Marin, Switzerland – EM Microelectronic offers an ultra-low-power Bluetooth Smart Controller, the EM9301, which is powered by harvested energy or low-voltage, zinc-air batteries to send advertising broadcasts to passing smartphones.
A variety of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells have been used to power the EM9301 and an EM6819 ULP 8-bit Flash microcontroller to send sensor data, such as temperature, light level and beacon/location information, to an application running on nearby smartphones using Bluetooth low-energy technology. Total cost was minimized through the use of an embedded microcontroller and a perfectly matched PCB loop antenna that is directly connected to the EM9301's antenna pins, according to EM.
These "emBeacons" were tested under real-world conditions including indoor lighting, periods of darkness, cold startup, etc. Since the EM9301 can operate from as little as 0.7V, and consumes only 150 microjoules (μJ) per beacon event, nominally occurring every 5 seconds, zinc-air capacity or energy harvester cost and size is minimized while operating lifetime is extended, said EM. For supply voltages less than 1.8V, power consumption is only 200 μJ. This figure includes all power consumed during sleep, wake up, calibration, sensor measurement, and wireless communications, according to the company.
Due to its low average power consumption (5μA), EM projects the "emBeacon" to last more than 2 ½ years on a Renata ZA675 zinc-air battery or more than one month on a BlueSpark 101-UT1 printed battery. In energy harvested systems, the "emBeacon" can transmit in the dark for an hour on a one Farad (1F) supercapacitor, or almost 2 days on a 9F supercapacitor, though results are highly dependent on the selected capacitor.
emBeacon iPhone applications, developed by KS Technologies, are available. These include Particle Detector and BTLExplorer that allow a phone to detect and display data received from unconnected Bluetooth Smart beacons.
Optimized for ultra-low power wireless sensing, remote control and monitoring applications, the EM9301 operates on as little as 0.8V. It can be powered by a wide range of common single-cell batteries or energy harvesters such as solar cells, piezo-electric and electro-magnetic elements.
The EM9301 is fully Bluetooth Smart qualified for single-mode master and slave applications and combines the Physical layer, Link layer and Host Controller Interface (HCI) layer in one flexible chip. When the EM9301 is paired with a low-power host controller, the solution can be used for most Bluetooth Smart applications such as wireless health and fitness monitoring, electronic leashes, and smartphone-based sensing and controls.
Availability: The EM9301 is in production and is available in both die format and in a ROHS-compliant MLF-24 package. The EM9301 device purchase includes a license-free Bluetooth Smart stack for 8051, ARM Cortex M0 or M3 cores. Development kits are available for various microcontrollers. The emBeacon reference design, which contains a bill of materials (BOM), PCB gerber files, and demo firmware is available on EM's website. A small quantity of emBeacon hardware is also available to qualified customers so they can evaluate the emBeacon platform for their applications.