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Getting started with wireless communications

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by TheKrieger, May 21, 2012.

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  1. TheKrieger

    TheKrieger

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    I want to develop a close-range, low-power and small-data-rate wireless module for an embedded system that has two inputs that are a few meters away and control an output. So far, I have been using cables to do the job, but I would like to switch to a wireless communication model. I have no experience in this area and I would like to know which is the best technology to start with (Nordic, Zigbee, etc) having the most professional approach possible.
    One of the obstacles I have been facing to this moment is that I do not know how to identify each device separately. I have several of these devices on the same room and each one must have it's own remote control; exactly like a car or garage key.
    So, having this in mind, where should I start? What would be the best technology to use? Where can I find information?

    Thank you,
     
  2. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

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    If your device has a micro-controller, check out the small 2.4GHx NRF24L01+ boards.

    I've just got a few to play with, so I can't verify how easy they are to use, but the chipset offers what is pretty much a reliable comms link that you can stick data in one end and get it out of the other (range permitting).

    They're fairly complex to use, but there are libraries available for various controllers.

    The datasheets are easily obtainable and the boards are available for a couple of dollars each as long as you're OK with antennas on the PCB.
     
  3. poor mystic

    poor mystic

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    Apr 8, 2011
    :)
    I wonder how much data you need to shift over this short link?
     
  4. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    There are plenty of cheap RF modules coming out of Asia, most of these operate on simple serial protocol so interfacing them to most systems is simple... You can embed the address of each unit into the signal...

    If you are not sending data but just basic logic it's even easier as there are cheap Asian RF modules for that as well and they are addressable with dip switches just like garage door openers...

    The basic RF modules are only a few dollars, if you just want basic on/off logic there are complete addressable key fob senders and receiving modules that can be had for about $15 a pair they are dead simple to kitbash into an existing builds...
     
  5. Wabajig

    Wabajig

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    Apr 14, 2012
    Like Mystic said, don't know your data stream, but for cost sake everyone has an old broken 49MHz or 75MHz RC car. Short range and configurable, and you won't run interference or attention at these frequencies. Hope that helps.
     
  6. poor mystic

    poor mystic

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    Apr 8, 2011
    Just so
    :)
     
  7. TheKrieger

    TheKrieger

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    Nov 4, 2011
    Sorry about not responding to your post, I've been away.
    @Poor Mystic: I need to transfer two bits through a wall and like every 5 minutes.
    @Steve: I have no idea about how start on Nordic's IC's... They seem really complex, and while that is not a problem I do not know where to start.
    @CocaCola: That might be exactly what I am looking for, do you know any specific name, manufacturer or IC?
    @Wabjig: I'm looking for a more professional approach.
     
  8. poor mystic

    poor mystic

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    :)
    So. is this a professional project for some corporation? Usually, people go for great overkill when designing for a boss. I suppose the other thing is that he will expect that every part of his (your) project is new, free from defects and under guarantee.
    The thing about high-end, corporate solutions is that they have high-end, corporate capabilities. Nobody in a corporate workshop would suggest a merely adequate solution, everything has to be high-speed and super-reliable. For a couple of bits every few minutes you wouldn't think much need be involved...
    I've heard that Arduino provides solutions to problems like yours within a reasonable price range. You can package it up to look as flash as you want and you also gain the mystique of having designed something your boss does not understand.
     
  9. TheKrieger

    TheKrieger

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    Nov 4, 2011
    Nah, this ain't for a job or anything similar. This is something I'm doing on my own. I do like Inventing stuff, so maybe, if this ends up working I might manufacture it. That's why I need a professional approach and avoid solutions like Arduino.
     
  10. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    Just hit up Ebay and do a few searches for 'RF module' radio module' 'wireless module' .transceiver module'

    There are few different chip sets used by most of them, do some Google investigation on them as there are a lot of quirks to them and manufacture literature provided with the modules is to say the least poor... Generally the cheaper ones are harder to get working and have more interference and noise but you pay a substantial premium for easy to use units like the xbee... You really have to weigh in the pros and cons for your application and budget...

    You can also hit up a site like sparkfun that resells most of these modules, as they have a solid community that can provide some support for the ones they resell...
     
  11. poor mystic

    poor mystic

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    Apr 8, 2011
    So. Arduino is the new '555' which serious people will not touch!
     
  12. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    The Arduino is a simplified development platform not a commercial solution, or even a final product solution IMO...

    There is certainly nothing wrong with it but it's generally just wasteful for a final product vs just using a generic micro and circuit designed for the final purpose...

    Why use a $15, $20 or $40 Arduino platform in a standalone final product when the same AVR chip alone can be had for $2 or so?
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2012
  13. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

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    You realise that an arduino is just an AVR chip with a bootloader on what is effectively a development board.

    You can develop with arduino, then (if you ever decide to go to production) convert it for a generic AVR device. I see no problem with that (it's not like you wouldn't be making a series of changes anyway)

    edit: snap and snap :)
     
  14. TheKrieger

    TheKrieger

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    Nov 4, 2011
    Indeed, Arduino is a great tool for learning Electronics, but it is far from a final implementation. You could do it, but it would be a serious overkill, I support designing a product exactly for it's purpose. As a matter of fact I started with Arduino some years ago, but I prefer getting my hands dirty with specialized circuitry, PCB's and so on. You end up learning much more and becoming a better engineer.
     
  15. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

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    A breadboard isn't a final implementation either, but I use mine -- regularly.

    For a 1 off project, I might consider an arduino (I'm a cheapskate, so probably no -- but the "cheap" alternative might end up costing more anyway unless I had the parts on hand)

    For a run of 1000, no way. But I don't prototype on PCBs and I don't design 1 off projects for production in quantity.
     
  16. TheKrieger

    TheKrieger

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    Nov 4, 2011
    Oh, the breadboard is unavoidable. Unless you're on a giant corporation that uses software or similar tech to design. I do electronics mostly for fun, but I would like to change that and do it for profit as well; that's why I need a more professional or realistic approach.
     
  17. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    There are lots of lower cost simulators out there now, you don't have to be a huge company to afford them, just devoted to the hobby...

    With PCB cost constantly coming down using services like 'batch' PCB orders I have been doing a lot of my prototyping on specifically tailored prototype boards designed with the final circuit in mind... I know I'm going to make the PC board anyway so I might as well get the PCB design rolling, with current software it's a breeze to change layouts on the fly... Generally I just add an extra 'take off' point or two to every connection point that way if I need to cut a trace I can easily install a jumper and still have a mostly clean solid PCB prototype build, that I'm not ashamed to show the client...

    I'll sometimes even add redundancy for changes into the final PCB design, for example you can place a few SOT-23 pads under a DIP chip that will allow for configurable 2 way solder jumper ;)
     
  18. CDRIVE

    CDRIVE Hauling 10' pipe on a Trek Shift3

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    May 8, 2012
  19. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    Apr 7, 2012
    As I stated earlier they are a good/great resource as they resell many of the same Asian modules, and you actually get support from both the company and the sparkfun community... You won't get that support if you purchase the same module from Asia, you will be lucky to get a poorly translated leaflet that still leaves you asking what pin is V+ and Gnd :D ...
     
  20. TheKrieger

    TheKrieger

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    Nov 4, 2011
    Seems like a lot of FUN... Hahahahaha
     
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