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Home automation gateway supports ZigBee, powerline nets

Aug 3, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 15 views

SimpleHomeNet announced an OEM-targeted home area network (HAN) automation gateway controller that supports ZigBee Pro, 6LoWPAN and JenNet wireless technologies, and can be interfaced to power-line modems for Insteon and X10 compatibility. The programmable device runs Linux on a 32-bit Atmel AP7000 SoC and AVR32 core, says the company.

Based in Laguna Niguel, Calif., SimpleHomeNet is a division of Compacta International that sells a variety of home automation equipment, including gateways, bridges, and wireless sensors. Due to ship to OEMs and system integrators later this month, the Harmony appears to be SimpleHomeNet's most advanced platform yet. The Harmony is touted as being the first HAN gateway controller to offer support for ZigBee Pro, 6LoWPAN, JenNet, Insteon, and X10 home automation standards.

SimpleHomeNet Harmony

The 5.5 x 4.0 x 1.25-inch Harmony is said to provide a bridge between an Ethernet connection and a wireless or hybrid home/building automation network. The controller's customizable embedded Linux software provides a variety of automation features, including energy management software, all accessible from a web browser, says SimpleHomeNet.

Harmony (open)

The standalone controller is equipped with Atmel's AP7000 system-on-chip (SoC), which debuted in 2006. The AP7000 was the first Atmel SoC to include Atmel's 32-bit RISC AVR32 core, which offers efficient "DSP-like" instructions and highly dense 16-bit code with 32-bit extensions. According to Atmel, the AVR32 supports single-cycle load/store instructions, and high code density to reduce cache misses. The core is also said to provide a seven-stage pipeline and three parallel sub-pipelines that support automatic data forwarding and out-of-order execution.

Harmony (even more open)

(Click to enlarge)

Atmel also sells a low-cost, hardware/software Linux development kit for network gateways introduced in 2007. While the Harmony shares many similar features with the kit, and likely builds upon Atmel's Linux BSP, the hardware layout and several specifications appear to be different (see photo above and block diagram below).

Harmony block diagram

(Click to enlarge)

SimpleHomeNet did not mention the clock rate of the AP700 SoC, but it is typically clocked to 140MHz. The device ships with 32MB or 128MB SDRAM, as well as 2MB or 8MB of flash. The Harmony also offers an SD/MMC slot, says the company.

Jennic JN5148 radio transceiver block digram
(Click to enlarge)

The Atmel SoC is paired with Jennic's JN5148, a 2.4GHz IEEE802.15.14 radio transceiver (see block diagram above), which supports a variety of low-power, short distance home automation wireless protocols. These include Jennic's own JenNet protocol, as well as the popular ZigBee Pro, and the IPv6-compatible 6LoWPAN. The 32-bit RISC microcontroller is equipped with 128KB of ROM and 128KB of RAM, and offers variable instruction width, multi-stage instruction pipeline, and a prioritized interrupt scheduler, says Jennic.

The Harmony is further equipped with Ethernet and USB ports, as well as J5-JT connectors for interfacing GPIO, SPI, 12C, and other I/O. The Harmony's serial port is provided with RS-232C and RS-485 drivers and is physically configured to interface with the Smarthome 2412S PLM (power-line modem), which supports Insteon or X10 power-line networks. Pictured at right, the Smarthome 2412S is primarily intended as a controller of Insteon-compatible lights, appliances, heating/air conditioning systems, and alarm systems.

Specifications listed for the Harmony include:

  • Processor — Atmel AP7000 SoC with AVR32 core
  • Memory — 32MB or 128MB DRAM
  • Flash — 2MB or 8MB parallel flash
  • Flash expansion — SD/MMC socket
  • WLAN — Jennic JN5148 IEEE 802.15.4 radio transceiver, available with ZigBee Pro, JenNet, or 6LoWPAN
  • Ethernet — 1 x 10/100 Ethernet port
  • USB — 1 x USB 2.0 port
  • Serial — 1 x RJ45 jack with RS-232C and RS-485 drivers; pin-out compatible with Smarthome 2412S PLM Insteon modem
  • Other I/O — J5-JT connectors for GPIO, SPI, 12C, graphics, audio, etc.
  • Other features — Real-time clock, JTAG internal connector, reset switch
  • Power — 7.5V – 19V DC input from serial or dedicated jack
  • Dimensions — 5.5 x 4.0 x 1.25 inches
  • Weight — 7.2 oz
  • Operating system — Linux

Stated Al Choperena, founder and developer of SimpleHomeNet, "The Harmony gateway truly brings the protocol transparency that protects against obsolescence and allows convenient expansion of existing systems. It also enables the use of a much wider array of choices in automation devices from multiple vendors."


SimpleHomeNet's Harmony should be available for OEM and system integrators by the end of the month. More details may be found here.

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