A new family of microcontrollers (MCUs) with sleep currents as low as 18 nA promises to cut power consumption, while providing data protection for low-power applications.
Known as PIC24F GB2, the family of devices combines high performance, low power, and security for such applications as wearable fitness devices, PC peripherals, door locks, gas meters, and sensor hubs, among others.
"In the past, you could have had high performance, low power, or feature integration, but you couldn’t have all three,” Alexis Alcott, product marketing manager for Microchip Technology, told Design News. “This product brings all those together.”
Microchip’s PIC24F GB2 family of microcontrollers is targeted at low-power sensor hubs and portable applications.
(Source: Microchip Technology)
Microchip’s new family of devices answers a growing need among OEMs for low-power parts that can be employed in battery-operated or portable products. Most of the big electronics manufacturers are now meeting that need by offering parts with low active current draw and/or smart sleep modes. Microchip included both in its GB2 family.
"We’ve added more flexible modes, so that we can be asleep 90% of the time, wake up and be really smart, and then go back to sleep,” Alcott told us. She added that the GB2 family offers “run currents” of 180 µA/MHz and sleep currents of 18 nA.
At the same time, the new family also includes integrated security features aimed at protecting embedded data, especially in Internet of Things (IoT) applications. A crypto engine is incorporated in hardware, a random number generator creates keys for data encryption, and a one-time programmable key storage system prevents encryption keys from being read or overwritten.
Because the crypto engine is incorporated in hardware, it uses less power, Alcott told us. "There are (crypto) algorithms out there that you can run in software,” she said. “But when you run them in software, it forces you into a higher-performance microcontroller, which then means you have to change your battery more often.”
Alcott said the technology will be particularly useful in automated hubs that monitor multiple sensors and in portable applications that need to connect to the Internet. “This could allow designers to do things that they couldn’t do before,” she said.