In fact, CMEMS appears to possess all the qualities necessary for IoT SoCs, including long operating life and stability over an industry temperature range. Most importantly, it's a highly integrated, single-chip solution.
Tyson Tuttle, Silicon Labs CEO, in Shanghai.
When asked how soon more complex MEMS such as gyroscopes might fit into CMEMS, Tuttle said, in essence, not so fast.
"The primary focus of Silicon Labs' CMEMS technology investment has been to replace the need for quartz-based resonators in a variety of timing applications," he said. "While CMEMS is applicable to sensor products, it is not our current focus."
The technology "has the potential to expand our growing family of sensor products, and it would be natural fit with our wireless and MCU capabilities." However, "It would be premature to discuss potential product vectors in this area."
Sensor hubs in IoT SoC?
Silicon Labs acknowledges that there is still a long way to go before realizing the single-chip IoT SoC.
"A wrist-worn device like a FitBit, JawBone, MisFit or Basis wearable already embodies the IoT SoC concept," Daniel Cooley, the company's senior marketing director for MCU and wireless products, told us. "The only problem is that there are too many chips in wearables and other connected devices right now."
Cooley defined the IoT SoC as "the only processor in the connected device system," including multi-core Cortex-A, GHz clocks, and GB of memory. "Critically, the IoT SoC [must] have wireless connectivity embedded inside of it." Sensor hub functions also need to be a part of the picture. "The IoT SoC will have to fuse all of the sensor inputs in a smart way, because local processing is so much more efficient than sending raw data over a wireless network."
That will be no easy feat. No sensor hub discussed today has wireless connectivity. No chip company has integrated all the key functions into one piece of silicon, Cooley said. Not many companies can integrate MCU, RF, sensors, power management, and memory.
But therein lies Silicon Labs' IoT SoC mission. In Cooley's mind, the IoT SoC of the future will include the "sensor hub" function, integrate wireless connectivity, and control human interfaces (buttons, slides, screens, LEDs, and others). Though he called it a huge engineering task, he is confident that the Energy Micro products and technologies acquired by Silicon Labs "can do all of this and more."
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times