How many times have you left your home wondering if you turned off the stove or locked the doors? Life is stressful enough and there are so many things that we worry about every day. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an invisible technology that worked for us to take care of all these concerns and give us peace of mind?
The good news is that we live in the twenty first century. The era where the cost of controllers, processors, sensors and transmitters are so low that it’s actually cost effective to put them inside everything and anything around us, enabling our environment and the things around us to be smart. This is only a small part of the Internet of Things (IoT) or as we like to call it “invisible technology working for you.” The IoT will let people, things and services interact autonomously and soon it will change the way we move, make decisions, produce and consume energy, and how we do business or manufacture things. The industry predicts there will be 35 billion connected devices by the year 2020 and most of these devices will be battery powered to be portable. Now imagine changing batteries in billions of devices fairly often. Obviously, this isn’t possible. The IoT requires devices to use an ultra-low power solution or energy harvesting to be sustainable.
From a smart plug that lets you turn on and off your lights remotely, to the home security system that enables you to lock your doors from your smartphone - these all use a combination of microcontrollers (MCUs) and wireless connectivity technology to add intelligence to ordinary things. To do so, there are two important aspects that need to be considered: power efficiency and the wireless connectivity architecture.
To achieve an ultra-low power solution, the MCU has to have the lowest standby power, active processing power, peripheral power, and memory read and writes. The MCU also needs to move quickly between sleeping and active, and consume minimal power in each of these modes, especially when battery powered. TI offers the industry’s lowest-power 16-bit microcontroller, the MSP430™ MCU, featuring a range of sizes, as low as 4mm, as well as an architecture that reduces power consumption by 50 percent over any comparable MCU available.
MSP430 MCUs are designed to serve in four different connectivity architectures. As shown in the diagram below, the first architecture is the System on Chip (SOC) solution that runs the network stack and the host application in one chip. TI’s CC430 family is an example of this architecture. This solution provides tight integration between the MCU core, peripherals, software, and Sub-1 GHz RF transceiver, creating a true SoC solution that is easy to use. In the second architecture, the wireless connectivity solution contains the network stack like in the SimpleLink™ CC3000 module for Wi-Fi and a separate MCU like MSP430G2xx series (value line) runs the host application. This solution allows for minimal RF overhead on the MCU. The third connectivity architecture has a powerful MCU, like MSP430F5xx family, running both host application and network stack, leaving wireless connectivity devices such as TI’s SimpleLink CC2560 solution for Bluetooth to provide best-in-class RF performance. In the last connectivity architecture, the wireless connectivity solution, such as the WiLink™ 8 family, connects to an MPU like TI’s Sitara AM335x ARM® processor, which runs the host application and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth network stacks. A separate MCU runs a specific low power task (e.g. sensor hub).
Whether the stack is embedded on the radio or not, MSP430 offers a broad range of on-board memory. If the stack is embedded in the wireless connectivity chip, the MCU only needs to accommodate the application program. However, if the stack is on the host MCU, there is enough headroom with up to 512KB of Flash to house the stack and application program. The MSP430 family offers memory up to 512KB with integration options (including ADC, DAC, USB, LCD, AFEs, etc.) to provide a number of choices for any IoT application.
Read more about IoT innovators at TI