Microcontroller users push for higher integration levels. Paul Dempsey reports.
The need to integrate more and more analogue functionality and related peripherals is a growing requirement in the microcontroller market, according to a senior engineer with NXP Semiconductors. Rob Cosaro, NXP’s director of mcu design engineering, said sensor technology was one area driving greater integration. “In order to make these things work efficiently, we need to integrate more analogue features. We are working on things that integrate these sensors without the need for anything else,” he told New Electronics. Whilst Cosaro acknowledged the mcu market is – and will remain – driven by general purpose devices, he said customers are looking to companies like NXP to ‘push the envelope’. “We already have Tier Ones coming to us for microcontrollers with multiple dsps and multiple ARM cores,” he said. “That isn’t for the mainstream, certainly, but there is now much greater urgency to take that level of technology into the wider market.” As an example, he cited emerging and fast developing markets, ranging from remote controls to solar panels. “Remote controls are interesting. Manufacturers are looking to do more and more with their products – and you need more wireless in there,” he said. Solar is more long term, but you can see it happening. Think about it, you’ll need to control the power running off these panels, you’ll need to manage how you might be feeding power back to the grid and the power companies themselves are going to need sophisticated ways of handling that.” The other mushrooming area for mcus is software. “We have to provide the infrastructure around the devices and software development is a big issue. However, we’re now finding it far easier to offer a lot of things in hardware IP as opposed to software, because the software is getting so hard to write.”