Need Wi-Fi, BLE, and Zigbee in the Same IoT Application? QCA4020 & QCA4024 Development Kits Now Available

Thursday 4/12/18 11:13am
Posted By Anand Deshpande
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Have you run into any of these scenarios in developing your IoT applications?

  1. Zigbee or Thread connected sensors that you want to easily provision over Bluetooth low energy (BLE) from your mobile phone
  2. A set of BLE-connected devices like sprinklers or door locks that need to be controlled remotely over an IP network
  3. Zigbee or Thread connected lighting fixtures that you want to control remotely over an IP network
  4. Battery or line-powered products such as window sensors or lights that have to be connected over a Zigbee, Thread or BLE mesh network, where your home Wi-Fi signal may not reach
  5. A hub that needs to aggregate messages sent from low-power security sensors over Zigbee/Thread and BLE then send them over an IP network

In the Internet of Things, as you can see, products need multiple radios to build an end-to-end network. Scenario 1 needs 802.15.4 (with Zigbee and Thread protocols) and BLE radios; scenario 2 needs BLE and Wi-Fi; scenario 3 needs 802.15.4 and Wi-Fi; scenario 4 needs mesh-capable BLE and 802.15.4; and scenario 5 calls for Wi-Fi, BLE and 802.15.4.

At Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI), we’ve made it easy for you to build and launch such multi-radio IoT applications. Our worldwide development kit suppliers have recently launched low-cost development kits based on the QCA4020 and QCA4024 chipsets. QCA4020 and QCA4024 are low-power systems-on-chip (SoCs) that combine Wi-Fi (QCA4020 only), BLE 5.0 and 802.15.4-capable (Zigbee, Thread) radios on a single chip.

Once you have your kits download the QCA4020 or QCA4024 software and documentation (please read through Terms and Conditions carefully). You will then be ready to build and test your IoT application with access to advanced features, peripheral buses, and an API.

To build your form-factor product, you’ll order the QCA4020/4024 modules from various vendors or distributors. On QDN you’ll also have access to the development kit schematics, layout files, SoC datasheets and reference modules to smooth your hardware design process.

Wi-Fi, BLE 5.0 and 802.15.4 (Zigbee, Thread) on the same chip

Currently, IoT developers are obliged to select multiple SoCs from different vendors to build their multi-radio applications. They must deal with the additional cost and footprint of separate components such as crystals, switches, power amplifiers and antennas for each SoC. Furthermore, developers must work with software from multiple vendors and handle RF coexistence among SoCs to share an antenna or work around size constraints. Getting Wi-Fi, BLE and 802.15.4 radios to play nice together on a small module is a non-trivial job that distracts developers from their original goal of designing a useful IoT application.

So, developers and customers have been asking us to create multi-radio SoC solutions that combine a radio stack and API on a single platform, reduce the number of external components and abstract the RF and inter-protocol complexity, so that they can focus on their product niche. They have also asked for hardware-based security schemes to prevent cyberattacks against IoT devices. We have addressed those needs with QCA4020 and QCA4024 SoCs, and with easy access to the development kits, software and documentation.
With QCA4020 or QCA4024 development kits, you can build your products with as many as four different wireless technology combinations:

  • Wi-Fi + BLE + 802.15.4
  • Wi-Fi + BLE
  • Wi-Fi + 802.15.4
  • BLE + 802.15.4
Pick your IoT application

The QCA4020/4024 development kits are optimal for a variety of IoT applications such as industrial control, small appliances, white goods, sensors, home security and home automation.

IoT Use Cases

QCA4020 is designed to simplify the most complex IoT use case of a hub/router application, where you want to aggregate Wi-Fi, BLE and Zigbee/Thread traffic and send that traffic to the cloud over dual-band (2.4GHz/5GHz) Wi-Fi. QCA4020 is ideal for consumer electronics products such as home security and home comfort (e.g., thermostat) products, and industrial or commercial gateway applications.

QCA4020 also helps you build products like lights, light switches and smartplugs – which use 802.15.4 or BLE to create a mesh network – that bridge Zigbee/Thread or BLE to an IP network. QCA4020 is also designed for connecting products like sensors, remote controls and white goods to an IP network while offering configuration with BLE.

On the other hand, QCA4024 is a good option in lighting and other applications that require compatibility with Zigbee and need to be provisioned easily with a mobile phone or laptop computer. Think of a building manager installing lighting systems that run on Zigbee. QCA4024 is designed to help the manager configure and monitor lighting systems easily with an ordinary, BLE-enabled smartphone. With QCA4024, the manager can implement multiple, redundant mesh routes to the lights over BLE, SIG Mesh and Zigbee/Thread mesh.

By offering as many as four multi-radio combinations, the QCA4020/4024 development kits open a host of options in your IoT development.

What’s in the QCA4020 and QCA4024 development kits?

QCA4020 and QCA4024 kits come with the development board, USB cables and power adapter, and with all the connectors, sensors and peripheral interfaces you need for prototyping.

QCA4020 Development Kit

QCA4020 Development Kit

QCA4024 Development Kit

QCA4024 Development Kit

Both kits work with the Eclipse Oxygen IDE on Windows 7 and 10, and Ubuntu Linux 12.04, 14.04 and 16.04. They include instructions on building and running your project within the IDE.

If you are interested in evaluating the hardware for yourself, you can find several software demos for connecting to the kits through a mobile application, Amazon AWS Cloud and a browser-based dashboard.

Next Steps

Multi-radio IoT applications used to be the kind of thing that could frustrate you. Now you can use the QCA4020 and QCA4024 development kits to build prototypes of those applications with a single software development environment and common API stack. That means your IoT development horizons can open up.

You can buy the QCA4020 and QCA4024 development kits right now and work with a growing number of module vendors and distributors. Remember: For BLE and 802.15.4 technologies like Zigbee and Thread, get the QCA4024 kit. If you need Wi-Fi also, get the QCA4020 kit.

For more information about how you can build better IoT applications with the QCA4020 and QCA4024 development kits, have a look at the product briefs, ask me a question in the comments below, or have a look in our support forum.