Advancements in Microcontroller Design Configurations Align Increasingly with Energy Saving Norms

The advent of complex electrical systems, applications, and processing requirements has led to a significant increase in the use of microcontrollers. Microcontrollers are used in several types of electrical networks ranging from air conditioners to airplane navigation systems to cell phones to digital watches. In particular, the use of microcontrollers in automobiles is significantly important for managing automotive electronics. For instance, a typical Ford vehicle uses 25 to 35 electronic control units (ECUs) for managing the electrical systems and electronics of the automobile.

Q. How is the Internet of Things (IoT) influencing the development of microcontroller technology?

A. At present, 32-bit microcontrollers (MCUs) have become the device of choice phasing out the humble 8-bit device used previously. However, the Internet of Things is bringing a radical change in the technological development of MCUs. Thus, MCUs that are targeted to function in coherence with IoT are being designed and developed to offer wireless connectivity.

Of the three key elements of IoT, it is the edge devices and fusion devices of IoT that MCU developers are currently focused on. This is because minimal power consumption and the least possible cost are the two key requisites that IoT demands in the bid for the tiniest devices to be smart and connected. The use of ultra-low power microcontrollers is characteristic of extreme power management for the successful IoT operation, which employs a small battery for the entire lifetime of the device.

Therefore, the flexibility of microcontroller sleep modes to decrease current draw or inactivate unused circuitry has been instrumental in considerable energy savings. This helps to keep up with the increasing importance of energy management in IoT applications.

Q. In which direction is the industry progressing in developing microcontrollers for modern day applications?

A. In a recent industry development, Microchip Technology Inc. has announced its lowest energy and most cost-effective class of 32-bit PIC32 microcontrollers. With a big leap from the company’s popular PIC32MX and PIC24FXLP class of microcontrollers, Microchip’s PIC32MM class offers distinguishing features. PIC32 MCUs are equipped with core independent peripherals and have the design capability to unload the central processing unit for lower power and lower system design.

Q. How is the industrial segment contributing to the growth of the microcontrollers market?

A. As industrial communication systems head towards automation, a large number of standards are in place and are further expected to grow with the emergence of industrial Ethernet. The use of microcontrollers provide peripherals and internal system architecture needed for the efficient interface between the product and the major field busses and industrial Ethernet standards.

In addition, in product life-cycles, the need for agility and flexibility in the industrial ecosystem is on the rise. The use of microcontrollers supports extensive feedback control mechanisms and advanced sensors, thereby enabling industrial automation. These products can carry out complex control operations and are inserted in applications that require robust processing capabilities.

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