Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (7-16-12): The future of MCUs: 8-, 16-, 32-bit or "all of the above?" - Embedded.com

Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (7-16-12): The future of MCUs: 8-, 16-, 32-bit or “all of the above?”

Embedded Newsletter for 07-16-2012

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July 16, 2012

Tech Focus – The future of MCUs: 8-, 16-, 32-bit or “all of the above?”


A standard peripherals approach to adding flexibility to 32-bit MCU designs

KESO: A Java VM an MCU developer could love? Maybe.

Trends in embedded software design

Is 8 bits dying?

Editor's Note

Bernard Cole Bernard Cole
Site Editor

Recent white papers, webinars and design articles on Embedded.com indicate that MCU opportunities in all bit widths – 8, 16- and 32-bit – are still growing. Of these submissions, my Editor's Top Picks of articles and columns demonstrating the dynamism of the MCU market are:

A standard peripherals approach to adding flexibility to 32-bit MCU designs
KESO: A Java VM an MCU developer could love?
Microchip's new analog-ish part

But in his recent column “Is 8 bits dying?“, Jack Ganssle comments that while there are indications that a shakeout is coming, it will not be as soon as Michael Barr asserts in “Trends in embedded Software . ” Admitting that 8-bit devices might be eventually be replaced, Jack raises a number of solid technical reasons why that may not be happening soon. If anything, according to Atmel's Andreas Eieland in “8- to 32-bit MCUs: app use is removing the In-Between,” it is the 16-bit MCU that may be first to go.

But given the nature of the connected environment within which embedded devices must operate, 8- and 16-bit MCUs should not be counted out, despite the naysayers. 32-bit MCU vendors are focused on the here-and-now commercial opportunities in markets such as industrial and machine control, automotive, and white goods appliances. Not as much attention is being paid to the more leading edge, still to be commercialized, apps that represent the future, such as the 6LoWPAN and wireless Internet of Things. In an informal survey I did recently of about 100 IoT papers, 8- and 16-bit MCUs outnumbered 32-bit designs by a ratio of at least 5 to 1. A few of the more interesting are:

Internet-of-things in remote-controlled laboratories
Using and operating wireless sensor network testbeds
Internet protocol over wireless sensor networks

I also do not think the 32-bit takeover enthusiasts take into account what is going on in the universities and technical institutes around the world, where the mainstay of many introductory classes in embedded systems still remains 8-bit platforms.

Design How-Tos

A standard peripherals approach to adding flexibility to 32-bit MCU designs

A close look at implementations of standard 32-bit microcontroller peripherals that provide system-level value and app benefits that help designers get the MCU capabilities they need, while also reducing the bill of materials (BOM) and simplifying the design.

Microcontroller architectures, then and now

For a system designer looking to choose a microcontroller, the vast array of available MCUs can make the search quite complex.

What next for microcontrollers?

Viewing the migration of embedded developers from 8- and 16-bit to 32-bit microocontroller from the perspective of the ARM architecture, Joseph Liu looks at some of the factors accelerating this migration.

The ARM Cortex-M3 and the convergence of the MCU market

If ARM's achievements in smart phones (great than 80 percent market share are anything to go by, the Cortex-M3 may spark a rapid consolidation of the microcontroller market, dramatically reducing the number of competing architectures on offer.

Basics of porting C-code to and between ARM CPUs: From 8-/16-Bit MCUs to Cortex-M0

In Part 3 in a series, Joseph Yiu, author of The definitive guide to the ARM Cortex-M0, takes you through means by which to port your code base from an 8/16-bit MCU to the ARM Cortex-M0.

Implementing Embedded Speed Control for Brushless DC Motors: Part 1

The first in a six part tutorial on BLDC motor control fundamentals and implementation using 120-degree trapezoidal control with and without sensors and 180-degree sine wave modulation and V/f open-loop and closed-loop control with sensors.

Selecting 8-bit MCUs: A practical guide

Many devices may be available that will do the job, but tailoring the selection tightly to your particular needs can make for a much smoother ride in the long run.

How to go about selecting a microcontroller

From time to time, I read articles about MCU selection. One in particular really got me thinking about the selection process…

Building a power meter application with an 8-bit MCU

In this product how-to article Radomir Kozub describes how to use Freescale's 8-bit MC9S08LH64 to build an intelligent and accurate single-phase power metering design, while keeping a low cost bill of materials.

Using a mixed signal MCU to give LEDs a buck-boost

Here's how to use the PIC16HV785 mixed signal microcontroller to drive a high power LED, in either boost or buck-boost configuration, with peripherals to spare.

Make a PI controller on an 8-bit micro

Normally the domain of more expensive 16- and 32-bit chips, PI controllers are useful in all sorts of industrial applications. Here's a practical way to implement a PI controller on a low-cost 8-bit chip.

Implementing SSL on 8-bit micros

The Secure Sockets Layer protocol is used on every web browser and web server to encrypt secure transactions.But SSL is not just the province of 32-bit microprocessors. It can be used on low-cost 8-bitters as well.

IPv6 on a microcontroller

One of the driving forces behind the move from IPv4 to IPv6 has been low-cost embedded devices, which are going online at an accelerating pace. But shoehorning the full IPv6 suite of protocols into a small 8-bit microcontroller is an extreme sport of the first order. Here are some tips from someone who's done that successfully.

A DIY microcontroller-based functional tester

Save money by embedding test capabilities into fixtures, enclosures, or larger systems.

Tricks with PICs

Squeeze extra features out of Microchip's popular PIC microcontroller chips. The tricks, such as making extra serial ports and performing 32-bit math on a 8-bit chip, are all here and can be used on other microcontrollers as well.

Practical migration from 8-/16- to 32-bit PIC

An insider's account of moving from Microchip's 16- to 32-bit PIC MCUs.

2012 Embedded Market Survey webinar

UBM Electronics' 17th annual survey of embedded systems designers worldwide shows trends in software and hardware usage. The 2012 Embedded Market Survey also looks at languages, productivity, and the challenges design teams rank as most important. A webinar on Friday April 20 will examine the results from over 1,700 respondents from across the embedded industry, the dataset enables a deep analysis to track key changes in this important electronics industry segment. There will also be the opportunity to ask questions online. To register click here .


IAR adds functionality to IAR Embedded Workbench for TI MSP430

IAR Embedded Workbench for MSP430, version 5.50, includes a new text editor and source browser, and features auto-completion, code folding, block selection, block indentation, bracket matching, and zooming.

TI launches ULP Advisor software code analysis tool for MSP430TM MCUs

Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) has announced the ULP Advisor software code analysis tool, which teaches developers how to create the most energy-efficient, ultra-low-power applications with TI's MSP430 microcontrollers.

Microchip brings cost-effective analog/digital capabilities to 8-bit PIC microcontrollers

New MCUs feature on-chip 12-bit ADC, 8-bit DAC, op amps, high-speed comparators, eXtreme low power technology, and 16-bit PWM for advanced control

Microchip's selector app makes it easy to find MCUs and other chips

Microchip's Mobile Web Site and Product Selector App make it easy to browse Microchip.com and find Products On the Go

Microchip introduces general-purpose 8-bit PIC MCUs with next-gen digital and analog peripherals

Microchip Technology Inc. has launched a new family of 8-bit microcontrollers (MCUs) featuring next-generation analog and digital peripherals, which the company is touting as ideal for general-purpose applications, as well as battery charging, LED lighting, ballast-control, power-conversion and system-control applications.

8051-based MCU contains 2-Kbytes non-volatile FRAM

Ramtron has launched the VRS51L3072, an 8051-based MCU with 2-Kbytes of non-volatile FRAM memory that is aimed at saving system status, data logging and storing non-volatile variables in a range of applications.


8- to 32-bit MCUs: app use is removing the In-Between

Both 8- and 32-bit MCUs have greatly expanded the range of applications they can support with much of their growth achieved by encroaching into the 16-bit space and offering low power and scalability choices.

Is 8 bits dying?

Mike Barr's recent column got readers thinking about the future of 8 bits.

Small is Beautiful

8 bits will never go away. In fact, various vendors have some pretty cool new parts available.

Microchip's new analog-ish part

Microchip has grafted programmable op-amps on the PIC16 family.

Trends in embedded software design

As the magazine that catered to embedded systems programmers closes, the future lies in less hands-on programming and more auto-generated code.

Opportunities still exist for 16-bit microcontrollers

A look at the shift towards using 32-bit MCUs and the cost versus performance with regards to 16-bit and 8-bit MCUs.

Sponsored White Papers

Microcontrollers for Advanced Lighting Solutions

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