First Contact Engineering

Wireless Industrial Controls

Increasingly, industry is adopting wireless protocols for monitoring and control of complex systems. These systems provide high reliability, low installation costs and rapid return on investment. Network protocols such as Zigbee and 802.15.4 provide ready-made solutions that can be quickly and effectively deployed to meet many applications.

FCE product developments include:

  • Asset tracking with wireless sensor networks
  • Lighting controls
  • Meter reading for utilities
  • Electrical power usage tracking

What is Zigbee?

The Zigbee Alliance and the IEEE 802.15.4 Working Group have defined an international standard for a simple but powerful packet data protocol providing high reliability through message acknowledgement, error checking, prioritized communications, direct sequence spread spectrum, the ability to change frequencies to avoid interference and user-selectable security levels.

Zigbee Applications

Zigbee is optimized for applications that require low throughput, long battery life, low cost and thousands of nodes in a network.

Applications include:

  • Low data rate telemetry applications
  • Meter reading
  • Home automation
  • Industrial automation
  • Building automation

Key features include:

  • Data rates of 10 kbps to 115 kbps
  • Mesh topology
  • CSMA-CA channel access
  • Fully handshaked protocol for transfer reliability
  • Dual PHY (2.4GHz and 868/915 MHz)
  • Extremely low duty-cycle (<0.1%)
  • Range: 10m nominal (1-100m based on settings)
  • Low current requirements - 30 ma. transmit, .02 microamps in sleep mode. By operating at a low duty cycle, battery life can be extended to months or even years.

Services We Provide

Zigbee and 802.15.4 standardization have enabled development of chipsets, modules, end products, and software stacks by a number of vendors. As an independent design team we select the best components for your application and develop products that meet your requirements.

Project Example:

An electrical contracting company would like to offer their customers an option of installing energy saving lighting controls in an existing building without major re-wiring. This can be implemented with Zigbee controlled relays added to existing light switches. Battery powered Zigbee switches can be stuck on the wall in any convenient location. The mesh network provided by the relays and switches provides full coverage in the building so that lights can be programmed from a central location to turn off on weekends, holidays and at 6:00 pm at night.

To reduce development cost and get to market quickly, we license a software stack from a third party adding some additional application software specific to our clients needs. OEM modules from another vendor are purchased and repackaged with 15 amp relays and flat battery powered light switches. The client is in production with this solution in four months. As volumes increase, a fully customized, cost-reduced product line is developed using chipsets from a third vendor.



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