By Oded Amihai and Saurabh Narang
Within the Internet of Things (IoT), the majority of wirelessly connected devices need extra help to connect to the Internet. True, there are Wi-Fi enabled devices that can connect directly to the cloud. And there are Bluetooth- and Bluetooth low energy-based applications that can connect to the Internet via an existing central device, like a smartphone, tablet or PC. However, the vast majority of IoT devices need a specialized gateway to access a provider’s network and be accessible from the web. For example, to connect an IoT node that uses ZigBee or Sub-1 GHz / 6LoWPAN to the Internet, you need a gateway that supports the respective protocol and also Wi-Fi or Ethernet connectivity.
Gateways come with a wide range of connectivity options and features, depending on the actual requirements – for example, a home gateway may not need as many connectivity methods as an industrial gateway. In this series we will introduce different gateway architectures and reference designs available to speed development. First up is a ZigBee home automation gateway.
As a major player in the home automation field today, ZigBee is being used to connect many types of devices including lighting systems, security and alarm systems, home appliances and more. There are many reasons why ZigBee is a good choice for home automation. Based on a mesh network topology, ZigBee offers an extended range compared to other technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and delivers a self-healing network that can expand to hundreds of nodes. While connecting many devices in the automated home, ZigBee maintains backup routes that can be used if one or more nodes fail. Additionally, ZigBee provides an application-level standard that guarantees product interoperability – this is demonstrated in practice by the many interoperable ZigBee devices that already exist in the market. Another important quality of ZigBee is that it is a low-power technology – ZigBee devices can support operation on a single coin-cell battery for a considerably long duration.
As noted above, ZigBee devices need a gateway in order to connect to the cloud and provide remote access, so consumers may control their home devices away from home (e.g. from a smartphone or tablet). TI recently released a new ZigBee home automation gateway TI Design, that combines the SimpleLink™ ZigBee CC2531EMK with the Sitara™ AM335x processor-powered BeagleBone Black. This is a ZigBee plus Ethernet connectivity solution on an open-source Linux platform. It provides a ZigBee to IP bridge that offers easy subsystem integration at the TCP level and enables a wired or wireless IP link, which is perfect for full home and building automation applications. Additionally, this scalable and flexible Linux integration of ZigBee allows porting to other gateway hardware platforms and enables versatile application development.
This TI Design makes it easy to get started building your own ZigBee home automation gateway by providing Gerber files, layout, schematics, block diagrams and BOM references. Also included is a complete and scalable Linux-based software solution, leveraging TI’s Z-Stack™ software. This design is first of its kind, allowing you to easily integrate ZigBee technology into a gateway. With tens of APIs, it dramatically simplifies hundreds of commands and protocol operations that would have otherwise be required in the integration of a ZigBee subsystem. Plus, the design is a plug-and-play ZigBee solution that includes ZigBee Home Automation HA1.2 certified Protocol Stack, MAC and PHY, and is extensively tested for interoperability.
The Sitara AM335x processor that powers the BeagleBone Black provides 1 GHz performance, enabling support for advanced user interfaces and offers extra computation power. With all components on the board commercially available, including TI’s Sitara AM335x processor as well as several TI analog and mixed signal devices, users can quickly go from prototyping to kick-starting and take their devices to full production.
The ZigBee CC2531EMK USB dongle, built around the SimpleLink ZigBee CC2531 wireless MCU, is the other main part of the ZigBee home automation gateway design. This ZigBee dongle uses TPS76933 ultra-low power low dropout line regulator for achieving excellent power efficiency.
Get started by downloading this TI Design today!