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Supercharged MCU eyes to make IoT smarter

Posted: 24 Sep 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:microcontroller  Cortex M7  Internet of Things 

ARM's next generation processor could bring more intelligence to Internet of Things end points. The Cortex-M7, geared for a 28nm process, is ARM's most powerful microcontroller core to date with twice the compute and digital signal processing performance of previous Cortex-M parts.

"People want to have graphic interfaces, more sound, voice control," Thomas Ensergueix, senior product marketing manager in ARM's CPU Group, told EE Times. "The M7 will bring all kinds of objects to the user experience of smartphones and tablets."

The M7 delivers 5 CoreMark/MHz and 2.14 DMIPs/MHz. It can hit data rates 400MHz above ARM's current Cortex M cores, making it ideal for embedded application in industrial, infrastructure and home automation markets.


Cortex-M7 block diagram. Source: ARM

The core supports 64bit data transfer and is able to execute two instructions in parallel. Ensergueix noted parallel processing will be a linchpin for its various markets, such as lighting management where systems must react immediately to changing conditions.

"Today in this application, you will see collections of small microcontrollers to handle display and connectivity. Here we want to use a single processor to do all of them [to reduce latency]," he said, adding that the system will also need to control lights wirelessly. "Cortex-M7 delivers enough processing power to manage all the tasks in parallel, taking advantage of improved DSP performance."

With a real time OS, the M7 supports low latencies, with as few as 12 cycles from an interrupt request to a response—a rate ten times better than that of a traditional OS. Ensergueix said such rates are ideal for home automation where users expect higher performance, an easy interface, and connectivity to all remote equipment.

The new core—operating at 3W with flexible low-power modes—also is more powerful than ARM's Cortex-R. The M7 can be implemented in a 5mm x 5mm footprint.

ARM will release the Cortex M7 on Dec. 24, 2014. Early licensees include Atmel, Freescale and ST Microelectronics.

-Jessica Lipsky
  EE Times

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