Electronics

Ideal fit for RF designers looking for more than a simple radio device


The STM32Wx microcontrollers enable wireless connectivity supporting the sub-GHz band and the 2.4 GHz frequency range. STM32 Wireless MCUs are highly integrated and reliable as they address a wide range of industrial and consumer applications. STM32Wx solutions are compatible with multiple protocols, from point-to-point and mesh to wide-area networks. They are power efficient and offer built-in security features.

During the presentation, Mohit Arora, Wireless Marketing Manager, South Asia and India Region, STMicroelectronics, and Olivier Lardy, Senior Marketing Manager, Wireless Connectivity, Asia Pacific region, STMicroelectronics presented before the media on STM32 wireless ecosystem and how it enables IoT and connectivity with STM32 wireless solutions.

The presentation discusses ST’s ambition to become a leading company in wireless solutions by way of growing STM32 wireless portfolio covering entry-level to high-end products, combined with a wide support ecosystem along with full-featured and robust radio IP with state-of-the-art low power consumption and built-in security as security is part of ST’s DNA and embedded in all products as well as ST’s strong involvement in the key alliances shaping the next connectivity standards.

Rashi Bajpai, Sub Editor, ELE Times, probe further on STMicroelectronics STM32 Wireless MCU Series. Excerpt.

ELE Times: Where does STMicroelectronics stand in the wireless and IoT segment, also brief us on your latest developments in the STM32 wireless MCU series.

STMicroelectronics: Wireless technologies have been here for decades now and there are multiple technologies available. We are all used to this now. Our mission is to help our customers easily leverage wireless connectivity across a wide range of applications today and in the future.

This relies on five key pillars.

  1. Many wireless protocols need to be supported. We support many technologies – especially in the sub-Gig area and the BLE area with committed investments to add more in the near future.
  2. Extensive hardware offering. Flexibility is key for our customers so offering them products with different flavors to allow them to get the right product fitting their needs is very important.
  3. Seamless software migration.STM32 wireless is STM32 which means that users benefit from the already massively adopted STM32 Cube ecosystem.
  4. STM32 family is extremely strong and well-recognized in the general-purpose area. As an example, STMicroelectronics is a board member of the CSA alliance which is shaping the Matter specification/ecosystem. This alliance is also taking care of the ZigBeeR standard. We are also a board member of the FIRA alliance covering UWB technology.
  5. Security is crucial in the coming years. Adding wireless connectivity to a design can potentially expose it to attacks as adding wireless connectivity is like opening a door. Doors can be used by attackers and this needs to be prevented. We are adding multiple features to help customers combat security issues.

Now, coming to our STM32 wireless MCU product families. Right now, we have three product families available. The first one is the STM32WL family. The products in this family address what we call the sub-gigahertz market, and they are multi-protocol capable meaning that they can support different types of protocols like LoRa, SigFox, or Wireless M-Bus. Users can also develop their custom protocols on these products. These products also come with single-core and dual-core versions where the dual-core version will bring additional security to our customers so that they can improve the system’s security.

Read more- https://blog.st.com/stm32wl/

The second family is the STM32WB. B stands for Bluetooth low energy, but it also supports 802.15.4 protocols like ZigBee, Thread, or Matter. The STM32WB is also a dual-core platform, multiprotocol capable of delivering strong performance. It is based on Cortex M4 and Cortex M0+. The latest family that we introduced in March this year is the STM32WBA family. This family is focused on BLE and brings a lot of innovation. We are transitioning from Cortex M4 to Cortex M33 for higher performance and increased security.

ELE Times: Tell us about STMicroelectronics’ development approach for its STM32WL segment, the underlying technology, and the overall software and tools ecosystem.

STMicroelectronics: STM32WL is the world’s first LoRaR – enabled System-on-Chip solution. How we created the STM32WL is simple. We have a lot of STM32 general-purpose MCUs able to deal with low-power applications. In this case, we took the STM32L4 platform, removed some peripherals, integrated the radio IP interface on the same die, and came out with STM32WL. This brings a lot of advantages because the peripherals are similar in L4 and WL. Customers can have a seamless transition from L4 to WL. It limits the risks in terms of development on their side. Right now, our real star is STM32WL5x, and this device supports LoRa, a very famous protocol. With this, we support GFSK. With GFSK one can do modulations like wireless MBus, WiSUN, etc. We support Sigfox, Mioty, Zeta, and the implementation of proprietary. We also support GMSK which is used in a lot of applications like coastal monitoring. Then there is support for BPSK which is famous for Sigfox, and a new technology here is the Kineis which is connectivity for satellites where one can send direct messages using the STM32WL node to the satellite.

Overall if we look into the ecosystem of STM32WL, we offer software, and pre-certified libraries integrated with example applications. As for the LoRaWAN, we have the stack integrated with the basic examples to help users directly connect to the standard LoRaWAN ecosystems. So, the whole stack, libraries, drivers, and examples are well integrated into the package. The package is also pre-validated for customers to get started. Similarly, for Sigfox we offer the cube package called X-CUBE-SFOX with a similar offering.

In most cases, one may not have to write any specific code to connect to their ecosystem. Our variety of example codes will be sufficient for PoC and form a base to get started with on-end application development. All these packages are integrated with the STM32 CubeMX where one can configure the packages, extract them, integrate multiple packages in the same application/project, and port across our MCUs and SoCs.

ELE Times: Brief us on the STM32WBA Bluetooth low Energy 5.3 platform, how the ecosystem handles simplification of the user’s design journey, and steps taken to tackle security breaches.

STMicroelectronics: STM32WBA leverages our 40nanometer technology platform, which is a platform on which most of our latest products will be introduced. For STM32WBA, we are leveraging the STM32U5 platform with the same approach as the one explained previously for the STM32WL. We removed some peripherals and integrated the IP for the BLE. The result is the STM32WBA. Likewise, customers moving from U5 to WBA will be very comfortable because the IPs are similar, and the architecture is the same. We have included the Trust Zone, the reason we moved from dual core to single core is because the Trust Zone brings the capability for code isolation. Also, an important highlight is that the product is targeting SESIP L3 certification and L3 certification again for ARM’s driven PSA Alliance.

Within STMicroelectronics, we have invested in security for quite a long time, so it’s already present on the STM32 products. We now have active tampers. For example, if someone tries to access some part of the device, it will trigger an alert and be considered an attack, and any attack detection can trigger automatic functions as well as a dedicated code to minimize the attack footprint. One can lock the debug port with different regressions which enables advanced debugging and offers complete locking to avoid anyone accessing the device afterward. Side channel attack protection is also available.

Know more- https://blog.st.com/stm32wba/

ELE Times: What is the role of Reference designs in the evolution of the STM32 wireless MCU series and tell us about the Cube framework?

STMicroelectronics: On top of chips and evaluation kits, we also have reference designs. We have created multiple reference design platforms, leveraging, again, on all our multiple products, which are offered with complete software packages. Our customers can then play with it. They can quickly develop some proof of concept and can replicate it if they need to. They can also remove some parts, if not required. And obviously, there are detailed documents all in the public domain. It also helps us go higher in the value chain and to better understand their requirements in terms of application.

Another important element in the ecosystem is what we call the Cube framework. The idea here is that we want to take our customers through the whole journey. When they start working on STM32 they will find several tools to help them. First is the Finder to help them select the right device. Then to develop their project they can use CubeMX to configure their project, and CubeIDE to develop their code. Customers will get access to the Cube Programmer to load their target as well as some monitoring tools to ensure that the behavior of the device is the one expected. In the end, STM32 wireless products are STM32 which means that our customers benefit from the existing STM32 ecosystem.

ELE Times: What are the go-to features of STEVAL-ASTRA 1B? 

STMicroelectronics: STEVAL-ASTRA1B is our multi-connectivity Asset Tracking Reference design where we integrate multiple communication technologies like Bluetooth, LoRaWAN, NFC, and GPS wireless functionalities in reference design and offer a complimentary SDK (which is maintained regularly) with supporting mobile apps and cloud integration. All these are integrated with several sensors, power management, and batteries to offer developers a ready-to-use hardware platform for rapid prototyping. For the ASTRA platform, the hardware is open and pre-certified by us, and all the design documentation for the hardware is available at https://www.st.com/. We also offer a mobile app platform. This app is offered with the code on GitHub. The app is used to configure the device and can be used with NFC or Bluetooth.

On top of this, we also offer a cloud dashboard which is an ST-managed cloud dashboard for evaluation purposes – DSH ASSETRACKING, which can be used for tracking and monitoring the device. One can register their device to this cloud, and send the data from nodes directly via the LoRa wan gateway host pushing data to ST Dashboard. One can look at the device on the global map, locate where it is, and see the logs stored for the device, giving the user an experience of a functional prototype. The user can put this ASTRA device readily for a PoC test case by mounting it onto something and tracking it on the globe with the LoRaWAN network.

ELE Times: You have reference designs and modules on offer, are these certified for the required standards?

STMicroelectronics: Yes, all reference designs, including STEVAL-ASTRA1B, EVAL boards, and modules offered by ST are certified to meet the required regional and protocol standards, including Bluetooth and LPWANs.

ELE Times: For MCU customers, can they reuse the code written on STM32 on STM32W families or do they need to write it again?

STMicroelectronics: The STM32 firmware ecosystem is based on our coding standard defined under STM32Cube. Therefore, code developed per the STM32Cube standard can easily be ported to our different products, including wireless MCUs.

ELE Times: Can you explain your 10-year longevity commitment?

STMicroelectronics: ST offers an assurance that all products in the STM32 Wireless series will be available for 10 years. This means that we will make available the part or provide a pin equivalent for 10 years from the date of the announcement, more details can be found at https://www.st.com/content/st_com/en/about/quality-and-reliability/product-longevity.html#10-year-longevity

This commitment is valid for any STM32 whether it is wireless or not.

ELE Times: How can customers use the anti-tamper features of STM32WBA?

STMicroelectronics: The STM32WBA implements various security features that include anti-tamper detection. With this feature, the MCUs can detect events like transient perturbations and erase secret data in case of attack, save a calendar timestamp of the tamper event, and detect pins for opens/shorts. All tamper events can trigger a hardware action or a software call defined by the user.

ELE Times: How is Matter different from Bluetooth mesh and Zigbee?

STMicroelectronics: Matter has been architected using IPV6 as its base layer. So, all connectivity options supporting IPV6 today and in the future should be usable with Matter. This is a major differentiation for matter.

IPV6 allows Matter to solve the issue of interoperability between different communication media on which many consortiums have struggled. Offering a means to connect all of the various physical layers for communication in a home attracted a lot of developers who might have been providing their solutions on incompatible technologies. This unification layer was definitely needed and will deliver a boost to the entire smart home market.

ELE Times: Where do you see STMicroelectronics leadership in wireless MCU in the next two years?

STMicroelectronics: ST’s leadership in MCUs and our strong portfolio of wireless technologies, including BLE/2.4GHz and sub-GHz, is helping us grow in wireless MCUs. We are bringing lots of innovation and have a deep pipeline of new products coming to help customers sustain *their* innovation. That approach will help ST maintain its leadership in MCUs and grow its position in wireless MCUs.

ELE Times: How do you differentiate in your offerings vs. what is available from other suppliers?

STMicroelectronics: At ST, we’ve developed a successful recipe with general-purpose MCUs and our wireless MCUs will benefit from the same recipe. The recipe combines a very strong product offering with multiple application-based reference designs, software packages, and an exceptional ecosystem that we continuously enrich along with committed lead times and deliveries.

ELE Times: How would existing customers of STM32 MCUs benefit from your wireless offerings?

STMicroelectronics: Wireless STM32 MCUs are built on the foundation of the STM32! This means that the STM32 ecosystem is the same offering we give to existing customers that assures a very easy way to move into the wireless field. The wireless STM32 MCUs share the same DNA and ecosystem, so customers developing with any STM32 will find it really easy to develop applications on STM32 wireless MCUs.