Other MCU innovations include new ways to use capacitive, resistive or even mechanical means to quickly wake a chip out of sleep mode or switch faster between modes. Longer term, future microcontrollers will start to look like multicore processors with a variety of different blocks handling analog functions that work better digital circuits as process geometries shrink, he added.
Bogen also is exploring the use of low cost sensors in the health and fitness market that rely on MCUs for signal and data processing.
“It’s amazing what can get out of an accelerometer just by doing the right filtering and computing of the results,” he said. “Some sensors can detect small temperature gradients, and you can use that to build up other information—it’s important to think different about the sensors, too,” he added.
Energy Micro came to Design West with news it struck a partnership with ARM to create a package of university materials that get their products in front of engineering students. The package includes online and live lectures and design kits, aiming to spark next-generation designs.
Such changes are needed to forge bonds with young engineers who are becoming oblivious of the underlying chips.
Years ago, “the microcontroller was a significant part of the system--it was like a religion for the EE who was an Intel or Motorola guy,” Bogen recalled. “You don’t see that connection to an architecture anymore—they use one core or another” almost interchangeably, focusing more on systems architectures, he said.