MCU suppliers are boosting their software offerings to simplify Internet of Things (IoT) designs—and to defy the common perception that they're struggling to keep up with software development. The two recent software acquisitions from STMicroelectronics are a case in point.
In July 2018, STMicro acquired Draupner Graphics, the developer of highly-optimized software for graphic user interface (GUI) solutions for microcontrollers. The TouchGFX software framework facilitates smooth graphics and animation for embedded designs.
Four months later, in November 2018, STMicro announced that the TouchGFX GUI development suite is available free of charge for production and redistribution with its STM32 microcontrollers. The chipmaker claims that the combination of STM32 MCUs and TouchGFX software could ignite the “HMI of things.”
The TouchGFX software includes a C++ framework that enables the user-interface code to occupy as little as 10 KB SRAM and 20 KB flash memory. Next, it leverages the Chrom-ART Accelerator™ featured in STM32 MCUs to enhance the graphics capabilities. The accelerator contains a rendering algorithm that minimizes the number of pixels to be updated, which in turn, enables better graphics on low memory and power budget.
ST is incorporating the TouchGFX GUI suite in its STM32Cube ecosystem. Image courtesy of STMicroelectronics.
The TouchGFX suite supports user interfaces with the color depth of 1, 2, 4, 16, or 24 bits per pixel (bpp) and can run with or without a real-time operating system (RTOS). It also includes the TouchGFX Designer tool, which lets designers quickly develop graphical interfaces with simple drag-and-drop operations. Moreover, it features automatic code generation as well as font, text, and image conversion.
Two Acquisitions in a Year
Again, to further bolster its software arsenal, in December 2018, STMicro announced to acquire Atollic, a supplier of software development tools for embedded system designs. Atollic’s TrueSTUDIO is an open-source Eclipse-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE) platform focused on Arm® Cortex®-M microcontrollers such as like ST's STM32 family of 32-bit MCUs. STMicro plans to offer TrueSTUDIO IDE free of charge for STM32 developers.
Atollic’s IDE provides out-of-box support for STM32 boards and chips. Image courtesy of STMicroelectronics.
The tale of ST’s two recent software acquisitions shows how an MCU supplier is building an ecosystem comprising tools, middleware, software libraries, sample code, and evaluation boards. And that’s aimed at enabling embedded system designers to simplify product development and accelerate time to market.
Another recent software acquisition from a leading MCU supplier: Cypress Semiconductor buys Cirrent, a developer of software and cloud services for consumer Wi-Fi® products. The software from Cirrent facilitates Wi-Fi provisioning, so that end users can set up connections in the IoT environments like smart home without typing in passwords and stay connected even when network names and passwords are changed.
Cirrent's ZipKey® Wi-Fi Onboarding solution is available for a wide variety of Wi-Fi chips and operating systems. Now Cirrent's software embedded into Wi-Fi solutions by Cypress could further simplify the Wi-Fi connectivity.