When it comes to WiFi modules and development boards for IoT projects, developers, manufacturers and hobbyists have plenty to choose from.
Texas Instruments (TI) has been one of the market leaders in WiFi solutions for embedded devices for more than a decade. Its product range of SimpleLink WiFi chips and MCUs offer a wide range of choices and options. What’s more, TI WiFi devices offer robust security features, without any burden on the main MCU, enabling secure cloud-connected IoT applications.
TI SOCs Vs Network Processor Vs Modules Vs Development Boards
Texas Instruments IoT WiFi devices are offered in the following categories:
- WiFi SoCs
- WiFi Network Processors
- WiFi Modules
- Development boards
WiFi SoCs: WiFi System on Chip (SoC) offers fully integrated RF, analog and digital circuitry, and a microcontroller (MCU) on a single inexpensive IC. Generally, SoCs are smaller and cheaper than modules.
However, they are unshielded, need soldering and a lot of unknowns in the design stage adds complexity to the production process. Therefore, SoCs are only usually used in applications where there is a strict requirement of low BOM, and where there is in-house expertise to design antennas and budget for compliance and testing certifications.
WiFi Network Processor: These are low power network processors that handle all WiFi and internet connection networking, and are easy to connect and control with any MCU. It includes a WiFi Internet-on-a-Chip and contains a dedicated ARM MCU to off-load the host MCU from WiFi functions. It includes 802.11 radio standards, embedded TCP/IP and SSL/TLS stacks with builtin HTTP server and crypto engine.
Network processors are typically used in traditional IoT design with host-transceiver split stack architecture. In this architecture, the network processor handles all WiFi transceiver operations with required stacks and a separate MCU for user applications and other interfaces.
WiFi Modules: Modules combine wireless MCU and network processor modules for accelerated IoT design cycles. They include two on-chip MCUs, a programmable application-specific core with RAM, ROM, peripheral interfaces, ADC and a network processor.
These are used in integrated IoT architecture in which the core operates an end user’s application while the network processor independently operates an integrated WiFi stack. They comply with all certifications with enhanced security features and provision for antennas. The module offers both easy to integrate QFN-package IC, and plug-and-play option. Further, the module can directly interface with a wide range of sensors, actuators and other systems. Basically, modules are a single chip solution for IoT applications.
Development Boards: Dev boards include a WiFi module with onboard emulation and sensors for a full out-of-the-box experience. It can be directly connected to a laptop or PC as they include driver support and a software development kit (SDK). These development boards are used by developers and hobbyists to test and prototype IoT devices before entering mass production.
Texas Instruments IoT WiFi Devices
Below we’ve summarised the most popular Texas Instruments IoT models in each of the above categories:
IoT WiFi SoC: CC3235x Dual-Band
Texas Instruments CC3235x dual-band integrates two processors within a single chip including application processor ARM-Cortex M4 MCU with dedicated 256KB RAM and network processor to handle WiFi connectivity. There are two variants of dual-band wireless MCU CC3235x:
The features of both include:
- 256KB of RAM
- IoT networking security
- Device identity/keys
- MCU level security features
C3235SF in addition to the above features has a user-dedicated 1MB of executable flash.
These wifi SoCs simplify the connectivity of IoT thanks to the additional capabilities, which include:
- 11a (5 GHz) support
- BLE/2.4 GHz radio coexistence
- Enhanced security
- Certificate sign request (CSR)
- Online certificate status protocol (OCSP)
- A hostless mode for offloading template packet transmissions
- 16 concurrent secure packets
- Certified IoT power-saving features
IoT WiFi Network Processor: CC3100
Texas Instruments CC3100 is a self-contained network processor and power management subsystem to add WiFi capability to any MCU. The network processor includes WiFi internet on-chip and dedicated ARM MCU that completely offloads the host MCU.
The WiFi network processor also includes:
- Embedded TCP/IP stack
- Access Point Mode
- Embedded hardware cryptography engine
Further, it contains internet protocols in ROM including: DNS, SSL/TLS, HTTP server and makes easy sensor-to-the-cloud connectivity
It also supports WPA2 and WPS2.0 security standards. The power management subsystem includes integrated DC-DC converters that support a wide range of voltages and also enable low-power consumption modes. This device can connect to any 8-bit, 16-bit or 32-bit MCU with the help of SPI or UART interface.
IoT WiFi MCU Module: CC3200
Texas Instruments CC3200 is the industry-first WiFi certified single chip MCU with builtin WiFi connectivity created specifically for IoT.
The application MCU subsystem features ARM-Cortex M4 running at 80 MHz with embedded RAM, ROM, wide variety of peripherals such as parallel camera interface, UART, SPI, I2C, and many more.
WiFi network subsystem includes a network processor that offers all the functionalities of CC3100. This wireless MCU is a complete platform solution that includes software, sample applications, tools, programming guides, designs and an active support community.
IoT Development Board: CC3220X-LAUNCHXL
Texas Instruments CC3220X-LAUNCHXL are next-generation IoT development boards from the family of SimpleLink WiFi solutions.
They come in two variants:
The features of these boards include 256 KB RAM, application-level security, and the CC3220SF has an additional 1MB XIP flash.
It supports various integrated development environments (IDE) such as Code Composer Studio (CCS), Workbench and others. It also supports various sensors, LEDs and push-buttons. There is an on-board chip antenna with the option of U.FL testing. It comes with 2×20-pin BoosterPack headers to connect to TI launchpads and other BoosterPacks. It supports XDS110-based JTAG emulation with a serial port for flash programming.
Read Our Other Resources
We’ve published a range of IoT resources for our community, including:
- How to Choose the Best IoT WiFi Module and what to consider when making making your choice
- A complete guide to ESP32 for IoT, which explains the different modules and development boards that run this WiFi chip
- How to set up an ESP8266 Wi-Fi module using the Nabto server peer-to-peer connection.
- A complete Guide to Microcontrollers for IoT, which explains all your options when it comes to choosing an MCU for your project.
- How to choose the best RTOS for IoT devices, which explains what you need to consider when making your choice.