It's been awhile since my last post. Things are still hectic around here. The Michael Jackson Tribute concert unfortunately fell through. I think there were some management issues with the production company, but that was actually a good thing for me. I was probably the only one smiling when they announced that we were cancelled from the show. With the extra time, I've been scrambling to put the finishing touches on the product designs and get the shop up. I'm pretty excited about it, but its been much, much, much more work than I ever expected. I've also been busting some ass to finish off all of my tax returns since the Japan deadline is March 15th. Overall, the schedule has been really ugly lately.
On the plus side, I should be getting more active on blog posts soon because I'm going to need to write a lot of tutorials on how to use the boards that I'm designing. The shop will mostly focus on WSN developers since from my experience, we're an often ignored group, yet vital to bringing wireless sensors to the world. I won't get into it too much here since there will be a separate post about it when the shop is ready to go live.
In the meantime, I was able to squeeze a couple of hours in between my tax returns to update my good, old 802.15.4 chip comparison. I was thinking about it and the last time it was updated was around 2008. Since then, there have been many exciting developments in the WSN world and some very interesting product introductions for 802.15.4.
One of the trends I've noticed as I was updating it was that the Tx power output of most of the newer chips is much higher than before. Gone are the days when chips like the CC2420 boasted a 0 dBm transmit power. Most of the chips today have a minimum 3 dBm (2 mW) output and some are even as high as 10 mW.
Amongst all the 802.15.4 chips, only one, the AT86RF212, addresses the 868/916 MHz bands of 802.15.4 with a very nice 10 mW output to boot. There has been a lot of curiosity about the chip and quite a few people have started trying it out. I haven't heard a single bad review about it yet and the range is really excellent. I'm expecting to see many more chipmakers moving down to sub-1 GHz soon, especially with TI introducting their CC1190 900 MHz RF front end. With a 500 mW PA and 6 dB Rx gain from the LNA, people should be getting some really serious range.
Regarding the chip comparison, there are a few things that aren't included in it yet. One of them is the RF front end ICs. I think these are important and will try to get them in the comparison in the future. Also, there are many very interesting non-802.15.4 chips available that would be good for WSN applications. I'd like to include them, but there are just so many that it'd be a huge effort. It may show up in the future as a generalized WSN chip comparison but I don't think its going to happen any time soon.
You may also notice that the comparison is renamed the "802.15.4 Chip Comparison" rather than the original "Zigbee Chip Comparison". Aside from the incorrectness of my original name (there are no such things as Zigbee chips), there are also other protocols that are getting popular and are using 802.15.4. 6LoWPAN is one of them and its something I'd like to get more involved in this year.
Well, without further ado, here's the updated 802.15.4 chip comparison. Please let me know if you find any errors or know of any chips that I may have left off.
Goodbye and thanks for all the fish!