Freescale Semiconductor officials are putting much of their attention squarely on the Internet of things during the first two days of the company’s annual user conference.
At the Freescale Technology Forum June 22, the company unveiled a number of offerings designed for the rapidly growing Internet of things (IoT) and the tens of billions of connected devices that compose it. Among the new products was the i.MX 7 series of highly power-efficient application processors that officials said will help power a wide variety of end products for IoT and wearable computing.
The processors, which incorporate both the ARM Cortex-A7 and Cortex-M4 cores, are about three times more power-efficient than their predecessors, due in large part to such technologies as a new battery-savings mode, officials said.
“Freescale’s i.MX 7 series scores industry leading dynamic and static power efficiency numbers, at a fraction of competing devices,” Ron Martino, vice president of applications processors and advanced technology adoption for the company’s microcontroller (MCU) group, said in a statement.
Also at the show, Freescale unveiled the PF3000 power management IC (PMIC), which was developed especially for the i.MX 7 series to offer what officials called the highest possible overall system power efficiency. It’s an integrated solution that optimizes power delivery not only to the processor, but also to peripherals and other types of system memory resources.
The first of the new i.MX 7 chips are the i.MX 7Solo and i.MX 7Dual processors, each of which include ARM Cortex-A7 cores running up to 1GHz and a Cortex-M4 core with speeds up to 266MHz. Each core can be powered individually, and the system operates in a fashion in line with ARM’s big.Little architecture. High-performance workloads can leverage one or both of the Cortex-A7 cores. However, when such high processing levels aren’t needed, tasks can be transferred to the smaller and lower-power Cortex-M4 core.
Freescale is sampling the new application processor now, and officials expect full production to come in November.
The company, which is in the process of being acquired by NXP Semiconductor for about $12 billion, also unveiled the i.MX 6Dual single-chip module (SCM), which is aimed at IoT devices, bringing the various components—from processors and memory boards to power management and radio frequency parts—into a package as small as a dime. Normally these would fit on a 6-inch board, according to officials.
Such SCM products are designed to enable IoT device makers to more quickly bring their products to market, reducing hardware development time by as much as 25 percent while reducing the size taken up by various discrete solutions by more than 50 percent, according to Freescale officials.
They pointed to such uses cases for the SCM modules as 3D gaming goggles, IoT drones, wearable devices and medical devices, as well as other IoT devices where high-performance graphics and user interfaces are needed for mainstream adoption.
“Early-stage companies entering the IoT and portable markets often work with limited resources and must create novel, compelling products in highly constrained form factors,” Nancy Fares, vice president of system solutions at Freescale, said in a statement.
Freescale Targets IoT With New Processors, Microcontrollers
The i.MX 6Dual SCM will be available in August, with more SCM products being planned for release over the next two years.
Freescale also is offering a wireless and multiprotocol MCU in its Kinetis lineup for the IoT. The Kinetis KW40Z wireless MCU family, which includes an integrated 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio, supports Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and IEEE 802.15.4 applications. The MCUs’ 802.15.4 layer is the foundation for both ZigBee 3.0 and upcoming Thread mesh networking protocol, officials said.
In particular, the energy-efficient BLE and 802.15.4 protocols are important in the IoT and wearables markets for both low-power connectivity for such devices as smartwatches and beacons that communicate with a user’s smartphone and for mesh networking for home automation applications, they said.
Freescale is demonstrating the new KW40Z MCUs at the show in Austin, Texas. Alpha samples are available now, with a beta program launching in August. General availability is expected in October.
On June 23, the company rolled out the Kinetis K8x multi-application MCU, which includes high-level integrated security on an ARM’s low-power Cortex-M platform. In the past, organizations building a secure embedded application needed multiple components—a main processor, a security co-processor and, at times, another component to protect against physical tampering, Freescale officials said. The Kinetis K8x performs all three functions in a single MCU, which saves customers money, space and power, they said.
The savings and security are important in such use cases as point-of-sale systems, smart energy gateways, controls for home and building automation, wearable devices and portable health care systems.
“Broad market MCUs are the critical enablers of innovative new end-node applications, and for the IoT to evolve, these MCUs must enable highly securable product designs,” Steve Tateosian, director of microcontroller platforms for Freescale’s Microcontroller group, said in a statement.
Freescale currently is sampling the Kinetis K8x and offering development boards to select customers, with full production scheduled for the fourth quarter.