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FRAM-based MCUs take on wearables, industrial apps

Posted: 26 Jun 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Texas Instruments  FRAM. MCU  Flash  SRAM  wearable electronics 

The market for sensors and microcontrollers (MCUs) is on the rise as the devices face wider adoption in applications such as smart utility metering, wearable electronics, data acquisition systems, and industrial and remote control systems.

A modern factory, for example, contains a sizable number of building automation systems and data acquisition systems, all involving sensors and MCUs as illustrated below.

Modern factory

Similarly, a modern home features an ever-increasing number of security and automation systems, and once again, these all involve sensors and MCUs as illustrated below:

Modern home

A major consideration for all these systems is reducing power consumption and increasing reliability as much as possible. Designers are driven to add functionality while simultaneously reducing the system's power budget, at the same time, embedded software is becoming larger and more complex, requiring more memory and further stressing the power budget.

The majority of today's MCUs come equipped with two sorts of memory: Flash and SRAM. The Flash is relatively slow and supports a limited number of write cycles, but it is non-volatile and so is used to hold the code. By comparison, the SRAM is fast and has unlimited write cycle endurance, but it is volatile and can only hold temporary data.

All of this furthers the complexity of the designer's choice of MCU, how much Flash is required (how little will suffice)? How much SRAM will be needed (how little can one get by with)?

In order to address all of these issues, Texas Instruments (TI) has developed a line of FRAM-based MCUs. The original family was the MSP430FR57x series of devices. Now, TI has introduced two additional families: the MSP430FR59x series and the MSP430FR69x series.

MSP430FR59x and MSP430FR69x series

FRAM conveys many advantages, including the fact that it is non-volatile, which means it can maintain both code and data when power is removed from the system. Unlike Flash, FRAM has an extremely high write speed, it is bit-wise programmable, and it can be written to an unlimited amount of times. Unlike SRAM, FRAM is non-volatile and it's not susceptible to soft (radiation-induced) errors.

Flash vs. SRAM vs. FRAM

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