Qualcomm has released a low-power 802.11n radio chip, the AR4100P, designed for embedded machine-to-machine wireless communications for smart building and smart appliance applications.

The new single-chip AR4100P is a highly integrated 802.11n single-stream Wi-Fi system-in-package. It's an enhanced version of Qualcomm's FCC-certified AR4100, now with a built-in IPv4/IPv6 TCP/IP stack.

The new chip, from Qualcomm's Atheros division, is aimed at a burgeoning market for wireless machine-to-machine (or M2M) communications, to network a wide array of battery-operated sensors, consumer electronics, meters, medical monitoring gear and other devices. Applications include smart energy, the "intelligent home", security and surveillance, building automation, and remote health monitoring.

The original AR4100 was the smallest FCC-certified Wi-Fi system-in-package, a 8.3mm-by-9.2mm device easily used in existing component manufacturing processes. Both chips handle the full complement of Wi-Fi services, including support for the full range of Wi-Fi security protocols. That's an important feature because the growth of such networked devices offers hackers new routes to attack networks and systems.

The radio chips are designed to work with embedded microcontroller units (MCU) that are designed for using minimal power, CPU and network resources, and that send relatively small amount amounts of data infrequently. The MCUs connect to the AR4100 family via a simple serial peripheral interface bus.

The new AR4100P is included in Qualcomm Atheros' reference design for low-power IP sensors, the SP137 development kit. Also integrated in the kit is Energy Micro's EFM32 Gecko low-energy Cortex-M3 microcontroller, an ultra-low power 32-bit MCU. That MCU runs the uC/OS-III operating system, the latest real-time kernel from embedded software vendor Micrium. The kit can be run from AA batteries, and according to Qualcomm Atheros, is easily portable to other microcontrollers and operating systems.