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IoT MCU features integrated comms

Posted: 24 Jun 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Freescale Semiconductor  MCU  IoT  home automation  industrial control 

Freescale Semiconductor has expanded its Kinetis family with a line-up of microcontrollers (MCUs) featuring integrated communications. The multi-protocol chips are designed for home automation and industrial control devices in the Internet of Things, indicated the company.

"We're having a convergence between our MCUs and connectivity devices. In the [IoT] market there is an absolute requirement," stated Emmanuel Sambuis, director of MCUs for Freescale's MCUs group. "We will release more MCUs with connectivity interface. This is similar to what happened in the past where devices began to have a USB interface."

Freescale's flagship communications-enabled MCU, KW40Z, uses an ARM Cortex-M0+ processor running at 48MHz with an integrated a 2.4GHz multi-protocol radio that can access one Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) network and one 802.15.4 network. The low-power radio runs in receive mode at 6.5mA and can run between 0.9V and 4.2V. The KW30 is a BLE-only device while the KW20 will only run the 802.15.4 wireless protocol.

KW40Z block diagram

Freescale's KW40Z block diagram. Source: Freescale

"Our first of many BLE-enabled products provides customers the multi-protocol functionality and secure connectivity they need to connect and control products in multiple markets," Sambuis said.

Power-efficient BLE functionality is in demand for health and fitness wearables while the 802.15.4 standard has been widely adopted for its ultra-low power, low-cost, mesh networking technology for home automation. Sambuis expects 802.15.4 to grow in commercial and industrial applications.

The radios in the multi-mode MCU run concurrently with two modems and one analogue front end. Although Sambuis did not have data on processing speeds for each of the different MCUs, he said BLE alone requires 20 per cent of the available compute power on the CPU.

Sambuis said the dual mode MCU could be used in a smart lock, where the wireless protocol communicates with the larger home automation network and BLE is the end user protocol. Freescale also described a 6-axis sensor edge node that communicates over 802.15.4.

There is still benefit to keeping wireless communications separate from MCUs, including processing, power and packaging issues. Sambuis said packages with wire bonding can influence RF performance on a device, adding that the Laminate QFN is resistant to interference but often comes with a lower pin count (this MCU family has 32 and 42-pin counts).

Freescale will over a software package that includes a royalty-free Freescale BLE host stack, an 802.15.4 MAC layer as the foundation for ZigBee 3.0, support for multiple RTOS options. The MCUs will sample in August and be in mass production in November 2015.

- Jessica Lipsky
  EE Times

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