Can 16-bit MCU's slow the march to 32-bit dominance -

Can 16-bit MCU’s slow the march to 32-bit dominance


LONDON — The recent survey of the embedded systems sector carried out by TechInsights found that 19 percent of developers were using 16-bit processors in their current projects and this proportion has been steady for the last four years.

This is dwarfed by the 58 percent of respondents using 32-bit devices in their current projects but out strips the 13 percent using 8-bit MCUs.

In terms of volume of devices used 8-bit still leads the way but Ken Wallace, CTO Cyan technology (Cambridge, England), believes that while the high volume markets such as mobile communications might be migrating to 32-bit the vast majority of functions and applications today are still capable of being realized in 8-bit low cost devices.

But argues Wallace in an opinion piece on, the 32-bit solution is an expensive piece of silicon and the increase in MIPS comes with the attendant power increase. He asks why designers would use a 32-bit MCU to do a task that could be accomplished by a 16-bit MCU with necessary MIPS capability.

“When it comes to selecting MCU's,” said Wallace, “it should be remembered that MIPS figures alone are not enough to give the complete picture it is how efficiently those MIPS are used.”

“The extended life for 8-bit also shows that 16-bit is a logical and effective step for the next generation of embedded MCU products,” added Wallace. “Areas such as home automation, intelligent lighting control and particularly RF enable network nodes are all ideal candidates for 16-bit MCU's as 8-bit cannot meet the demands for computational performance in these applications.”

Read Wallace's opinion piece: Opportunities still exist for 16-bit microcontrollers.

The TechInsights Embedded Market Study was the subject of a recent live webinar and an archived version is now available at TechOnline.

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