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ZigBee home automation design kits use RPi-based gateway

Nov 19, 2015 — by Eric Brown 11,587 views

Silicon Labs unveiled reference designs for home automation and lighting networks, based on its ZigBee SoC and middleware plus a Raspberry Pi-based gateway.

Silicon Labs, which bills itself as the ZigBee market share leader, has integrated its ZigBee “Golden Unit” Home Automation (HA 1.2) software stack, “EM358x” ZigBee mesh networking SoC, and various ZigBee sensor and lighting technologies in several reference designs for home automation. The Dimmable Light Switch, Connected Lighting, Door/Window Contact Sensor reference designs work with a WiFi and Ethernet ready ZigBee Gateway Reference Design that runs Linux on a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B SBC.

ZigBee Wi-Fi/Ethernet Gateway Reference Design with Raspberry Pi inside
(click image to enlarge)

The “cost-effective” ZigBee reference designs are intended to reduce the complexity of connecting ZigBee devices, such as lights, dimmer switches, and door/window contact sensors. The Golden Unit ZigBee middleware, which connects all these gateways, enables LED lights to reliably join, interoperate, and detach from a mesh network, says Silicon Labs. The Golden Unit stack can scale from a few light nodes to hundreds on the same network, says Silicon Labs. Complete schematics, layout, and bill of materials (BOM) are offered for all reference designs.

The only embedded Linux based element here is the ZigBee Wi-Fi/Ethernet Gateway Reference Design. Other ZigBee HA1.2 certified gateways and hubs could also be used, such as the Linux-based Wink, says the company. However, its homegrown gateway has been pre-tested and configured for all the Golden Unit connected devices, and ships with an easy-to-use graphical web UI.


The company also offers an alternative “plug-and-play” USB virtual gateway that runs on PCs. It includes an Ubuntu Linux virtual machine, as well as VirtualBox for supporting Windows and OS X.

The embedded Linux gateway includes the Raspberry Pi 2 in a case with a power supply and a microSD card pre-loaded with Linux and the ZigBee gateway application. An Edimax USB WiFi adapter provides a WiFi soft access point for demonstration purposes.

The RPi-based gateway also includes a USB ZigBee adapter dongle built around one of Silicon Labs’s Cortex-M3-based EM358x network coprocessor SoCs: the CEL EM3588. This “ZigBee SoC” also integrates a 2.4 GHz 802.15.4 transceiver.

Lightswitch reference design
(click image to enlarge)

Both the hardware and virtual gateway options allow developers to control and monitor ZigBee HA 1.2 compliant end nodes with any device via WiFi using a web browser, including a mobile browser. Developers can create rules between ZigBee end devices including the operation of lights, dimmable light switches, and contact sensors.

The ZigBee firmware supports standard ZigBee commissioning, and lets developers view ZigBee cluster library (ZCL) communication from ZigBee end devices, as well as send ZCL data to ZigBee endpoints. You can easily create bindings between ZigBee end devices from the web server, says the company.

Connected Lighting reference design
(click image to enlarge)

The wireless, battery-powered light switch reference design is touted for advanced color, color tuning and dimming control capabilities. The switch design is built around a Silicon Labs EFM8 capacitive sensing MCU that can detect gestures such as touch, hold, and swipe.

The connected lighting design, which works with the switch, includes a wireless lighting board and a plug-in demo board. The contact sensor reference design provides all the tools needed to create wireless, battery-powered sensors for monitoring the state of door and window positions, which can be used to trigger room lighting, says the company.

Contact reference design

According to Silicon Labs, which is a founding member of the Thread Group, the reference platforms will eventually support the 6LoWPAN-based Thread wireless standard in addition to ZigBee. The secure, IPv6-compatible Thread protocol can work with Nest Labs’s Weave networking protocol.

Silicon Labs cites an IHS Technology study that forecasts shipments for connected home devices to expand at a 48 percent compounded annual growth rate from 59 million units in 2015 to 193 million units in 2018.

Further information

Silicon Labs’s connected lighting, home automation and smart gateway reference designs are available today at the following prices:

  • RD-0020-0601 connected lighting — $49
  • RD-0035-0601 connected lighting — $49
  • RD-0030-0201 contact sensor — $39
  • RD-0039-0201 capacitive-sense dimmable light switch — $29
  • USB virtual gateway — $49
  • Wi-Fi/Ethernet gateway (Linux) — $149

More information may be found at the Silicon Labs Connected Home site.

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One response to “ZigBee home automation design kits use RPi-based gateway”

  1. rajeev says:

    cost ?

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