Microchip Technology Inc. has rolled out three new microcontroller families aimed at connected applications ranging from home theaters and fitness equipment to sensor clusters and medical devices.
The new families - the PIC32 MX5, MX6 and MX7 - are targeted at connectivity applications because they offer a combination of Ethernet, Universal Serial Bus (USB) and Controller Area Network (CAN) technology.
"There's been a huge growth in connectivity, and we've tried to address that," says Clayton Pillion, PIC32 product marketing manager at Microchip's High Performance Microcontroller Div. "With Ethernet, you have applications with computer networks and servers. With CAN, you have industrial applications and lean manufacturing applications where you need to aggregate a lot of information on a central server."
The company's MX5 microcontrollers combine CAN and USB, while the MX6 merges USB and Ethernet. The MX7 combines all three technologies, enabling design engineers to use one chip, instead of two or even three, in complicated applications that require availability of USB, CAN and Ethernet. All three families provide varying levels of Flash memory and RAM, ranging from 256 to 512 kbytes of Flash, and 64 to 128 kbytes of RAM.
The integrated Ethernet, CAN and USB modules also have built-in direct memory access (DMA) interface to maximize data throughput. "That way, the CPU can focus on application processing, so it's not spending its time shuffling data around the chip," Pillion says.
He says the families of chips already have some early adopters. The MX5 has been employed in industrial applications, while the MX6 is seeing use in connected thermostats, home theater remotes and fitness equipment. The MX7, Pillion says, is being incorporated in industrial products and small consumer appliances. Other potential applications include point-of-sale terminals, Web servers, medical devices, security monitors, MP3 decoders, car alarms, GPS systems and CAN-to-Ethernet-to-USB bridges.
Microchip engineers expect the MX7's higher level of integration to be a key advantage for many product designers. "With the MX7 family, you now have one chip that could conceivably do local network on CAN, and still have the ability to send data up an Ethernet network," Pillion says.