The Internet of Things (IoT) seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue. From a semiconductor vendor, it impacts a range of applications and platforms so it has had a significant impact on planning and delivery of products. Renesas Electronics America is one of those vendors.
I recently had a chance to talk with Ritesh Tyagi, Senior Director of Microcontroller Product Marketing for Renesas, to find out what they expect in the embedded space to see in 2014.
Wong: What trends do you see with microcontrollers and microprocessors?
Tyagi: The Internet of Things is on its way; in fact, it is here now. There is a tremendous amount of activity around embedded design for IoT, particularly for emerging application areas like mobile healthcare, wearables and smart appliances.
This will continue the drive for smaller, faster, very low power and higher performance when it comes to designing for embedded devices, in order to support the increasing system design complexity for applications ranging from connected IoT applications to the Smart Factory and automation.
We will see growing on-chip integration of peripherals, such as wireless/RF, touch screen and LCD drivers, and DSP to support the growing number of devices featuring wireless connectivity, touchscreens, advanced audio/video, and other functions that provide a rich user experience – within desired device form factors.
The demand for MCU "solutions" will become more prevalent. Developers working in these quick-changing markets are looking for ways to accelerate their time to market. They don’t have the time or resources to devote to learning new peripherals for a variety of vendors. Delivering a standard, complete, and integrated package – including software driver, RTOS and other middleware – can simplify the design and development process for embedded engineers facing increasingly complex projects.
Wong: What architecture or design changes can we expect to see as these small, low-power, connected applications come online?
Tyagi: Watch for more efficient clock gearing techniques and low power operation that drives the MCU down to 0.9V so that it can operate on a single battery cell, improving battery life for the end use device. Efficient flash access will also be required in order to process the data quickly; slower flash access time or addition of wait state can negatively impact performance even if clock speeds are higher. Renesas is also looking at new technologies, like Silicon on Thin Buried Oxide (SOTB), Body Area Network (BAN) to further address low-power design requirements for connected and wearable devices.
Sensor Fusion will be another design area to watch this year. Connected devices are going to interface with many small sensors, with the need to process the analog data from these various sensors accurately and efficiently. In today’s systems, the sensor interface is either very simple or a more complex interface that has been handled by a dedicated analog front end (AFE). Next-generation connected devices will demand an integrated sensor interface within the MCUs to provide the improved efficiency, reduced power consumption and smaller board footprint gained through direct sensor interfaces.
Wong: As all of these devices become connected, how will that impact the role of security in the design process?
Tyagi: Integrated data encryption will be standard; it will be a table stakes criteria. The question will become what level of on-chip security is needed for the application. For medical or disposable devices, for instance, authentication will be key. For network connectivity, ensuring security on the data being transferred from one device to another (or to many others) a dedicated device with multiple security protocols would be desirable.
Renesas is addressing these future security needs now, to make data encryption a standard function on our next-generation MCUs.