Last year Ambiq Micro unveiled their Apollo Cortex-M4F MCU with Cortex M0+ energy efficiency thanks to operation in sub-threshold voltage (< 0.5 V), and the MCU is said found in Matrix Powerwatch, a fitness tracker powered by body heat that you never need to charge. The company has recently announced a new version of the micro-controller with Apollo 2 MCU with better maximum performance thanks to a higher maximum clock speed (48 MHz vs 24 MHz), and higher efficiency (10 μA/MHz vs 30 μA/MHz @ 3.3V).
Apollo 2 MCU key features and specifications:
- Ultra-low supply current
- <10 μA/MHz executing from flash at 3.3 V
- <10 μA/MHz executing from RAM at 3.3 V
- ARM Cortex-M4 Processor up to 48 MHz with FPU, MMU, wake-up interrupt controller with 32 interrupts
- Ultra-low power memory
- Up to 1 MB of flash memory for code/data
- Up to 256 KB of low leakage RAM for code/data
- 16kB 1 or 2-way Associative Cache
- Ultra-low power interface for off-chip sensors
- 14 bit, 15-channel, up to 1.2 MS/s ADC
- Voltage comparator
- Temperature sensor with +/-2ºC accuracy
- Serial peripherals – 6x I2C/SPI master,1x I2C/SPI slave,2x UART, PDM for mono and stereo audio microphone
- Clock sources
- 32.768 kHz XTAL oscillator
- Low frequency RC oscillator – 1.024 kHz
- High frequency RC oscillator – 48 MHz
- RTC based on Ambiq’s AM08X5/18X5 families
- Wide operating range – 1.8-3.6 V, –40 to 85°C
- Package – 2.5 x 2.5 mm 49-pin CSP with 34 GPIO; 4.5 x 4.5 mm 64-pin BGA with 50 GPIO
The MCU promises weeks, months, and years of battery life thanks to Ambiq Micro’s patented Subthreshold Power Optimized Technology (SPOT) Platform. Apollo 2 will be suitable for battery operated devices, or even batteryless devices leveraging energy harvesting such as wireless sensors, activity and fitness trackers, consumer medical devices, smart watches, and smart home/IoT devices.
Documentation and devkits are available but you’d need to contact the company to learn more. Ambiq Micro’s Apollo 2 is currently sampling to some partners, and will be sampling more broadly in the coming months. A few more details may be found on Ambiq Micro Apollo 2’s product page.
Ambiq Micro is a US company founded in 2010 that focuses on “extremely low power” semiconductors leveraging their patented Subthreshold Power Optimized Technology (SPOT) platform. Earlier this year, they announced their first low power Cortex-M4F MCU Apollo family with claims of 5 to 10 times lower power consumption compared to other micro-controllers with the same performance. According to an EETimes article, they’ve at least partially backed their claims with a live demonstration at ARM TechCon 2015.
Ambiq Micro Apollo MCU Block Diagram
Before checking out the test results, let’s have a look at the main features of Apollo MCU family:
- 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4F processor @ up to 24 MHz, with FPU, and wake-up interrupt controller with 12 interrupts
- Up to 512KB flash, 64-KB low-leakage RAM
- “Rich set of timing peripherals”
- I2C/SPI master; I2C/SPI; UART;
- 10-bit, 13-channel, 1MS/s ADC
- Temperature sensor with ±2°C accuracy
- Voltage Range – 1.8 to 3.8V
- Power Consumption:
- active mode: 30µA/MHz (executing from Flash)
- sleep mode (with RTC on) – 100nA
- Packages – 64-pin BGA (4.5 x 4.5mm) with 50 GPIO, or 42-pin CSP (2.4 x 2.77mm) with 28 GPIO
One way to assess a micro-controller energy efficiency is to run EEMBC ULPBench benchmark, and Ambiq Micro Apollo MCU achieved a verified ULPMark-CP score of 377.50 points. That’s about double the score by the runner-up namely STMicro STM32L476RG MCU.
This ultra-low power consumption is made possible thanks to the SPOT platform which allows operation at lower voltages:
Ambiq Micro’s SPOT platform operates transistors at subthreshold voltages (less than 0.5V), rather than using transistors that are turned all the way “on” at 1.8V. It uses the leakage current of “off” transistors to compute in both digital and analog domains. The patented technology, implemented in an industry-standard CMOS process, has overcome the challenges of noise susceptibility, temperature sensitivity and process drift previously associated with subthreshold voltage switching.
Voltage Levels for Standard IC vs Ambiq SPOT IC
Apollo MCUs are available now for $1.50 each in 10K+ volumes. Ambiq Micro has now a limited portfolio of products with only Apollo MCU and some RTC chips, but if the technology can also be applied to low power communication chips, we should see more coming.
A lot have been covered at ARM Techcon 2010. I’ve blogged a few articles about ARM Techcon 2010, but there is a lot more to discover.
A full set of documents and presentation slides shown at Techcon 2010 are available at http://vault.eetimes.com/armconference/proceedings/
The documents are divided in 2 main parts:
- Day 1: Chip Design Conference
- Day 2-3: System & Software Design Conference
which are then divided into sub-directories with really (hmm) good names such as ATC-100, ATC-101… to ATC-165 so that everybody can clearly see what the subjects are. You’ll also have the Keynote and Industry addresses.
Since this blog is more related to “System & Software Design” I’ve been through the pain of downloading all documents of this section and checking the subjects. You may do it for “Chip Design Conference” if you wish, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
You’ll have one or two documents in each folder. If you have two, most of the time there will be a white paper (more technical) and the presentation slides used during Techcon 2010.
List of document of Techcon 2010 System & Software Design Conference:
- ATC-125: USB for Embedded Systems – Micrium
- ATC-126: Achieving TCP-IP performance in embedded systems.
- ATC-130: Maximizing the Power of ARM with DSP – (White paper and presentation slides – Texas Instruments)
- ATC-131: The next “big thing” to transform mobile devices – Texas Instruments
- ATC-133: Developers Insight into ARM Cortex M Debugging
- ATC-135: Tips and Tricks for Debugging – Green Hills Software, Inc
- ATC-136: Pre-Emptive Debugging and the Power of Scripted Breakpoints – How to fix bugs sooner, faster, at lower cost
- ATC-137: Embedding Linux on ARM with OpenEmbedded
- ATC-138: Android and RTOS for Medical Applications – Mentor Embedded
- ATC-140: Accelerating Embedded Development with Android and Linux – Mentor Embedded
- ATC-141: Empty Folder…
- ATC-143: Design Criterion for ARM OS Selection – Texas Instruments
- ATC-145: Another Empty Folder…
- ATC-146: Process Control Daemon for Embedded Linux Platform
- ATC-147: Secure Access Solution For ARM™ CoreSight™ – Secure Test, Debug & Trace for Strong IP, Counterfeit, and Brand Protection – Certicom
- ATC-148: High Integrity Java for High Volume Applications – Atego Systems Inc.
- ATC-149: Pacemakers and Implantable Cardiac Defibrillators: Software Radio Attacks and Zero-Power Defenses.
- ATC-150: Reliable Programming in ARM Assembly Language – Green Hills Software, Inc
- ATC-151: Secure Virtualization Under the ARM Architecture – Green Hills Software, Inc
- ATC-152: EfficientCCodeforARMDevices – ARM
- ATC-153: Ultra-Low Power Microcontrollers for Compact Wireless Devices – Ambiq Micro, Inc.
- ATC-154: Energy Optimization using Energy Aware Profiler Tools – Energy Micro AS
- ATC-155: Power Aware Verification of ARM-Based Designs – Mentor Graphics Corporation
- ATC-156: Software Centric, System-Level Power Optimization for ARM based Android Designs – Synopsys
- ATC-158: MCAPI Programming to Ensure Application Scalability with ARM Cortex A9 Processor – Micrium & Polycore Software
A unified multicore programming model – Simplifying multicore migration – Micrium & Polycore Software
- ATC-159: Multicore Design CPU-to-CPU Communications – Mentor Embedded
- ATC-161: EnergyManagement – Open Kernel labs
- ATC-162: Android for ARM and TI-based eBook Development – Texas Instruments
- ATC-164: VOME A Fully OpenMAX Compliant Media Framework for Android – VisualOn, Inc.
- ATC-165: Audio effects with G-Streamer – Ittiam Systems Pvt. Ltd.
- ATC-167: Introduction to Wireless Sensor Network Concepts – Avnet Electronics Marketing
- ATC-168: Designing Low Power Systems with the USB Bus – Micro/sys,Inc
The final two documents are the industry address “ARM Processors: Beyond PCs and Cell Phones” by Marvell’s CEO Dr. Sehat Sutardja and the keynote address “INTERNET CONNECTED TV” by Yahoo’s Chief Architect Connected TV Group Ronald Jacoby.
Categories: Android, Hardware, Linux, Linux 2.6, Software management
ambiq micro, arm, avnet, certicom, green hills software, Ittiam Systems, marvell, mentor embedded, micrium, micro/sys, polycore software, synopsys, techcon 2010, texas instruments, visualon, yahoo