan and discovery, query, connection, and GATT table communications. For example, to scan, you can call startScan, which provides a list of discovered devices. To connect you need to call connectToDevice and the framework handles the rest.
Second, the framework looks basically the same for both iOS and Android, unifying an interface that actually works very differently between the two operating systems. So if a developer learns to connect to a Bluetooth Xpress in iOS, the same function calls will work just as well in Android. For Wi-FiXpress, we provide a web application served by Wi-Fi Xpress devices and provide a RESTful API to control modules and access the file system.
What tools can developers use to take advantage of Wireless Xpress?
An advantage of these modular products is that the Xpress command API is engineer-readable, so developers can evaluate the product and fully familiarize themselves with features by running a simple terminal program on a PC.
We’ve released two evaluation kits, the Wireless Xpress BGX13P kit and the AMW07-E04 kit, each of which provides a serial-to-USB bridge, so accessing the board looks like a COM port. For developers looking for a richer evaluation experience and graphical interface, we offer the Xpress Configurator tool within Silicon Labs’ Simplicity Studio development environment.
Xpress Configurator logically groups different configurable parameters, validates configurable settings, and displays documentation for each parameter. All of these configurations result in one or more Xpress commands being sent to the wireless Xpress module via the terminal interface built into the tool.
Developers have access to network management and mapping tools. These tools provide a high-level view of the system. Network Analyzer tracks wireless node activity in real time, providing insights for debugging and system optimization.
How fast does Wireless Xpress connect to the cloud?
For Bluetooth Xpress, we provide OTA support through the Xpress framework. If Silicon Labs releases a firmware update to Bluetooth Xpress, this signed and encrypted update can be pulled from our cloud using a framework API.
Wi-Fi Xpress products can access the cloud directly to receive firmware updates. Developers can also use this built-in cloud connection to perform device health checks in the field and retrieve additional keywords, as well as application-specific metrics.