MCU Roundup: New Connectivity Options for Industry 4.0 and Beyond
Multiple MCU vendors recently announced new software, platforms, and modules to ever expand the reach of wireless connectivity.
The world relies on wireless technologies like the IoT (Internet of Things) with seamless internet connectivity and high data rates. But with all the benefits of wireless technologies comes integration and distribution challenges.
To address these challenges and cater to the needs of emerging applications, semiconductor manufacturers are coming up with state-of-the-art microcontroller platforms, software, and modules that accelerate the development of connected systems.
Texas Instruments' Matter-enabled MCU Software
Texas Instruments (TI) recently announced new Matter-enabled software development kits (SDKs) for Wi-Fi and Thread MCUs, such as the CC3235SF and CC2652R7. These SDKs are designed for ultra-low power devices, secure smart home devices, and industrial IoT applications, which require interoperability between different proprietary ecosystems.
Matter is an IoT protocol developed by the Connectivity Standards Alliance that runs on Thread and Wi-Fi network layers and uses Bluetooth Low Energy to communicate between different ecosystems. Matter provides a unified application layer so manufacturers can use this open-source tool to accelerate their IoT system development.
Functional block diagram of the CC3235x SimpleLink Wi-Fi solution. Image used courtesy of Texas Instruments (Click image to enlarge)
TI says its new SimpleLink wireless MCUs can reduce standby power consumption by up to 70% in Thread application compared to competing devices. For long-range connectivity, the chip integrates a high-efficiency amplifier that consumes only 101 mA at +20 dBm gain. TI claims this is the industry's lowest power consumption within the chip's class. Moreover, its dual-band, multilayer security systems allow designers to protect devices against potential cyber threats.
STM32 Wireless Module for Industry 4.0
Wireless networks are essential in every stage of manufacturing workflows, from prototyping to production. They provide cost-effective deployment options, overall asset management, and operational convenience. Moreover, connected sensors provide meaningful data to help increase industrial productivity and reduce waste.
STMicroelectronics' new module, STM32WB5MMGH6, aims to simplify the deployment of ST's new wireless microcontrollers for a complete wireless ecosystem. The module operates with popular standards such as Bluetooth Low Energy, Zigbee, Thread, and other proprietary protocols.
Block diagram of the STM32WB5MMG module. Image used courtesy of STMicroelectronics
The module integrates a chip antenna, its matching circuity, an SMPS, and ultra-low power modes for extended battery life. It provides superior RF (radio frequency) performance thanks to its highly sensitive receiver and a high output power signal, making it suitable for rapid prototyping and low-cost development.
ST's new module is already helping new products, including I-Care Group's Wi-Care sensors, which are continuous asset monitoring systems. When these sensors are combined with a cloud-based and AI-driven platform, they provide a complete industry 4.0 solution. The company claims its solution can avoid 99% of industrial breakdowns and reduce machine downtime by 10–20% and maintenance costs by 35–45%.
Microchip's Smart Metering Platform
Smart metering plays an important role in digital grids by measuring energy consumption in real-time and facilitating communication from meter to cloud. Real-time energy consumption data allows the distributor to merge their deployment and demand in real-time and reduce waste.
However, smart meters continue to evolve with increased security and regulatory requirements. To address these needs, Microchip announced its PIC32CXMT family of 32-bit microprocessors with a new MPL460 PLC modem targeting industrial IoT and commercial and industrial metering applications.
Microchip’s new MCU products for smart metering. Image used courtesy of Microchip
The platform can operate up to 200 MHz and boasts up to 560 kB of SRAM (static random-access memory). It can also provide transceiver solutions, including a radio/PHY, a PLC/PHY, or the option to select a PLC+RF hybrid solution.
The PIC32CXMT processor family has three versions: an Arm Cortex-M4F core, a dual Cortex-M4 core, and an SoC device. They also integrate proprietary on-chip hardware security features for high reliability. The new PLC modem features a line driver for signal amplification, simplifying development and maintaining signal injection efficiency of over 40% due to its class-D topology.