Radiocrafts Introduces Integrated Sensor Interfaces on RF Modules

Radiocrafts introduces Integrated sensor interfaces on RF modules. The first family with the Sensor Interfaces is the Sigfox family.

The integrated sensor interface will enable engineers to design very compact connected sensors that only includes the actual sensors and the Sensor interface module from Radiocrafts. The interface removes the need for an external Microcontroller to manage the sensors in the system, thereby reducing the system cost and also reducing power consumption.

Please visit our website to learn more about the interface and to find the details of the new RC1682-SSM module.

BLE together with 6LoWPAN or Wireless M-Bus for Internet of Things and Wireless Sensor Networks

Radiocrafts AS, a leading provider of RF modules and wireless connectivity solutions, announced today a new dual-mode radio module platform for Smart Metering, Internet of Things (IoT) and Wireless Sensor Networks applications. The module has a 2.4GHz radio transceiver is an addition to the sub-Giga Hertz transceiver that is available on the RC18x0 module that was announced by Radiocrafts in September.

The RC1885 radio module platform is a surface-mounted ultra-low power RF module based on the CC1350 system-on-chip from Texas Instruments. The modules include a low power BLE compliant 2.4 GHz RF transceiver in addition to the sub-Giga Hertz transceiver that is compliant to IEEE 802.15.4g, Wireless M-Bus and many proprietary protocols. It is ideal for battery operated sensors in 6LoWPAN networks.

The BLE compliant 2.4GHz transceivers enable applications where commissioning and network set-up can be done using a smart-phone. This removes the need for customer-specific HMI (Human-Machine Interface), thereby reducing the system cost significantly.

The ultra-low power radio consumes only 5.5 mA in receive mode and 22 mA during transmission at 14 dBm. The high-performance radio is complemented with a powerful ARM Cortex M3 controller with up to 128 kB of Flash memory and 20 kB of SRAM. A 4 kB EEPROM, and additional 256 kB Flash is optional. The extra Flash memory can be used for over-the-air firmware download.

30 digital and analog I/O makes it easy to interface sensors and actuators in control and monitoring applications. An advanced low power sensor co-processor is available for direct sensor interface.

Using the new module together with the TI-RTOS from Texas Instruments is a powerful combination to build any end application. Part of the TI-RTOS is programmed in ROM, leaving more Flash memory to the application firmware. The modules are also supported by the open source operating system Contiki, through the CC1310 Contiki port.

“The 2.4 GHz BLE compliant transceiver adds significant benefit to our new module platform. It is a complement to our existing offerings for low power wireless solution where the RF modules are integrating more and more functionality,” says Anders Oldebäck, Sales and Marketing Director, Radiocrafts. “Dual mode radio combined with an ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller in a System in Package module opens up even more possibilities than before for battery operated Internet of Things and Wireless Sensor Network applications”.

The compact surface mount modules, which measure only 12.7 x 25.4 mm, are delivered in tape and reel packaging. Samples and Developments Kits are available now.

Add 802.15.4(g/e) Wireless Networking to Your Wireless System

The RC1880 is a very cost and power efficient customizable RF module that can be used with the TI-15.4-STACK. One option for the TI-15.4 stack is to compile it as a wireless network Co-Processor. In this option an external application processor has access to the wireless features over UART or SPI.

The TI-15.4-STACK Co-Processor provides interface for configuration of network operation (e.g. starting a network, scan for network, join network) in Beacon or non-Beacon mode, with or without Security, and Frequency Hopping. In addition, it gives an interface for sending and receiving data.

Radiocrafts has compiled the TI-15.4-STACK Co-Processor with the pin mapping done to fit the RC1880xxx demo board. This firmware can be downloaded free of charge as-is from the Radiocrafts website. Adding this to the RC1880 creates a fully functional IEEE 802.15.4 (g/e) RF module.

The combined solution, that we refer to as RC1880-COP, is a complete RF module with a IEE802.15.4 Phy and MAC, that supports star networking on sub-gigahertz frequencies.

The RC1880-COP will connect to any microcontroller through UART interface. For example, a Co-Processor can be combined with a Windows or Linux host processor, or be part of an embedded system using a microcontroller.

The RC1880-COP makes it easy for the users to add IEEE 802.15.4 functionality to an existing product and also provides great flexibility in choice of microcontrollers

For more info on the RC1880, please visit the product page.

For more info on the TI-15.4-STACK Co-Processor.

The Physics Behind 169 MHz Long Range Wireless

Think of a Grand Piano

RF antenna size is directly proportional to wavelength size for the simple reason that the antenna needs to create resonance for a selected frequency.

By way of analogy, look at how a grand piano or an organ creates low (frequency) notes:  they use, respectively, longer strings or larger pipes.

Radio frequencies are similar.  So 169 MHz’s relatively long wavelength means that effective antenna sizes need to be relatively big.

For example, a 2.4 GHz RF device can typically have its antenna integrated into the module. By comparison, a 169 MHz RF module has an external antenna approximately 10 cm long (when shortened into a helical).

Obviously, if your application requires small size equipment (i.e., including antennas), you’ll want to discuss with us the various options for achieving your wireless goals.

169 MHz’s Range: Worth the Bigger Antenna

169 MHz RF modules can be pretty compelling due to their long distance range, even in crowded urban environments.

Our Application Note AN021, entitled “RF Modules Range Calculations and Test,” shows you how to do your own wireless range calculations. It then follows up with two 169 MHz case studies, taking you through the RF range formulas and comparing the calculated results to actual transmission measurements for each application.

One RF range case study, using the Radiocrafts RC1700HP-MBUS4 Development Boards and 169 MHz antennas for a free line-of-sight (LoS) installation between two hills in Norway, demonstrated a wireless range of 8.3 km.  In theory, with the calculated link margin of 32.6 dB, it could reach a distance roughly 32 times longer).

Low-Cost, 40 km2 Downtown RF Coverage

Another wireless range case study in AN021 tested Wireless M-Bus 169 MHz transmission in typical, “real-world” urban outdoor environments; in this case, downtown Oslo.

Actual urban RF range results are subject to great variation from location to location and environment to environment; but simple rooftop tests can help verify your range calculations.

In this case study, two standard, off-the-shelf antennas were installed on rooftops, connected to a standard Radiocrafts RC1701HP-MBUS4 169 MHz Development Kit and module. They successfully communicated at a wireless range of 3.5 km over downtown Oslo.

Using low-cost components to create a very basic 169 MHz star network, you could cover a circular range of 40 km2 in a similar downtown environment.

If you wish to design your own, application-specific RF tests, contact our Wireless M-Bus support engineers so we can help you make the tests as rigorous as possible.

Proven Solution for Industrial Wireless Sensor Networks

What is your biggest nightmare when planning a new industrial sensor network? That you cannot trust the communication link? That it is not secure and easily hacked? Or simply that you need to pull miles of cable in an industrial site that is already full of equipment? Or maybe replacing batteries every second month?

Why not take benefit of a secure, reliable and low power communication standard that is free of wires and providing long battery lifetime? Wireless M-Bus (EN 13757-4:2013) is a wireless communication standard that was developed for the reading of utility meters. Utility meters that are used to protect and measure some of the highest value and scare resources being traded; electricity, gas and water.

All your worries and nightmares have already been addressed in the development of the Wireless M-Bus standard. Therefore you will find that Wireless M-Bus is also a very good alternative as a communication standard for industrial wireless sensor networks in general.

Your industrial sensors and actuators can take benefit of this technology, to be read or operated at a distance, reliable and secure. And completely without wires, while batteries last for years.

Take the benefit of an established standard that has been developed by teams of leading industry experts. The solutions are well established and proven in the field since its first release in 2005. It is supported by all the leading companies in the metering industry, and is by far the mostly used standard for wireless meter reading in Europe with tens of millions of units in the field. For example, reading of gas meters in France and Italy is done using the Wireless M-Bus standard at 169 MHz. Reading billing information from remote utility meters puts very high requirements to the protocol in terms of security, reliability and battery lifetime. The standard is like a toolbox where we can pick and use the right tool in different situations; that is, operating frequency, power consumption, range, encryption and other security elements. Products based on the standard are now used not only in Europe, but as far as Australia and the US. Compact radio modules from Radiocrafts are the building blocks you need to take advantage of this technology in your next sensor network.

Start a new life free of the previous worries by reading the new Application Note from Radiocrafts which gives you an understanding of how to use a Wireless M-Bus module in an industrial sensor network.

Antenna Selection Guide

Where is the range? How to design and select the antenna for the ISM bands.

One of the most common question we get to our support line is how to get the intended range of the wireless connection. Most of the time, the answer relates to the antenna design. I believe it is a result of the software and digital focus that has been overwhelming in the electronics community, and the RF competence was considered a niche competence for a long time Now, with IoT, Wifi and Bluetooth, many engineers are forced to go back to the books from the University and read up on RF. And, for those who don’t read up, then mother nature will with her lack of compromise show that it is important to understand also the RF part of the wireless communication network.

However, inventing the wheel again is not needed. RF is not new to Radiocrafts and we are happy to share our experience. If you don’t want to go back to the old text books from the University and you don’t want to have mother nature setting on you back when you can’t get the desired radio range, then take a look at the WP009: Antenna Selection Guide.

This whitepaper shows a pragmatic approach, based on our 13 years of supporting customers in their design and to select and design antennas for the ISM bands. It compares the most common antenna types with a view on cost, design effort, size and performance. It is written for non-RF engineers and does not include antenna theory itself, just brings out the experience and conclusions needed to point you in the right direction when selecting/designing an antenna for ISM band equipment.

Antenna Size Matters!

Size matters!

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) are key parts of the Internet of Things (IOT), and they are more and more taking advantage of longer range and less interference in the sub-GHz frequency bands compared to 2.45 GHz. A challenge that then shows up is the size of the antenna, as it has to grow with lower frequencies due to the longer wavelength.

We want to keep the antenna as small as possible, but still pay attention to the “link budget”. The link budget is the total signal gain and loss between the transmitter and the receiver. It is determined by the output power of the transmitter, the sensitivity of the receiver, as well as the antenna gain at both sides, and the “Path loss”.

“Path loss” is a measure of how much signal power is lost from the transmitter to the receiver. The “Path loss” is the loss of signal in an ideal link between two isotropic antennas due to the spreading of power from the source into space. It also depends on the radio frequency due to the area of the antenna which scales with the wavelength. Therefore, the Path loss increase with higher frequencies.

Obstacles and reflections will also impact the signal loss. Lower frequencies tend to creep around corners and are therefore less affected by buildings or hills. Also note that 2.45 GHz is attenuated in humidity, such as raindrops on leaves or humidity in concrete walls. That is the reason the microwave oven use 2.45 GHz to heat up the water molecules in the food, and the frequency was deemed unusable for satellite communication.

The RF module characteristics that are important for the link budget are sensitivity and TX power. A larger negative number for sensitity is better, and a larger positive number for the TX is better.

The last item that impacts the link budget” is the antenna, which also has a large impact on the industrial design of the final product. Often a compromise must be done between an appealing design and the antenna performance.  The lower the frequency, the larger the antenna should be to achieve the same gain. So, for a given link budget, the better the RF performance of the RF module, the smaller the antenna can be. A 1-2dB extra sensitivity and TX power, can reduce the antenna size by 50% which is several centimeters in the sub-GHz domain. Those centimeters will, in many cases, play a key role in allowing for a customer appealing industrial design.

Radiocrafts has released a White Paper. It will guide you to the best antenna for you system. You will also find several high performing RF modules on the site.

3 Ways To Boost Your Wireless Performance

Increasing Range, Reliability & Security for Wireless RF Modules

Achieving reliable, secure, and long-range wireless data communication is possible if you know what to look for in a RF module. Radiocrafts has off-the-shelf solutions to meet these operational demands on your wireless system.

Increasing Range via Higher Power

A transmitter’s signal strength (its travel range) is directly related to its output power. A 6 dB increase in output power (i.e. four times the power measured in mW) will double the transmitter’s range, given that all other parameters stay the same.

In a typical radio link, the TX power is determined by two factors: 1) The output power of the transmitter’s power amplifier and 2) The gain of the antenna, which directs the power to its desired direction.

Careful consideration should be taken when deciding upon the transmit power: To ensure that all radios have equal access to the frequency band (that is, that no radios block or interfere with other radios), local regulations limit the maximum transmit power.

Radiocrafts can help you stay within those maximum power limitations while still delivering long-range communications via our High Power RF modules. These modules, identified by the “HP” in their part number, maximize the transmitter’s output power to provide you longest signal range.

Ensuring Radio Reliability with Ultra Narrow Band

Ultra Narrow Band is a technology for high radio reliability. Narrowband RF is typically defined by an RF signal with a bandwidth of 25 kHz or less, which is referred to as “True” Narrowband, or Ultra Narrowband (UNB). This is very useful for applications that require high reliability, such as industrial remote controls, and other industrial applications where a robust radio link is required. A good Ultra Narrowband radio will easily get range performance measured in kilometers with very good noise suppression performance.

An Ultra Narrow Band radio receiver unit meets requirements that enable it to operate in an environment that has strong “unwanted” signals. Critical parameters include: Blocking, Adjacent Channel Selectivity, Receiver saturation, Spurious response rejection, and High wanted signal. The end result is a very reliable radio receiver that can work through radio frequency noise and other disturbing signals, making the communication link highly reliable.

The Radiocrafts RC12XX and RC17XX radio receiver support Ultra Narrow band.

Increasing Wireless Security with AES-128

Worldwide, computer hackers are becoming more creative as they plot ways to disturb, block, and/or steal your communications data, which is increasingly traveling by radio frequencies. Providing privacy — and ensuring data integrity as well as authenticity — has become a key consideration in the design of wireless systems.

Fortunately, data encryption can keep intercepted communications from being of value to hackers. Data encryption is not new: it has been around since 50 BC. But today the radio industry has an encryption standard: the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) as defined by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce approved the AES standard in 2002, and it is the only standard approved by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to be used for top-secret information. The AES is now the industry standard for encrypting data for secure communication, and it is used widely in many different applications by numerous wireless companies.

To provide secure data communication, specify AES-128 wireless encryption: it’s available on most Radiocrafts RF modules. For additional information, see our RF module data sheets.


Boost Your Wireless Communication System — Starting Today

What’s your wireless performance challenge? Chances are, our radio engineers have already solved it. Our engineers can help you navigate the radio regulations in your area to pick the right High Power RF module. Have a “noisy radio” environment, like a factory? We’ll walk you through the necessary configurations for our Cat1 radio receiver (RC1701HP-MBUS4) to overcome noisy frequencies. And with computer hackers becoming more threatening every day, we’ll be happy to help you implement an encryption protocol that meets the AES-128 standard — protecting your system and your customers.

Make Your LPWAN Simple and Cost Efficient

A not very well protected secret is that LPWANs are already deployed and in use by many of the utility companies in Europe to read the meters automatically. The technology behind in Europe is often Wireless M-Bus on 169 MHz, particularly for gas and water meters.

One of the reasons to select this technology is the range advantage that 169 MHz carrier waves provides due to antenna physics a range advantage. European radio regulations also allow high output power (500 mW), and combined with narrowband radio technology this increase the communication range substantially. This is important for particularly water-meters that are often located in basements of the buildings, or down in pit holes. A key advantage for Wireless M-Bus is the low power characteristic that is needed for battery operation of water and gas-meters.

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) in the Internet of Things (IOT) share the range and the low power requirements with the water and gas meters and will consequently also benefit from 169 MHz and Wireless M-Bus, that by now is well proven in the metering market.

Radiocrafts has in its latest Application Note showed in a realistic range test in downtown Oslo that 40 square km can be covered by a single base-station build on one RC1701HP-MBUS4 module. This coverage is similar to what other LPWAN technologies achieve with a much more complex base-station.

Wireless M-Bus was developed with low power in mind and support more than 15 years battery lifetime for water and gas meters. For lower complexity sensors, even longer battery life can be achieved.

So, when deciding on your LPWAN network, make sure that you consider also the 169 MHz and Wireless M-Bus alternative. Sometimes simple is better!

Radiocrafts Presents 3G/4G LTE Gateway Solution

radiocrafts 3G/4G LTE Gateway Solution

Radiocrafts AS, a leading provider of RF modules, today presents a cloud connection solution for Internet of Things (IoT) applications, connecting low power radio sensor networks to cloud services.

The FX30 expansion boards from Radiocrafts makes up a complete gateway together with the 3G/4G LTE modem from Sierra Wireless. By using the Radiocrafts expansion board for the FX30 and implementing network nodes based on the Radiocrafts RF modules, a complete IoT sensor network with cloud connection is easily made.

Radiocrafts develops and manufactures RF modules for many RF protocols, such as Wireless M-Bus, KNX-RF and ZigBee, as well as the proprietary protocols TinyMesh and RC232. The new gateway makes it now easy to connect these networks to a cloud service.

The FX30 is the industry’s smallest, most rugged and programmable 3G/4G LTE cellular modem available in the market. Expanding it with short range wireless technology from Radiocrafts makes it a versatile gateway solution, covering a wide range of applications and standards.

The FX30 Gateway has an internal slot for expansion cards, where the Radiocrafts expansion card is plugged in. The interface between the main Gateway CPU and the expansion cards are via UART or SPI. The solution supports most of the low power wireless protocols provided by Radiocrafts. The rugged housing makes it ready and easy to install in the field.

The new FX30 makes it easy to connect any wireless IoT sensor network to any cloud service. The device can be managed, controlled and monitored through the Sierra Wireless’ AirVantage® Cloud Services. But the gateway is not locked to any specific cloud service supplier. So the data can be forwarded to any cloud solution preferred by the user.

The FX30 integrates the Legato® Open Source Linux Platform that simplifies application-level development with a secure application framework, maintained Linux distribution, and feature-rich development environment. Legato® enables efficient C-level programming, making FX30 the core component for distributed IoT systems.

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