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Application-Specific MCUs

Written by Jeff Child

Target Market Mindset

Although MCUs tend to be application focused in the way they’re used, the breadth of MCUs available range from general purpose to market-specific devices. Within those market-focused categories, products are emerging that are even more targeted in their feature sets.

  • What is happening in application-specific MCUs?

  • PSoC 64 Secure MCUs from
    Infineon Technologies

  • MAX78000 from Maxim
    Integrated

  • PIC18-Q84 from Microchip Technology

  • NXP Semiconductors’ S32K3 family

  • Renesas Electronics’ RA2L1 group

  • STMicroelectronics’ Stellar SR6 P
    and G series

The idea of microcontrollers (MCUs) falling into different market segment categories is nothing new. Distinct from general purpose MCUs, there are broad segments such as automotive MCUs, industrial MCUs and the more recent type that is wireless MCUs. Now, those broader segments are getting divided up further as a new class of MCUs has emerged providing tailored feature sets aimed at targeted application needs. Such application-specific MCUs give embedded systems developers right-sized solutions with the feature sets, packaging or performance levels tailored to fits their system requirements.

This trend was originally confined to 32-bit MCUs, but lately even the 8-bit MCU realm is seeing some application-specific MCU product developments. And in the 32-but MCU world, the latest evolution is the addition of AI and neural network capabilities, usually paired with IoT functionality. To keep pace with the demands of embedded systems developers, over the past 12 months MCU vendors have continued to roll out new MCUs that address nuanced application needs in motor control, security, automotive and the IoT. As you can see from the product gallery, automotive MCUs are a particularly large and extremely active segment of application-specific MCUs.

Exemplifying these trends in application-specific MCUs is Microchip Technology’s PIC18 Q84 family. Microchip says the chip is its first PIC18 MCU family that can be used to transmit and receive data through a Controller Area Network Flexible Data-Rate (CAN FD) bus (Figure 1). CAN FD continues to play a critical role in delivering faster data transfer rates for connected car and other applications. The MCUs provide a simple solution for transporting sensor data to a CAN FD bus, without the need for gateways or sophisticated network switching techniques.

FIGURE 1
PIC18 Q84 MCUs can be used to transmit and receive data through a CAN FD bus. CAN FD plays a critical
role in delivering faster data transfer rates for connected car and other applications.

In addition, its configurable peripherals make it easy to create custom hardware-based functions for automotive and industrial designs with near-zero latency. Additional code is not required. Available peripherals include a 32-bit Cyclic Redundancy Check with Scan (CRC/SCAN) and a Windowed Watchdog Timer (WWDT) for functional safety capabilities, and a Joint Test Action Group (JTAG) interface to implement industry-standard testing and debugging.

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • AUGUST 2021 #373 – Get a PDF of the issue


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Editor-in-Chief at Circuit Cellar | Website | + posts

Jeff Child has more than 28 years of experience in the technology magazine business—including editing and writing technical content, and engaging in all aspects of magazine leadership and production. He joined the Circuit Cellar after serving as Editor-in-Chief of COTS Journal for over 10 years. Over his career Jeff held senior editorial positions at several of leading electronic engineering publications, including EE Times and Electronic Design and RTC Magazine. Before entering the world of technology journalism, Jeff worked as a design engineer in the data acquisition market.

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Application-Specific MCUs

by Jeff Child time to read: 2 min