Silicon Labs Targets the "Ambient IoT" with Its Ultra-Efficient xG22E Wireless SoC Family

Drawing nearly 80 percent less power to wake from sleep and with an eight-millisecond cold boot, these new chips aim at energy harvesting.

Silicon Labs has announced new wireless system-on-chip (SoC) parts, targeting ultra-low-power devices running on harvested energy — even without a battery of their own: the BG22E, MG22E, and FG22E.

"As the market for energy harvesting and low-power solutions grows, Silicon Labs remains dedicated to enhancing our wireless MCU [Microcontroller Unit] and radio stack capabilities to advance the development of battery-free IoT [Internet of Things] solutions," says Silicon Labs' Ross Sabolcik of the company's latest parts. "Our efforts to prioritize energy efficiency and increase device longevity underscore our commitment to fostering a more sustainable IoT ecosystem."

The new xG22E parts share a target: the "Ambient IoT," in which devices are powered through energy harvested from radio waves, light, heat, or even vibrations and other movements. As a result, they're claimed to be the most energy-efficient wireless microcontrollers SiLabs has ever made — capable of waking from a zero-energy cold start to transmission-ready in eight milliseconds with a 150µJ energy usage. From deep sleep, the energy required to wake is claimed to be 78 percent lower than the company's other wireless microcontroller parts at just 16.6µJ in 1.83 milliseconds — and the chips can wake from a pin input, real-time clock, or the RFSense radio system.

The three parts share a common Arm Cortex-M33F CPU core, with the initial letter indicating which radio block is included: the BG22E offers Bluetooth 5.4 Low Energy (BLE) connectivity, the MG22E drops to Bluetooth 5.2 Energy but includes Zigbee PRO and Zigbee Green Power support, and the FG22E offers a proprietary 2.4GHz radio system supporting 2 (G)FSQ, OQPSK DSSS, and (G)MSK modulation. In all cases, the "E" is important — indicating the energy-efficient variants of the parts for ambient IoT use, distinct from the non-E-suffix and more power-hungry mainstream equivalents.

SiLabs has announced a partnership with energy harvesting specialist e-peas to develop an xG22E Explorer Kit, which includes the choice of two energy harvesting shield accessories: one built around e-peas AEM13920 dual-source energy harvester, and another built around the AEM00300 and targeting harvesting from random pulsed energy sources.

SiLabs has not yet confirmed pricing for the new parts, but has scheduled an "unboxing" event on May 9th, 2024 for the curious.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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