8-bit MCU portfolio suits low power IoT applications

23rd February 2015
Barney Scott

Silicon Labs has introduced the company’s next-gen 8-bit MCU portfolio designed for today’s low-power, small-footprint IoT applications. Silicon Labs’ EFM8 MCU family includes three lines of highly integrated, peripheral-rich MCUs optimised for exceptional price/performance value, low-power capacitive touch control and streamlined USB connectivity.

The EFM8 MCUs bring industry-leading simplicity, power efficiency, performance and cost-saving integration to every 8-bit application that embedded developers can imagine including home and building automation, wearables, consumer electronics, toys, motor control and industrial IoT.

“Leading MCU vendors continue to advance the power efficiency and integration features of 8-bit solutions to keep this MCU market thriving for the foreseeable future,” said Tom Hackenberg, principal MCU analyst for IHS Technology. According to IHS, the 8-bit market will approach $7Bn in 2015 and grow to $7.8Bn in 2018 as it continues to sustain more than a third of the annual MCU market revenues. This steady growth is underpinned by market demand for sub-$0.50 MCU prices, tiny footprints, ultra-low power, low software overhead and design simplicity, all prerequisites for IoT devices. Silicon Labs designed the EFM8 family to deliver best-in-class features and functionality in each of these application-critical areas.

The EFM8 MCU family meets IoT developer needs with a combination of features and capabilities including a high-speed pipelined 8051 core, low power, precision analogue and enhanced communication peripherals, integrated oscillators, small-footprint packages, and an advanced crossbar architecture that enables flexible digital and analogue multiplexing to simplify PCB design and I/O pin routing.

The EFM8 Bee family includes three MCU lines optimised for specific developer needs and applications. (The Bee family name underscores the scalable performance, energy efficiency and high productivity of the EFM8 platform.)

EFM8BB Busy Bee MCUs provide an optimal balance of no-compromise performance, power efficiency and value for cost-sensitive applications. With core speeds scaling up to 50MHz and 2-16kB flash sizes, the MCUs offer an array of high-performance peripherals including a 12-bit ADC. The MCUs are suitable for motor control applications (toys, fans and tools), power supplies, battery chargers, sensor controllers, consumer electronics and communication bridges.

EFM8SB Sleepy Bee MCUs are Silicon Labs’ most energy-friendly 8-bit devices offering industry-leading sleep mode power (50nA with full memory retention and brown-out detection) and 2µs wake-up time. Core speeds scale up to 25MHz, and flash sizes range from 2-64kB. The MCUs integrate a best-in-class capacitive sense controller offering a below 1µA wake-on-touch capability, eliminating the need for on/off switches in some products. These power-saving MCUs are ideal for touch-based, battery-powered IoT and industrial applications that require long battery lifetimes and energy-efficient human interfaces.

EFM8UB Universal Bee MCUs are the industry’s foremost 8-bit USB connectivity solution, with speeds up 48MHz and 8-64kB flash sizes. The MCUs combine a high-precision internal oscillator, clock recovery circuit and an integrated full-speed USB transceiver. Low-energy USB MCU versions can reduce USB power consumption by up to 90%. An on-chip battery charger detection module reduces BOM count and system cost. The MCUs’ exceptional peripheral integration and small package sizes dramatically reduce the cost and complexity of adding USB connectivity to personal medical devices, wearables, communication bridges, toys, remote controls and thermostats.

Silicon Labs fully supports the EFM8 MCU family with comprehensive software and hardware toolkits offering an optimal, developer-friendly out-of-the-box experience. Silicon Lab’s enhanced Simplicity Studio development platform provides a unified 8/32-bit and wireless development environment that simplifies and accelerates 8-bit design with one-click access to Eclipse debuggers and plug-ins, Keil PK51 build tools, third-party tools support, a capacitive sense profiler, demos, software examples, data sheets, application notes, technical support and community forums.

“The EFM8 family embodies the future of Silicon Labs’ 8-bit MCU solutions for the IoT, delivering an unmatched combination of value, performance, energy efficiency, peripheral integration and flexibility,” said Daniel Cooley, Vice President and General Manager, MCU and Wireless Products, Silicon Labs. “Our MCU customers embrace our proven, pipelined 8051 core, exceptional mixed-signal integration and superior peripheral mix, enabling them to work wonders in 8-bit applications with very tight power and cost budgets and small footprints. Developers also appreciate how quickly and easily they can get their 8-bit designs up and running with our Simplicity Studio development environment.”

Samples and production quantities of Silicon Labs’ EFM8 MCUs are available in a variety of small-footprint QFN, QSOP, SOIC and QFP packages. Starting prices for EFM8 MCUs in 10,000-unit quantities range from $0.21 for EFM8BB MCUs to $0.32 for EFM8SB MCUs to $0.43 for EFM8UB MCUs. EFM8BB Busy Bee, EFM8SB Sleepy Bee and EFM8UB Universal Bee starter kits are priced at $29 each.

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