Long-range wireless MCUs for energy-efficient connectivity

Long-range wireless MCUs for energy-efficient connectivity

New Products |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting

STMicroelectronics has released new microcontrollers (MCUs) that fuses its expertise in wireless-device design with its high-performing and efficient STM32 architecture. Use cases include smart metering, smart building, and industrial monitoring.

Novel power-saving features enable the extension of battery life in the new wireless MCUs beyond 15 years. The long-range radio on the STM32WL3 operates in the internationally designated license-free frequency bands, 413 MHz to 479 MHz and 826 MHz to 958 MHz, with the support for 169 MHz coming in 2024.

Especially valuable in remotely deployed applications including metering and monitoring devices and data from alarm systems, actuators, and sensors in today’s smart buildings, smart factories, and smart cities, the STM32WL3 wireless MCUs can help limit power consumption and prioritize activities. Adoption and use of these efficient devices can lead to improved user experience, service delivery, and reduced environmental footprint.

The STM32WL3 contains an advanced, power-efficient multi-protocol radio suitable for long-range communication using license-free frequency bands reserved globally for industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) applications. In addition to the main radio, ST has integrated an industry-unique ultra-low-power radio the system can power-down to save energy while listening continuously for a wake-up signal.

The radio is multi-protocol and multi-modulation capable, supporting 4-(G)FSK up to 600 kbit/s, 2-(G)FSK, (G)MSK, DBPSK, DSSS, OOK, ASK modulation schemes to maximize versatility and ease deployment.

On-board peripherals include an LCD driver, a 12-bit 1 Msample/s ADC, analog comparator, DAC, and multiple timers. Together with an integrated balun, RF power amplifier, and SMPS, they minimize external BoM for a cost-optimized solution with short time-to-market.

The complete lineup contains devices with Flash density from 64KB to 256KB and 16KB or 32KB RAM, in a 32-pin or 48-pin VFQFPN package. There is also an extended temperature range option, from -40°C to 105°C. All variants are covered with ST’s 10-year longevity guarantee for industrial products. Sample quantities are available now.

Tailored to the specific needs of smart-metering applications, the STM32WL3 embeds an LCD controller and a specific peripheral — LC sensor controller — for fluid flow measurement that eases the design of water meters and heat-cost allocators. Multi-protocol support enables cost-efficient deployment of one single platform over different long-range wireless technologies, including Sigfox, KNX, mioty, M-Bus, and others.

Lead customers are using STM32WL3 MCUs to add value to smart connected devices. For example, Lierda Internet of Things Technology, is using the STM32WL33 to reduce power and add long range wireless connectivity to existing networking products. Leveraging the MCU’s wake-up radio to minimize power consumption, the Lierda module monitors and maintains network equipment across a point-to-point or point-to-multipoint wireless connection.

Another customer, Silent Smart Technology, has created a family of modules based on STM32WL3 wireless MCUs that operate in various sub-1GHz frequency bands. The modules support multiple transmission modes, channel monitoring, wireless relay, and other functions. The wakeup feature allows the modules to operate in deep-sleep mode, consuming only about 1 µA overall current while remaining ready to return to full operation.

“ST’s new highly featured, long-range STM32WL3 wireless microcontrollers help customers like Lierda and Silent Smart create innovative and flexible products, achieving very low power and fast time to market,” said Benoit Rodriguez, Wireless Business Line General Manager, STMicroelectronics. “Special features such as the wake-up radio and our flow-metering LC sensor controller enable energy-saving designs in smart metering, smart agriculture, and asset tracking that run for up to 15 years from a small battery.”

The STM32WL3 joins ST’s growing family of devices that combine the radio with the main application controller to ease engineering challenges, reduce power and size, and enhance reliability.

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