IoT & Embedded Technology Blog

Microcontrollers: Revolutionizing Technology through Power Saving and Security

During this holiday time, as we happily un-wrap our new iPhone, tablet, Nook, or other touch screen device, we will likely be blissfully unaware of the technology under our fingertips.  But inside many of these devices, microcontrollers are hard at work.  Microcontrollers from companies like Freescale, Microchip, Texas Instruments, STMicro, and Atmel Corporation.

Atmel recently released a new series of microcontrollers, specifically in its 32-bit AVR product portfolio.  Atmel has expanded its AVR UC3L and UC3A4 product lines and initiated a new product line called AVR UC3D.   Atmel has updated these product lines as follows:

  • AVR UCL3: new memory and USB functionality
  • AVR UC3D: new product line for entry-level 32-bit applications and capacitive touch support
  • AVR UC3A4:  features high-speed USB and 128kB of SRAM

The first two microcontroller product lines feature an interesting capability called SleepWalking.  This technology allows peripherals to monitor incoming packets and enables these peripherals to decide whether to wake up the CPU or not.  As CPUs and associated RAM consume approximately 60%-70% of a given consumer device’s power, this offers significant potential power savings.  While one device in itself is insignificant, the aggregation of the potential power savings from similar devices across the globe could generate power savings on a meaningful scale. 

Another notable feature of the AVR UC3L microcontroller is the FlashVault code protection.  This technology lets on-chip Flash memory be partially programmed and then locked.  This allows the product to be released to 3rd party vendors who can then add their own value-added service.  The intellectual property contained in the microcontroller Flash is thus kept secure.

VDC believes that these product lines highlight two of the biggest technology trends of the present and future: power and security.  With the proliferation of devices, power consumption must be reduced both from the individual user standpoint and from a global perspective.  Second, as more and more embedded devices are deployed, the security of the software in these devices is critical.  VDC expects microcontroller companies that address these issues will likely increase interest in their products.


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