Spark launches 1nJ/bit short-range, high bandwidth transceivers

March 18, 2020 // By Peter Clarke
Spark launches 1nJ/bit short-range, high bandwidth transceivers
Canadian startup Spark Microsystems International Inc. has launched its first products – two low power ultrawide band (UWB) transceivers suited for megabit per second data streaming.

Spark (Montreal, Canada) was founded in 2016 to develop a specialized low-power, short range wireless transceiver aimed at the Internet of Things believing that while Bluetooth could be low power it could not provide sufficient data rates for IoT and that Wi-Fi while offering the appropriate data rate was not sufficiently energy efficient.

For short-range applications up to about 100 metres, Spark believes a well-designed UWB system was the answer and could achieve energy efficiencies of 1nJ/bit, a factor of 30 below Bluetooth Low Energy. The Spark system is also has extremely low latency opening up duplex applications and has great inherent immunity to electromagnetic interference.

The SR10X0 family of transceivers is so energy efficient that it opens up the prospect of battery-less wireless sensors for use in IoT.

"Bluetooth is not suitable for the next wireless explosion," said Fares Mubarak, CEO of Spark, in a phone interview with eeNews.

Frederic Nabki, a professor of Electrical Engineering at the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) who cofounded the company and serves as CTO, said Spark made the decision to use the unlicensed 3.1GHz to 10.6GHz band and tackled the challenge of low power by allowing both transmitter and receiver switch off between the nanosecond bursts of signal. To do that the transceivers would need to be synchronized and Spark has found a way to do that but still only using a simple, low-cost 32kHz crystal oscillator as an external component.

That most likely uses some sort of on-chip clock multiplier, probably with self-calibration and auto-tuning and some sort of handshake between transceivers. Nabki was reluctant to reveal too much. "We massage the clock in chip to make it good enough," he said. He confirmed that this is a solid-state solution.

The technology supports data rates of up to 20Mbps and is suitable for application with gaming peripherals and AR/VR headsets, smart home devices, and battery-less internet of things sensors.

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