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.
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.
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
Secure MCU Feature Complete IoT Lifecyle Management
The PSoC 64 Secure MCUs from Infineon Technologies integrate the ultra-low power PSoC 6 architecture with a well-structured open-source IoT platform software to deliver a secure solution. The MCU is supported with Trusted Firmware-M embedded security, the Arm Mbed IoT OS and the Arm Pelion IoT platform.
• 32-bit Arm Cortex-M4 CPU
• Complies with Bluetooth 5.0
• Support for BR, EDR 2Mbps and 3Mbps, eSCO
• 256KB on-chip secure flash, 176KB on-chip RAM
• AES-128 and TRNG
• Up to 40 GPIOs, I2C, I2S, UART and PCM interfaces
• Two quad-SPI interfaces
• Auxiliary ADC with up to 28 analog channels
MCU Does Neural Network Acceleration
The MAX78000 from Maxim Integrated is an AI MCU built to enable neural networks to execute at ultra-low power and live at the edge of the IoT. It features an Arm Cortex-M4 with FPU core for efficient system control with an ultra-low-power deep neural network accelerator. The CNN engine has a weight storage memory of 442KB, and can support 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-bit weights.
• Arm Cortex-M4 processor with FPU up to 100MHz
• 512KB flash and 128KB SRAM
• Optimized performance with 16KB instruction cache
• 32-bit RISC-V coprocessor up to 60MHz
• Up to 52 general-purpose I/O pins
• 12-bit parallel camera interface
• Optimized for deep convolutional neural networks
• 442k 8-bit weight capacity with 1,2,4,8-bit weights
• Programmable input image size up to 1024×1024 pixels
• Programmable network depth up to 64 layers
8-bit MCUs Deliver CAN FD Network Support
The PIC18-Q84 family expands Microchip Technology’s 8-bit MCUs by combining an extensive array of Core Independent Peripherals (CIPs) with Controller Area Network Flexible Data Rate (CAN FD). These cost optimized MCUs contain time-saving CIPs in up to 48-pins with up to 128KB of flash memory. The MCU has new features and peripherals like the Universal Timer (UTMR) with customization capability.
• Functional in CAN FD or CAN 2.0B modes
• 128KB flash and 13KB SRAM
• 3x UART, 2x SPI, 1x I2C
• Temperature range -40°C to 125°C
• 2x customizable 16-bit UTMR timers
• 12-bit ADC with computation and context switching, 8-bit DAC
• 2x comparators, 4x 16-bit PWMs, data signal modulator
• JTAG boundary scan support
MCUs Ease Automotive Software Development
NXP Semiconductors’ S32K3 family of 32-bit Arm Cortex-M7-based MCUs are designed for automotive body electronics, battery management and emerging zone controllers. The MCUs simplify software development with an enhanced package that spans security, functional safety and low-level drivers. Features include a hardware security engine with NXP firmware and support for firmware over-the-air (FOTA) updates
• Single, multiple or lockstep Cortex-M7 cores, 120-240MHz + FPU
• 512KB-8MB flash with ECC
• FOT – A/B firmware swap with zero downtime
• 12-bit 1MSPS ADC
• 16-bit eMIOS timer with logic control unit for motor control
• Low-power Run and Standby modes
• MaxQFP and BGA packages
• -40°C to 125°C operating temperature
• ISO 26262 up to ASIL B/D
• Fault collection and control unit
MCU Does Advanced Capacitive Touch Sensing
Renesas Electronics’ RA2L1 group is based on the Arm Cortex-M23 core. The RA2L1 group also features an enhanced Capacitive Touch Sensing Unit (CTSU2), a set of serial communication interfaces and highly accurate converters and timers. The products are available with pin counts ranging from 48-pin to 100-pin. The energy-efficient ultra-low power MCUs support a wide operating voltage range of 1.6V to 5.5V.
• 48MHz Arm Cortex-M23 CPU
• 128KB/256KB flash and 32KB SRAM with ECC
• Scalable from 48-pin to 100-pin packages
• Internal voltage regulators
• Enhanced Capacitive Touch Sensing Unit (CTSU2)
• 12-bit ADC, 12-bit DAC, LPACMP
• 32-bit general PWM timer, 16-bit general PWM timer, RTC
• SCI, SPI/I2C multi-master interface
• CAN bus support
• Safety, security and encryption
Automotive MCUs Target New Car Designs
STMicroelectronics' Stellar SR6 P and G series automotive MCUs provide a scalable integration processing platform targeting high-end body and drivetrain domain and zone controllers. The MCUs enable advanced vehicle electronic architectures and address safety critical applications up to ISO 26262 ASIL-D and allow efficient over-the-air (OTA) reprogramming with sizeable memory savings.
• 32-bit Arm v8-R compliant CPU cores
• Up to 20.5MB on-chip non-volatile memory
• Up to 8,576KB on-chip general-purpose SRAM
• Security module with full EVITA support
• Lock-stepped AES-light security sub-system
• Supports ISO26262 ASIL-D functionalities
• 28x LINFlexD modules,
2x dual-channel FlexRay controllers
• 2x 100/1000Mbps Ethernet controllers, 19x MCAN modules
Jeff served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxGizmos.com and its sister publication, Circuit Cellar magazine 6/2017—3/2022. In nearly three decades of covering the embedded electronics and computing industry, Jeff has also held senior editorial positions at EE Times, Computer Design, Electronic Design, Embedded Systems Development, and COTS Journal. His knowledge spans a broad range of electronics and computing topics, including CPUs, MCUs, memory, storage, graphics, power supplies, software development, and real-time OSes.