Modern microchips for Internet of Things – what are they like?13 March 2017
Several years ago, manufacturers primarily focused on producing integrated microcircuits, or microchips, for PCs, laptops and mobile devices. But today, when the Internet of Things is rapidly developing, humankind requires new types of microcircuits designed for IoT devices. How is the modern market trying to solve this issue?
What is currently used?
Until now, common SoC (System on Chip) chips were implemented into a majority of modern IoT devices. A single microcircuit is able to perform functions of the entire device altogether without connection to other microcircuits. Thus, it allows to arrange all elements required for operation: ROM, R/W memory, DAC and ADC blocks, interfaces for USB, Ethernet etc. Such SoC independence is quite convenient, and close arrangement of various elements allows to speed up system data processing. Nevertheless, this microcircuit has a significant disadvantage.
The fact is that SoC structure is made, so to speak, according to the certain pattern. Arranged elements can’t be advanced and adjusted to a particular device type. This fact plays a very significant role for IoT devices, because each of them operates differently and is designed for various tasks. Simply said, each of them requires a special approach, otherwise they will fail to perform their functions efficiently.
Requirements to chips for IoT devices
Besides above-mentioned facts, new microcircuits should comply with several more criteria. They should be:
- compact (so that to provide uninterrupted operation of smart watches and bracelets, which are relatively small, or even electronic tattoos);
- energy-efficient (the less energy they need to operate, the better);
- the way, another significant feature of IoT microchips is continuous support of wireless networks, theoretically several different ones. After all, it is uninterrupted Internet connection that makes sense of smart devices.
Taking into account everything described, one is developing new microchips for the Internet of Things.
In general, there are a lot of developments in this sector. Let’s review some of them.
- ARTIK. The system produced by Samsung is the whole set of various modules. The most compact models have a size of 15 × 13 mm. As to other characteristics, Samsung ARTIK can boast ARM Cortex-M4 processor with the DSP processing feature, 32 Kb RW memory, 256 Kb flash storage, and Bluetooth 4.2. Samsung ARTIK chips are designed for sports mHealth gadgets as well as for sensors for various home and industrial smart IoT systems. As for more powerful systems like Samsung ARTIK 1020, they support ZigBee, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE, have Quad Cortex-A15 + Quad Cortex-A7 processors, 2 Gb RW memory and 16 Gb flash storage, as well as video and audio inputs/outputs.
- LAUNCHXL-CC2650. The developer is Texas Instruments. It does not support Wi-Fi, but at the same time, is compatible with 6LoWPAN network as well as ZigBee (including ZigBee RF4CE) and Bluetooth. The chip is smaller than its Samsung analogues and is available in three types: 4 × 4 mm; 5 × 5 mm; and 7 × 7 mm. It operates with such processors as ARM Cortex-M3, Cortex-M0 and Sensor Controller; has 128 Kb flash storage and 8 Kb RW memory.
- Atom E3900. The developer is Intel. This type of microcircuits is the latest one in manufacturer’s range of products. It was presented for the first time previous autumn. The company improved data bus operating efficiency, advanced graphic subsystem and added a device synchronization system. Currently, the line includes 3 models with various operation frequency indices, cache memory and calculated power.
Similar to Texas Instruments, Intel has a range of other microcircuits for Internet of Things devices. Each one is designed with its special features. Other manufacturers, such as Dialog Semiconductor, Atmel, Espressif Systems, U-Blox and others, have also started producing chips for IoT devices.