As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, one of the fun things to do at technical conferences is to sit in on an event that is not an ‘official’ conference session. These events often include talks and/or panels on interesting topics and are sponsored by companies who offer products or services associated with those topics. Such was the case this week at the Embedded Systems Conference, where I attended a luncheon sponsored by Synapse ( with participation by Atmel, Silicon Labs and California Eastern Labs (CEL). The topic: “The tipping point for wireless M2M communications.”

Synapse makes mesh network operating systems and middlewear for the wireless mesh network market while the other three companies embed Synapse operating systems in some of their processors or microcontrollers. All four companies delivered presentations that helped me better understand IEEE 802.15.4 and ZigBee for low-cost, low-power M2M communications. I also learned about an existing standard – RF4CE (Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics) – geared at using RF in appliance remote controls instead of the traditional IR for better reliability, to overcome line-of-sight limitations and in some applications where IR controls just won’t work, such as with strongly back-lit monitors.

Particularly interesting was the breadth of applications targeted by 802.15.4-enabled devices. Home and industrial remote lighting, crop irrigation, public thoroughfare lighting, smart utility meters, smart energy such as solar and LED, home entertainment devices, industrial security systems, and asset management are just a few of the applications where 802.15.4 is becoming pervasive. And forget the idea that 802.15.4 is for short-range applications. Companies such as CEL are making devices with ranges beyond two miles.

All-in-all, a nice way to spend a lunch hour, getting an update on some communication protocols that will impact all of our lives and learning about new and interesting products that support these protocols. This is the type of event at which I don’t mind a sales pitch that goes along with the educational material.

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: April 30, 2010, 7:34 am | No Comments »

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