Embedded product developers who want to add Internet connectivity to their designs may now have a simple way to do it, thanks to Microchip Technology Inc.'s tiny new Ethernet controller.
Touted as the world's smallest Ethernet controller, Microchip's ENC28J60 reportedly simplifies the task of adding connectivity to embedded products because it is smaller and is designed to work with any microcontroller that has an industry-standard serial interface. The company's engineers say it is the first such Ethernet controller aimed specifically at the embedded world. "If you look at what's been on the market up to now, you find that stand-alone Ethernet controllers have always been designed for the PC market," says Nate Smith, product marketing manager for Microchip Technology. "For years, the embedded market has been trying to force-fit a square peg into a round hole, so we set out to develop a controller that would give the embedded designer the ability to create networks." Microchip engineers claim that one of the keys to success in those applications is the use of a 28-pin package, instead of the more traditional 80- to 100-pin packages, which have been employed by the PC industry for many years. The smaller package is critical, the company says, because the 28-pin package is typically about one-sixth the size of a 100-pin version, enabling it to serve in applications that might otherwise be constrained by size. The company plans to target the new technology at a multitude of applications that didn't previously offer Internet connectivity, or used proprietary protocols to achieve it. Potential applications include vending machines, hotel mini-bars, security panels, access control systems, fingerprint recognition systems, industrial controllers, power supplies, point-of-service terminals, VoIP (voice over IP) phone adaptors, and a multitude of other devices with embedded intelligence. "We expect it to expand the use of Ethernet," Smith says. "It's going to enable a whole new class of Ethernet-based applications." For more information, go to http://rbi.ims.ca/4917-630. View larger product image
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