Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) enable retailers to update prices automatically, in real-time across the store, eliminating days of tedious and error-prone manual work. With ESLs, retailers can increase pricing efficiency and accuracy, optimize click and collect, and simplify replenishment. Store operators can quickly react to market prices and easily synchronize pricing to keep up with the online competition. ESLs allow customers to immediately see the correct price and get personalized, in-depth product information creating a seamless in-store and online shopping experience with price transparency.
Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) consist of a few main components: an e-ink display, radio, microcontroller, and batteries. Despite the simple part list, designing a high-quality, long-life ESL is not easy. Check these essential design considerations to learn more.
Reliable and robust wireless communications is essential for ESLs. Typically they operate in challenging RF environments and the networks can contain tens of thousands of devices or more. The price updates are also highly critical operations which must succeed every single time. Using high performance radios is therefore essential for ESLs. Silicon Labs' EFR32FG22 (FG22) and EFR32BG22 (BG22) SoC support both 15.4 and Bluetooth low energy protocols common in ESLs and deliver market leading RF performance in TX power, RX and power consumption.
Providing years of lifetime is one of the most challenging areas in ESL. How do you maximize the lifetime of battery-powered ESLs so that the retailer can avoid replacements and reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO)? To reach a 5-10 year lifetime for the ESL on CR2032 or CR2450 batteries the current budget is typically below 10uA. This budget needs to cover e-ink display updates, wireless communication and other features like flashing LEDs.
Silicon Labs' FG22 or BG22 SoC can meet these requirements as they have industry leading low power radio at 3.6 mA TX and 2.5 mA RX and ultra-low power (0.17 uA-1.8 uA) sleep modes. FG22 and BG22 also feature RFSENSE wake-on radio feature which allows the device to remain in its lowest power sleep mode (~170 nA) until it received a dedicated radio single to wake it up. This helps to preserve battery life, for example, between ESL manufacturing and deployment and keeps the ESL radio from transmitting, for example, during air freight.
Security is an increasingly valid requirement for wireless ESL products - an adversary tampering with the pricing at the store can be costly. Silicon Labs' FG22 and BG22 wireless SoCs integrate hardware accelerated crypto ciphers, secure boot with the root of trust, preventing malware injection, secure debug lock/unlock, ARM TrustZone, and more. Safeguarding your ESLs with robust security protects the retailers' business and your brand.
Radio design for the proprietary wireless protocols on the 2.4 GHz and sub-GHz frequency bands can be complicated. With the right tools, you can speed up ESL development, and reduce costs radically. Our Simplicity Studio IDE contains software examples that get you up to speed and other tools like the Radio Configurator provides an easy graphical user interface for modifying radio configurations at compile-time and generating specific PHY settings automatically without learning complex low-level registers. It comes with predefined PHY settings for most geographic regions. You can quickly customize various settings - including PHY, frequency bands, channel spacing, modulation type, bit rate, symbol maps, timing detection - for your application.
Get your ESL development right from the start - review our Application Note providing an in-depth description on how to drive an Electronic Paper Display with Silicon Labs’ Wireless SoCs.
Electronic Shelf Labels are built off a few main components integrated across a wireless microcontroller chipset, or module.