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Marvell and MediaTek join IoT rush

Mobile chip vendors all racing to the growth promised by connected devices, latest entrants favor ZigBee

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 7 June, 2014

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In the rush into the IoT, spurred we feel in part by Apple's recent smart home announcements, Marvell and MediaTek are both hoping that their silicon will comprise a large part of the new markets. Both vendors have announced new chips this week, which we'll outline below.

The announcements help secure the position of ZigBee in the IoT ecosystem thanks to the support of these two silicon vendors. The two biggest chip makers, Broadcom and Qualcomm, have both backed Bluetooth and WiFi in favor of ZigBee or Z-Wave. As ZigBee gains ground, it will be interesting to see whether either of the two change their minds.


Marvell has unveiled what it claims is the industry's most complete line of silicon platform solutions, targeting wearables, home automation and security, personal healthcare, automotive, lighting, the industrial internet and more," - so pretty much every 'thing' then. The key part of Marvell's announcement is that the SoCs are Apple compatible and have all been registered as MFi (Made For iPhone) certified, which guarantees that they'll work with Apple's smart home ambitions.

The new product family features the EZ-Connect software platform, and includes the MW300 WiFi, the MB300 Bluetooth and the MZ100 ZigBee microcontrollers. EZ-Connect SDKs and APIs are available to developers, which Marvell says will "save months of software development efforts to leverage the full potential of a built-in microcontroller on the SoC." It's worth pointing out that it's very much in Marvell's interest to make the SoCs easy to use, especially amongst an IoT environment that often features DIY and crowdfunded startup projects.

The MW300 SoC features 802.11n WiFi and has been designed to allow low-power states in standby and reduced power consumption while active. I/O interfaces include SPI, I2C, UART, I2S, PWM, ADC and DAC, which will help developers reduce the bill of materials. An ARM Cortex-M4F drives the unit and should allow it to stream video to other IoT devices - the perfect SoC for an IP security camera.

The MB300 SoC supports dual-mode Bluetooth 4.1, for concurrent Bluetooth Classic and Smart operations. Its I/O scheme is the same as the MW300 but also includes ACOMP, IR, Keyscan and Touch Button. A high resolution Analog to Digital Convertor with direct connectors for microphones provides built-in voice capability for the microcontroller. It also uses the Cortex-M4.

The MZ100, as its name suggests, supports the ZigBee protocol but also the full IEEE 802.15.4 protocol. Based around a Cortex-M3, Marvell says its 10+dB link-budget margin is the best in the industry, and offers the best coexistence with WiFi and Bluetooth. I/O interfaces include SPI, I2C, UART, PWM, ADC, DAC and ACOMP, with a software stack supporting ZLL, ZHA, and 6LoWPAN.

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