Five key trends in microcontrollers

Key MCU trend #2
Increased processing power

The market is demanding increased processing power for many applications. A good example of this is adding an RF protocol such as ZigBee for wireless connectivity to either increase convenience for the user or to avoid expensive rewiring. This capability is expanding markets such as the home security market where it is impractical and expensive to retrofit an existing home with wired motion, glass breakage or entry detectors.

ZigBee is a perfect fit for these applications and provides a secure and reliable network that can be easily installed in a home. The tradeoff is that ZigBee requires more processing and memory in the MCU to implement the network layers.

Key MCU trend #3
Smaller form factors

The market demand for smaller form factors for end equipment is another key trend. In some markets, this is driven by the end consumer demand for smaller and sleeker end products. In other products the market demands more functionality in the same space such as combining a heart rate monitor, stop watch and pace meter into a single unit.

Key MCU trend #4
Faster time to markets

This is a trend that is faced by engineers and designers in almost every industry and market worldwide. The consumer market product lifecycle has become extremely short and new models must be introduced every few months.

To meet the design schedules, engineers must be able to come up to speed on products quickly and efficiently. This requires silicon providers to provide tools and documentation that enables the designers to spend minimum time coming up a learning curve.

Key MCU trend #5
More analog and overall integration

MCUs have become highly integrated with many low power SoC MCUs available in the market today that can literally be the only silicon needed for a product. This trend will continue further and is actually just a natural result of all the previous trends.

For example, a highly integrated MCU can speed time to market by reducing the time spent researching, designing and debugging separate MCU, ADC, power management, communication, and other devices needed in the system. In addition, having as many analog and communications functions as possible integrated on a single chip will reduce the board space required which will in turn allow the end product to decrease in size.

Trends in other markets such as PC are also affecting the low power market as well. While USB connectivity in many consumer products has become the communication standard, in many ultra low power portable products it is just starting to become a requirement. Integrating RF communication onto a single chip will also allow convenient wireless connectivity and communication for portable equipment.


The trends in the portable low power space present many exciting opportunities for both product designers and MCU vendors. Meeting the many contradictory requirements has been a challenge to silicon vendors that only a few have been able to meet in the past. With the current trends in this space providing the silicon features will require a wider range of expertise like RF.

However, if the past is any guide, these trends and challenges will be and are being met with innovative new features on the MCU.

Source: CIOL

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2 Responses to “Five key trends in microcontrollers”

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