Texas Instruments has
rolled out a family of low-cost 32-bit microcontrollers that could bring
real-time control to hybrid vehicles, home appliances, street light networks
and a host of other applications that couldn't afford it before.
Known as TMS320F280xx,
the new microcontroller could be most notable for its ability to deliver
greater energy efficiency to a wide variety of end products that use electric
addresses a market space that needs real-time control but can't afford it," says Keith Ogboenyiya, a microcontroller manager for Advanced Embedded
Controllers at TI. "There's been a cost threshold that customers have had to
cross if they wanted real-time control. This family (of devices) is enabling applications
that previously couldn't afford it."
"Piccolo," the new devices are said to cost less than $2 each in large
engineers say the key to the Piccolo performance increase is its use of a hardware
accelerator. The MCUs incorporate a programmable control law accelerator (CLA) that
offloads control algorithms from the main CPU. By running complex high-speed control
algorithms, the CLA frees the main CPU to handle I/O and feedback loop metrics.
The result is a 5X performance boost for common closed loop applications, TI
Instruments says it is working with OEMs to incorporate Piccolo devices in
variable frequency air conditioning units, as well as with LED manufacturers to
use the technology to replace high-pressure sodium lamps in streetlight
networks. By making it possible to use LEDs instead of sodium lamps in street
lights, the technology could help bring about a 50-percent efficiency boost in
metropolitan areas, thereby reducing annual carbon emissions by 1.2 million
"There's a gap in the
marketplace that needs real-time control, but at the right price point,"
Ogboenyiya says. "This family of devices builds a framework that makes it
easier to get those applications started."