Microcontrollers – whether 8, 16 or 32bit – are all around us: at home, at work, in our cars and in industrial systems. Reflecting this abundance, the market for microcontrollers is worth more than $16billion a year and growing strongly.

The market was once dominated by 8bit parts, but the price performance advantage of ARM based 32bit devices, along with the need to accommodate more complex software, is starting a move from 8bit to 32bit mcus. And this is accompanied by the appearance of multicore devices.

In this section, New Electronics brings you the latest on the microcontroller market.

Metrology research aims to improve the commercial application of MEMS

Today's applications for MEMS are hugely varied. They range from accelerometers in automotive airbag deployment systems, detecting the rapid negative acceleration of the vehicle, to inkjet printer heads, reacting to patterns of heat from electric current by dispensing tiny droplets of ink at precise locations to form the image on the paper. They are also seen in smartphones, measuring the rotation of the device to create an intuitive user interface.

AMD Opteron Embedded processors deliver performance, scalability and efficiency

The launch of the AMD Opteron 6200 and 4200 Series Embedded Processors has delivered two 'firsts' for demanding multithreaded embedded applications: the first 16 core x86 embedded processor and the lowest power server processor. The enhancements provided by the Bulldozer architecture provide embedded systems developers with improved performance, while meeting tight power budgets at a competitive cost.

Will MEMS devices ever be the stars of the show?

Micro electromechanical systems, or MEMS, have been around for years. But despite the fact that the technology now plays a central role in a range of applications, it isn't what you might term a 'star'; in the Oscars, it might be a candidate for best supporting actor.

GPUs set to enter the mainstream

Until recently, demand for more processor performance has been met by faster clocking, more bit width and ever smaller fabrication nodes. The introduction of multicore x86 devices has also helped to boost performance while keeping power consumption at a reasonable level.

Facebook's new data centre is home to numerous innovations

It is reasonable to assume that anyone reading this article has dealings, in some way, with a data centre. Whether it's through the use of social networking sites, buying goods and services online or accessing 'cloud computing', the data centre is an integral part of our lives.

Analogue electronics: Focusing on the interface

Moore's Law tells us that silicon manufacturing improvements give us twice the number of transistors every two years for the same cost. Another way of looking at this is to observe that the price for a silicon wafer never goes up and, for a given wafer price, we have to figure out how to best use twice as many transistors every two years.

Happy Birthday to the IC

50 years ago today, Fairchild Semiconductor's Robert Noyce received the first ever patent for the first commercially available silicon IC.

32bit mcu demand drives need for support programmes

For the last year or so, there has been a continuing flurry of activity as companies introduce more variants of microcontrollers designed around cores from the 32bit ARM Cortex-M portfolio. Cortex-M based microcontrollers offer users a number of benefits, including performance, cost, connectivity and energy efficiency.

Floating point enabled microcontrollers in embedded designs

Floating point units (fpu) can increase the range and precision of mathematical calculations or enable greater throughput in less time, making it easier to meet real time requirements. Or, by enabling systems to complete routines in less time and to spend more time in sleep mode, it can save power and extend battery life.

Is the hardware engineer becoming an ‘endangered species’?

There is general agreement that software is now the dominant part of the embedded design process. There is also a trend towards platform based design, with variants created by software differentiation, and the use of SoCs and ASSPs as 'black boxes'. So is hardware design becoming less relevant? Is the hardware designer an 'endangered species'? Time to turn to the experts.

How are competitors differentiating Cortex-M3 based mcus?

When ARM launched the Cortex-M3 core in 2004, it opened new opportunities for microcontroller developers. Previously, these companies needed to create and maintain their own mcu core; now, that work would be done by ARM, leaving them free to differentiate their products.

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