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Posts Tagged ‘low power’

Microchip EERAM Combines SRAM and Backup EEPROM into a Single Chip

August 9th, 2017 1 comment

Most micro-controllers comes with both SRAM volatile memory, and flash or EEPROM for non-volatile (persistent) memory, but Texas Instruments – and other companies – have been selling MCUs with FRAM (Ferroelectric Random Access Memory) and standalone FRAM chip, a non-volatile memory that delivers performance and power efficiency similar to SRAM, and much better endurance that either flash or EEPROM. You don’t see FRAM in that many MCUs and solutions, because it’s more expensive than having SRAM + flash, but some applications requiring ultra low power consumption and non-volatile storage write capabilities may benefit from the technology. Those include data logging, sensor networks, and batteryless applications. Microchip has also it own technology with EERAM, a non-volatile SRAM memory that includes a “shadow” EEPROM used to automatically backup data on power down with a small external capacitor providing enough power to save SRAM to the EEPROM.

Once power is recovered (Vdd > Vtrip), the content of the EEPROM is copied back into the SRAM. The company can hence combines the performance of SRAM with EEPROM non-volatile storage and reliability with this solution. Store and Recall actions can also be triggered by software commands. The end results is similar to what is achieved with FRAM, but Microchip claims EERAM is much cheaper. The company provide both 4Kbit and 16Kbit of the EERAM with the following specifications:

  • Capacity – 4Kb – 16Kb
  • Interface – I2C
  • Non-volatile (with external capacitor)
  • Unlimited erase/write cycles
  • Instantaneous, random read/write
  • Temperature Range – -40°C to +125°C
  • 8-pin packages

Just like FRAM, it’s also well suited to data logging applications, however capacity is quite lower since you can get 1 Mbit FRAM chips, and standby current is higher than some other Serial NVSRAM (Non-volatile SRAM) chips. Price starts at $0.50 per unit for 5K orders. Visit Microchip EERAM product page for more details.

Via Embedded Computing

Categories: Hardware Tags: eeprom, fram, low power, microchip

EtaCore ARM Cortex M3 Core Operates at Low Voltage (0.25V and up) for Higher Power Efficiency

July 14th, 2017 1 comment

We’ve previously seen Ambiq Micro offering Apollo ARM Cortex M4F MCU with Cortex M0+ energy efficiency, and later the upgraded Apollo 2 MCU with even lower power consumption and better performance. The company can achieve such efficiency thanks to low sub-thresold operating voltage in the 0 to 0.5V range. Another startup – Eta Compute – is now offering another low voltage solution with their EtaCore ARM Cortex M3 IP, and other IP blocks operating at low voltage (0.25 to 1.2V).

Eta Compute claims a “10x improvement in power efficiency over any alternative”, and battery life of over 10 years on a CR2032 coin cell. Their website does not provide that many details about the core and development tools, but still mentions the following:

  • The only commercially available self-timed technology supporting dynamic voltage scaling (DVS) that is insensitive to process variations, inaccurate device models, and path delay variations
  • Includes M0+ and M3 ARM cores scaling 0.3 to 1.2 volt operation with additional low voltage logic support functions such as RTC, AES, and DSP
  • Analog to Digital Converter (ADC) sensor interface consuming less than 5uW for the most power constrained applications
  • Efficient power management device that supports dynamic voltage scaling down to 0.25V with greater than 80% efficiency
  • Encryption and Decryption, signal processing, and real time clocks are other examples of Eta Compute IP supported by DVS, Eta Compute’s technology can be implemented in any standard foundry process with no modifications to the process. This allows ease of adoption of any IP and delivers robust, process and delay insensitive operation. The company’s IP is portable to technology nodes at any foundry simplifying the manufacturing process.

Eta Compute further explains that they developed delay insensitive asynchronous logic (DIAL) design IP for maximum power efficiency allowing small batteries and energy harvesting – such as solar, thermal, vibration, or RF energy harvesting- to power the design.

The company does not appear to make MCU themselves, but they provide EtaCore IP for other companies to design and manufacture MCU based on their solutions. To allow for an evaluation of their solutions, they designed EtaCore ARM Cortex M3 reference design which includes sensors for ambient light, temperature, humidity and pressure, is powered by a half-inch square solar cell, and optionally support LoRaWAN components. The reference design measures 8.9 x 3.8 cm, and can be programmed with Eclipse, Keil and Linux debug and development environments.

8Power Vibration Energy Harvesting Technology Powers Batteryless LPWAN GPS Trackers, MEMS Sensors

May 23rd, 2017 No comments

While IoT products usually promises one to 10 years battery life, they will be several billions of them, and ARM’s CEO even forecast one trillion IoT devices in the next 20 years. Recharging batteries at home may be fine, but imagine having to recharge or replace batteries on top of electric poles, inside walls, in remote locations, and other hard to reach places, considerable resources would have to be deployed just to replace or recharge battery every year or whenever the battery is close to being depleted.  That’s why work on energy harvesting technology for batteryless devices may be so important, and 8Power is one of the companies working in the field through their vibration energy harvesting technology that is said to harvest up to 10x the power of competing devices under comparable condition thanks to the use of parametric resonance phenomenon.

8Power LTE NB-IoT GPS Tracker (Left) and MEMS Sensor (Right)

The company has recently announced their Track 100 family of LPWAN GPS tracker, such as Track 100XL relying on LTE NB-IoT, but they also have models supporting LTE Cat M1 and LoRaWAN. The IP67 devices include vibration energy harvesting technology, as well as optionally a solar panel. The company also provides a “secure cloud hosted data platform to provide dashboards, analytics, device management, security and application API access to manage fleets of devices”. There’s no battery, and no need for (battery related) maintenance. Track 100 trackers are powered through the vibration generated by trucks, trains, or other vehicles.

The company is also working on integrating the technology into MEMS sensors that consume very little power (10 mW) in continuous operations. Beside leveraging vibrations from the transportation industry, and 8Power technology can also generate power from vibrations from  infrastructure (bridges, embankments, transmission lines) or machinery (high-power motors and rotating equipment), and the technology has already been validated through a experiment to monitor the structure of an older bridge in Scotland.

The company showcased their technology and latest products at IDTechEx 2017.

Via ARMDevices.net

Ambiq Micro Introduces Ultra-Low Power Apollo 2 Cortex-M4F MCU Consuming Less than 10 μA/MHz

December 18th, 2016 1 comment

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

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.

STMicro SensorTile is a Tiny STM32 Module with Bluetooth 4.1 LE and Four Sensor Chips

December 8th, 2016 1 comment

STMicroelectronics SensorTile is a 13.5 x 13.5mm sensor board based on STM32L4 ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller, a MEMS accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, pressure sensor, a MEMS microphone, as well as a 2.4Ghz radio chip for Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy connectivity for wearables, smart home, and IoT projects.

stmicro-sensortile

SensorTile hardware specifications:

  • MCU – STMicro STM32L476 ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller@ up to 80 MHz with 128 KB RAM, 1MB flash
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.1 Smart/LE via BlueNRG-MS network processor with integrated 2.4GHz radio compliant with
  • Sensors
    • LSM6DSM 3D accelerometer + 3D gyroscope
    • LSM303AGR 3D Magnetometer + 3D accelerometer
    • LPS22HB pressure sensor/barometer
    • MP34DT04 digital MEMS microphone
  • I/Os – 2x 9 half holes with access to UART, SPI, SAI (Serial Audio Interface), I2C, DFSDM, USB, OTG, ADC, and GPIOs signals
  • Debugging – SWD interface (multiplexed with GPIOs)
  • Power Supply Range – 2V to 5.5 V
  • Dimensions – 13.5 x 13.5 mm
SensorTile's Functional Block Diagram - Click to Enlarge

SensorTile’s Functional Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

Software development can be done through a sets of APIs based on the STM32Cube Hardware Abstraction Layer and middleware components, including the STM32 Open Development Environment. The module is supported by Open Software eXpansion Libraries, namely Open.MEMS, Open.RF, and Open.AUDIO, with various example programs allowing you to get started. Several third-party embedded sensing and voice-processing projects also support the module. The module also comes pre-loaded with BLUEMICROSYSTEM2 firmware, and can be controlled with “ST BlueMS” app found on Apple Store and Google Play.

sensortile-kit

But the best way to get started is with SensorTile kit including SensorTile core module and:

  • STLCR01V1 cradle board with a footprint for SensorTile core board, HTS221 humidity and temperature sensor, a micro-SD card socket, a micro USB port, a lithium-polymer battery (LiPo) charger, and a SWD header.
  • A LiPo rechargeable battery and a plastic case for the cradle board, SensorTile module, and battery
  • STLCX01V1 Arduino UNO R3 compatible cradle expansion board with analog stereo audio output, a micro-USB connector for power and communication, a reset button and a SWD header.
  • A programming cable

I could not find a price for SensorTile core module, but STEVAL-STLKT01V1 SensorTile kit can be purchased for $80.85 directly on STMicro website or their distributors. Visit SensorTile kit’s product page for further information include hardware design files, quick start guide, software and firmware downloads, purchase links, and more.

Embedded Linux Conference and OpenIoT Summit Europe 2016 Videos are Now Available Online

November 8th, 2016 1 comment

The Embedded Linux Conference and OpenIoT Summit Europe 2016 conferences took place on October 11 – 13 in Berlin, Germany, with many interesting talks about Linux, development boards, power management, embedded systems, software optimization, tools, and so on, as well as a few keynotes.

elce-openiot-2016

The Linux Foundation has recorded most talks and keynotes, and made the videos available on their website. A free registration is required, and will redirect you to the full unlisted playlist on YouTube.

Tim Bird keynote can be watch directly without registration.

You can also download the slides for each presentation.

Thanks to Harley for the tip.

NXP i.MX 6ULL Cortex A7 Processor is the Latest Member of i.MX6 32-bit ARM Processor Family

September 29th, 2016 2 comments

Freescale first unveiled i.MX6 processor family at CES 2011. Since then NXP has acquired Freescale, and kept working on the processors and even recently unveiled NXP i.MX 6ULL Cortex A7 processor promising 30 percent more power efficiency than its nearest competitors, and designed for “cost-effective solutions for the growing IoT consumer and industrial, mass markets”.

nxp-i-mx-6ull-block-diagramNXP i.MX 6ULL key features and specifications:

  • CPU – ARM Cortex A7 core @ up to 528 MHz with 128KB L2 cache
  • Memory I/F – 16-bit DDR3/DDR3L, LPDDR2 memory support
  • Storage I/F – 8/16-bit parallel NOR flash / PSRAM, dual-channel Quad-SPI NOR flash, 8-bit raw NAND flash with 40-bit ECC, 2x MMC 4.5/SD 3.0/SDIO Port
  • Display & Camera I/F
    • Parallel LCD Display up to WXGA (1366×768)
    • Electrophoretic display controller support direct-driver for E-Ink EPD panel, with up to 2048×1536 resolution at 106 Hz
    • 8/10/16/24-bit Parallel Camera Sensor Interface
  • Peripherals
    • 2x USB 2.0 OTG, HS/FS, Device or Host with PHY
    • Audio Interfaces – 3x I2S/SAI, S/PDIF Tx/Rx
    • 2x 10/100 Ethernet with IEEE 1588
    • 2x 12-bit ADC, up to 10 input channel total, with resistive touch controller (4-wire/5-wire)
  • Security – TRNG, Crypto Engine (AES with DPA, TDES/SHA/RSA), Secure Boot
  • Power Management – Partial PMU integration
  • Package – MAPBGA 0.8mm pitch 14 x 14mm, MAPBGA 0.5mm pitch 9 x 9mm

The company explain the new processor offer a “natural upgrade” for customer’s designs based on ARM7 & ARM9 processor, for example for  smart grid applications. The new i.MX 6ULL (Ultra Lighter than Light? 🙂 ) processor appears to be a cost down version of i.MX 6UL (Ultralight) with fewer security features (e.g. no SIMV2/EVMSIM), and lower maximum CPU frequency, but adding ePD support (according to specs, but not shown on block diagram)

Click to Enlarge

i.MX 6ULL Development Kit – Click to Enlarge

NXP i.MX 6ULL processor is sampling now, with mass production expected in October 2016, and pricing to start at $3.50 in 10,000 unit quantities. The Linux BSP and i.MX 6ULL evaluation kit with 512MB RAM, 256MB SPI flash, and various ports will also be available in October. More details can be found on NXP i.MX6 ULL  product page.

Mintbox Mini Pro Linux mini PC Gets AMD A10 Micro-6700T Processor, 8GB RAM, and 120 GB Storage for $395

September 29th, 2016 5 comments

Minitbox Mini is a low power mini PC based on Compulab Fitlet-i computer powered by AMD A4 Micro-6400T “Mullins” processor and running Linux Mint that was launched in 2015. There’s now an upgraded model – Mintbox Mini Pro – with a more powerful AMD A10 Micro-6700T, more RAM and storage with 8GB DDR3 and a 120 GB SSD, and faster and better networking thanks to 802.11ac WiFI, and dual Gigabit Ethernet.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Mintbox Mini Pro specifications:

  • SoC – AMD A10 Micro-6700T 64 bit quad-core processor up to 1.2 GHz / 2.2 GHz (Boost frequency) with Radeon R6 Graphics (4.5W TDP)
  • System Memory – 8 GB DDR3L-1333 SDRAM (SODIMM module)
  • Storage –  120GB mSATA (SATA 3.0) SSD, and micro-SD slot (SDXC support, rate 25 MB/s)
  • Video Output – Dual HDMI 1.4a up to [email protected]; support two independent displays
  • Audio I/O
    • Output – HDMI, digital S/PDIF 7.1+2 channels output, 3.5 mm stereo audio jack
    • Input – Digital S/PDIF input, 3.5mm audio microphone jack
    • Codec – Realtek ALC886
  • Connectivity – 2x Gigabit Ethernet (Intel I211),  802.11ac Wi-Fi (2.4/5GHz dual band Intel 7260HMW) + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Cellular – Support for mobile data communication with on-board 6-pin micro-SIM socket
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 + 4x USB 2.0 including one USB 2.0/eSATA combo port.
  • Expansion – miniPCIe (normally used for WLAN); mSATA socket (used by SSD)
  • Other I/Os – RS232 mini serial connector
  • Power Supply – Unregulated 10 to 15V DC; 12V/3A power supply included
  • Power Consumption – 4.5 to 10.5 Watts
  • Dimensions – 10.8 cm x 8.3 cm x 2.4 cm
  • Weight – 250g
  • Temperature Range – Commercial: 0°C to 70°C;  Extended: -20°C to 70°C; Industrial: -40°C to 70°C

The mini PC is pre-loaded with Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon 64-bit, but in case you’d change your mind, it also supports Windows 7/8/10, other 32-bit and 64-bit Linux distributions, and unnamed 32-bit and 64-bit Embedded OS.

The device ships with the power supply, an HDMI to DVI adapter, a 3.5mm audio jack to to RCA cable, two WiFi antennas, a mini-serial to DB9-male adapter cable, and the mSATA heatsink.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The company also published a comparison table showing the differences between Mintbox Mini and Mintbox Mini Pro.

Mintbox Mini Mintbox Mini Pro
SSD mSATA 64GB 120GB
RAM 4GB 8GB
Chipset A4-Micro 6400T A10-Micro 6700T
Graphics Dual HDMI – Radeon R3 Dual HDMI – Radeon R6
Ethernet Gbe Dual Gbe
Wifi 802.11n dongle Dual-band 802.11ac mini-PCIe
Bluetooth None 4.0
Price $295 $395

You’ll find a more detailed comparison here.

Since AMD Mullins processor are not quite as common as Intel Cherry Trail/Braswell processors, it might be interesting to compare AMD-A10-Micro-6700T  to a better known processor, and I’ve done so by pitting it against Intel Celeron N3150 Braswell processor found in mini PCs such as MINIX NGC-1.

amd-a10-micro-6700tBased on GeekBench 3 results, multi-core performance is about the same, but single core performance of A10 Micro-6700T is about 34% faster. CPUBoss also reports that the AMD processor should consume less than the Intel one, as the former is rated 4.5 W TDP against the latter 6W TDP. How much a given mini PC will consume will depend on the overall system design.

Mintbox Mini Pro can be purchased for $395 plus shipping and VAT, and a 5-year warranty on Fit-PC website. You may also be able to find some more info on Mintbox Mini Pro product page.