Adaptive smart sensor developer and manufacturer Novelda's XeThru developer platform for sensing applications is based on its second-generation X4 ultra-wideband (UWB) impulse radar SoC.

The XeThru platform, which supports various host environments such as MATLAB, Python, C++ and C, provides everything developers need to start prototyping their radar application designs. The hardware bundles an X4 SoC with an MCU board and a PCB antenna, while communications software provides an API layer that enables access to the full functionality of the SoC, and open source reference code allows the use of digital signal processing libraries to extend system performance.

Integrated into a single chip, the X4 UWB impulse radar SoC combines a transmitter, which can operate at centre frequencies of either 7.29GHz or 8.748GHz for unlicensed operation worldwide, with a direct RF sampling receiver and a fully programmable system controller, according to Novelda. Compared to the previous design, the X4 SoC's frame size is now configurable for different applications and the range, for simultaneous observation, has been increased from 1m to 10m, making it 10x faster and much more suitable for presence detection. The SoC's on-chip advanced power management functions enable low-power duty cycle control and reduce power dissipation, while its higher level of integration reduces external component BOM costs by more than 50%.

Novelda X4 package (cr) Figure 1: The X4 UWB impulse radar SoC comes in a compact WLCSP, 0.4mm pitch, 48-pin package (Source: Novelda)

"The real benefit of the XeThru X4 Platform is in kick-starting the development of more advanced radar sensing applications, allowing customers who aren’t radar experts to do more than simply build a system with off-the-shelf sensors," said Novelda CEO Cornelia Mender. “That said, we will also be upgrading our own presence detection and respiration sensors to take advantage of the enhanced performance of the X4 chip. And for customers who start with our X4M03 hardware and want to go straight to production, we will be offering the X4M02 as a single-board module that is 100% code compatible but at a lower cost in higher volumes."

The components of the XeThru Developer Platform include the X4M03 Radar System, composed of three interconnecting circuit boards that provide all the hardware required to prototype a target application—the X4SIP02 radar subsystem (the X4 chip mounted on a small daughter board), the X4A02 antenna board and the XTMCU02 MCU board.

There's also the XeThru Module Connector, which is a software suite allowing easy access to all X4M03 resources and streaming data through an API. XeThru Module Connector is distributed as a DLL/Shared Object and runs on WIN/Linux/MAC operating systems. The API is supported by Matlab, Python and C++/C.

Lastly, there's the XeThru Embedded Platform, which is open source reference code, supplied as an Atmel Studio 7 project, that will run on the X4M03 and allow developers to implement their own radar module firmware, taking advantage of an API layer that provides access to the full parameter control of the X4 SoC and the ability to process data using standard DSP libraries.

Novelda said the X4 Impulse Radar SoC is the smallest UWB radar chip currently available in the market. As a UWB radar solution it has been optimised for occupancy and respiration sensing applications and provides sub-mm accuracy with a simultaneous observation range up to 10m. Operating at below 10GHz allows it to see through obstacles and its ultra-high spatial resolution allows the detection of multiple objects. Specified for industrial temperature range applications from -40C to 85C, the chip includes advanced power management features to ensure low power consumption (typically < 120mW).