Texas Instruments is rolling out a new microcontroller (MCU) that could make the design of sensor networks and data logging systems simpler and less costly.
Known as the RF430F5978, the new product combines a 16-bit MCU with a sub-1GHz RF transceiver, a low-frequency wake-up trigger, and a transponder. The device is said to be the first to integrate all those parts into a single-chip solution for wireless applications such as data logging, container tracking, and asset management.
”This enables those applications to use smaller modules,” Diwakar Bansal, manager of safety and security MCUs for Texas Instruments, told Design News. “And having smaller modules is critical, because it reduces the BOM [bill of materials] cost.”
TI engineers believe the new technology is especially well suited for use with temperature and humidity sensors in food tracking applications. There, the MCU would log data from the sensors, then work with the wakeup trigger and transponder to send data to automated readers as it passes through shipping stations. The device could use the low-frequency interface to operate passively (without a battery) at short ranges, or with the sub-GHz transceiver to send the data across a range of as much as 6 meters. Either way, it would serve as a simple way to monitor the temperature of fresh foods, such as packaged fruits and vegetables, during shipping.
Wireless solutions for such applications have existed in the past, but typically consisted of three or even four discrete electronics parts, including separate microcontrollers, transceivers, wakeup triggers, and transponders. ”You would have needed multiple components to do this because no one had ever put all these interfaces together,” Bansal told us.
Texas Instruments says it is also offering an evaluation module to help jumpstart development of such systems. Known as the RF430F5978EVM, the evaluation module includes an MCU evaluation board and a USB-based plug-in low-frequency trigger module.