By Mark Martinets
Sigfox has a large ecosystem of device makers, platform providers, semiconductor companies, system integrators, and Sigfox module providers. The latter category of ecosystem partners provide several levels of benefits to device makers which in turn benefits the end customers.
When a device maker is designing a product or a customer is designing their own proprietary device with custom functionality, the first step is to determine which design methodology to pursue – a discrete design using specifically chosen components from various Sigfox semiconductor partners or a module from one of the many module makers that are available. There are several factors that can have an effect on this decision.
Benefits that a Discrete Design Can Provide
An engineer can easily layout a design to conform to a specific size or form factor which a module may not be able to fit into. A designer could also potentially use an alternative MCU from one of Sigfox’s semiconductor partners in order to include a non-typical peripheral such as a display driver or specific communication protocol which isn’t available in any of the currently available Sigfox modules.
However, there are many more advantages to using a module when designing a Sigfox IoT device. The module makers have done almost all of the “heavy lifting” involved in designing an IoT device. Some of the hurdles that the module maker have taken care of include: laying out the circuitry in the most efficient manner possible, implementing the Sigfox protocol library, attaching an RF shield to keep RF noise from the circuitry to a minimum, FCC [module] certification, and Sigfox Verify certification.
The design stages which the module maker has performed and removed from the design process for the design engineer greatly decreases the time and complexity involved in creating a Sigfox device. For the device maker this translates to a much shorter design cycle and a faster time to market.
HT Micron, one of Sigfox’s module partners from Brazil, went one step further and had a design engineer design and manufacture the first Sigfox System-in-a-Package (SiP) – iMCP‑HT32SX. As an additional benefit the engineer could also use the product.
HT Micron Benefits
Its small dimensions, high performance and low power consumption targets the best experience for IoT developers. The system combines a ST Microelectronics STM32L052x8 MCU with 32-bit ARM Cortex M0+ core with a STM S2-LP low power transceiver combining all the advantages, integration and convenience of advanced semiconductor packaging technology into a single chip. It also includes a Skyworks Solutions SKY66420 power amplifier which enables the device to transmit at a higher RF output and achieve a Sigfox Class 0U (best) classification for use in Sigfox RC2 & RC4 zones (regions).
The iMCP‑HT32SX can be configured to operate in any of the Sigfox radio configuration zones (RC1-RC7) plus it also supports Monarch – the Sigfox network feature which enables a device to roam globally to any Sigfox RC zone and still communicate properly within the appropriate frequency range. The device is also 13 x 13 x 1.35mm and comes in a 32-pad LGA – the smallest dimensions of any of the all-zone Sigfox modules.
To learn more about the HT Micron iMCP‑HT32SX SiP device visit the product page for the device on the Sigfox Ecosystem Partner website.