NUREMBERG, Germany – Freescale Semiconductor is preparing for what it thinks will be the next driver of microcontroller sales, the Internet of Things (IoT), with the introduction of a 32-bit microcontroller measuring just 1.9-mm by 2.0-mm. That's the not the die size but the complete Kinetis KL02 MCU--in its chip-scale packaging.
The company is working to support such small MCUs with a local, ultra-low-power radio unit that will start as a stand-alone device but which could be integrated system-in-package or even monolithically.
Speaking at the Embedded World exhibition, Geoff Lees, senior vice president at Freescale responsible for i.MX and Kinetis microcontrollers, said that the company would be "aiming products at consumer and industrial applications and trying to reach a much broader customer base." He added: "We see the internet of things as the next big driver of microcontrollers."
The KL02 contains a 48-MHz ARM Cortex-M0+ core with 1.7 to 3.6 volt operation. There is 32-kbytes of on-chip flash memory and 4kbytes of SRAM together with a 12-bit analog-to-digital converter. Freescale claims the KL02 is 25 percent smaller than the next smallest ARM microcontroller and holds great potential for small form factor applications such as consumer devices, remote sensing nodes, wearable devices and ingestible healthcare sensing. At the same time space-constrained applications that previously couldn't include an MCU can now be upgraded.
The KL02 is a wafer-level chip-scale package wherein the die is connected directly to the solder ball interconnects and, in turn, to the printed circuit board (PCB). This removes the need for bond wires or interposer connections, which minimizes die-to-PCB inductance and improves thermal conduction and package durability for physically harsh environments. The KL02 device is the third CSP MCU in the Kinetis portfolio, and CSP MCUs with increased performance, memory and feature options are planned throughout 2013.
"A lot of our business will be based on chip-scale packaging and we can also put multiple chips, passives and discrete in chip-scale packaging," said Lees.
When asked if Freescale would be embedding an RF transceiver in chip-scale packaging Lees said Freescale is working on a multi-mode radio in a 90-nm manufacturing process. Designed to operate on a 2.4-GHz carrier it would cover Bluetooth and ZigBee standards but not Wi-Fi IEEE802.11. Lees argued that such a broadband radio does not really address the same IoT applications Bluetooth and ZigBee.
Lees said he expected Freescale to be sampling the mixed-mode RF by mid-2013 and an integrated multi-die component including MCU and RF before the end of 2013.
Click on image to enlarge.
Kinetis KL02 MCU family block diagram.
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