Microprocessors and controllers are offering new features for use in wide ranging applications. From security to operational autonomy and power conservation, new developments abound.
VIA Technologies C3™ Processor. With smaller features and overall size due to a 0.13-micron lithography process, the x86-based C3 processor can run cooler and quicker. But while this microprocessor runs cool and fast (max design power of 10+W at 1 GHz), perhaps its most interesting feature is its PadLock™ Data Encryption Engine. Increased PC networking and the Internet have raised security concerns—not just for personal information, but corporate and government data, as well as the integrity of applications such as point of sale kiosks and gaming machines. VP Richard Brown says, "The built-in random number generator uses random electrical noise to generate values," and is thus a true random generator not subject to any bias. (www.via.com.tw) Enter 582
Low-Power demo board
Microchip Technology PICDEM™ 4 Demonstration Board. This $129 tool is able to evaluate and demonstrate the widest range of the company's PIC microcontrollers in 8-, 14-, and 18-pin configurations. These MCUs include the latest versions featuring nanoWatt Technology—based on advanced PMOS Electrically Erasable Cell process and design techniques. Multiple sockets increase flexibility and the board also demonstrates LIN (Local Interconnect Network) and motor control features. One vital element, according to Applications Engineer Chris Valenti, is the supercapacitor circuit that holds a charge to show how long the low power devices can run. In this mode, jumpers permit disabling unwanted circuits to eliminate any of their current draws. The demo board also includes twin PICmicro® flash MCUs, provisions for various oscillator modes and power supplies, and it comes with a CD-ROM of sample programs, application notes, and a user's guide. (www.microchip.com) Enter 583
How low can you go?
Texas Instruments MSP430F169 Low-Power Signal-Chain-on-Chip. The low-current draw in this MCU-based signal-chain-on-chip comes about from tight integration of an 8-channel 200 ksps 12-bit A/D converter; twin 12-bit D/A converters (DACs), and a programmable direct memory access (DMA) controller. This integration allowed engineers to come up with a mixed signal product (MSP) having 30% smaller area than the previous generation, also cutting power and cost, according to Mark Buccini, product line manager. Standby current is only 1.6 microA. A quick start-up of less than 6 microseconds maximizes low-power time, extending battery life. The DMA allows memory transfer across the chip without involving the CPU (and its DAC overhead). "The DMA eliminates data transfer delays to the on-chip DACs as well as other peripherals and frees the 16-bit RISC CPU to spend time processing data, instead of performing handling tasks," he adds. (www.ti.com/snc) Enter 584
MCU for all seasons
Motorola MPC555 and 566 32-bit Microcontrollers. These latest additions to the PowerPC® microcontroller line extend their operating temperature range down to –55C, 15 degrees below the previous limit. Upper operational boundary is still 125C, aiming these processors for aerospace applications. Project Engineering Leader Paul Whipple says that to achieve low temp performance "Innovative fabrication and design techniques were used—specifically fab process control and changes to transistor physical structure." Being able to operate at such low temperatures means design engineers no longer need to allow for power-robbing heaters for high altitude use. In addition, testing and screening of devices for such cold operations won't be needed for these MCUs designed to function outside previous temperature ranges. (www.motorola.com) Enter 585
Performance Technologies Redundant Host. This platform, featuring twin ZT 5524e Single Board Computers (SBCs), uses a hardware-based failover architecture that activates in single digit milliseconds for always-on applications, such as military or billing systems. Software-based failover systems depend on a polling frequency and can take seconds to failover switch to a backup—costing revenue and customer loyalty. A Redundant Host OS-independent microcontroller on each SBC alerts the back-up board when the main board has failed. Proactively, there is provision for predictive failover based on user-defined thresholds that can trigger switching to backup prior to a catastrophic failure. And multiple communications paths transmit synchronization points to ensure no operations are lost during failover. "With no loss of valuable data that needs to be recovered there is no need to design an application with large gigabytes of RAM buffers," says Tony Romero, Computing Products Group product manager. (www.pt.com) Enter 586
Eight bit, Boosted performance
ZiLOG eZ80Acclaim!™ F91 Microcontroller. Aimed at "low cost of ownership," this microcontroller has 8-bit cost and implementation ease but 16-bit performance, according to Senior Principal Design Engineer Steve Pope. "Features include a 50-MHz core and high memory for throughput," he says. There is 256 kbytes flash program memory, 256 bytes device configuration flash, and 8 kbytes of high-speed SRAM accessible in less than 20 nsec. The MCU can address 16 Mbytes of address space and perform 24-bit integer arithmetic. With on-chip peripherals, including 10/100 BaseT Ethernet media access controller and TCP/IP stack, speed is maintained. These peripherals are linked to the core by isolation FIFOs that allow data to fill up while switching takes place, notes Pope. A development tools kit ($399) includes full-function complier, debugger, software development suite, and MCU and Ethernet evaluation modules. Targeted applications include point-of-sale terminals, vending machines, industrial controls, and hobbyists. (www.zilog.com) Enter 587