Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (7-23-12): Nonvolatile memory alternatives for embedded systems - Embedded.com

Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (7-23-12): Nonvolatile memory alternatives for embedded systems

Embedded Newsletter for 07-23-2012

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July 23, 2012

Tech Focus – Nonvolatile memory alternatives for embedded systems


FRAMs as alternatives to flash memory in embedded designs

A scalable, cost-effective phase change RAM technology

Employ the proper flash memory in your design

Editor's Note

Bernard Cole Bernard Cole
Site Editor

A constant in the lives of most embedded systems designers is the search for the perfect memory technology to store program code in a firmware configuration that is fast, low power, and nonvolatile, with all the advantages of DRAM speed and random accessibility, and the storage density of a hard disk drive.

The search for that perfect memory has become even more intense with the emergence of consumer embedded applications requiring megabytes and gigabytes of storage in a space no larger than a standard DRAM package, writes Vijay Devadiga in 'Employ the proper flash memory in your design “. Priya Thanigai, in “FRAMs as alternatives to flash memory in embedded designs,” writes that ferroelectric RAMs (FRAMs) are getting a closer look by companies as an alternative for storage of not only program code, but for the massive amounts of end user data as well, because FRAMs combine the non-volatility of flash devices with the random access capability of dynamically refreshed RAMs (DRAMs).

But FRAMs are not the only possibilities. Recently several other promising technologies have emerged that offer the promise of moving closer to the ideal universal memory, including MRAMs (magnetoresistive RAMs), PCMs (Phase Change memory), RRAMs (resistive RAMS ) and SONOS (Silicon Oxide Nitride Oxide Silicon) charge-trap memory technology, among others. But, although these new technologies offer undeniable advantages over current nonvolatile technologies, they also present many of the same challenges to integrating them effectively into embedded designs, in addition to a whole new crop of implementation barriers. Of several recent Embedded.com design articles, white papers and webinars that address these issues, my Editor's Top Pick's are:

The basics of phase change memory
Technical advantages of nonvolatile FRAMs in systems design
A comparative study of flash technology for embedded devices

Design How-Tos

FRAMs as alternatives to flash memory in embedded designs

TI's Priya Thanigai provides some real world examples of where ferroelectric random access memory should be considered as an alternative to flash as a viable nonvolatile memory technology.

Employ the proper flash memory in your design

To NAND or NOR. That is the question. Different applications and functions should be handled with different types of flash memory.

Is nonvolatile MRAM right for your consumer embedded device application?

Tom Lee of Freescale states the case for Magnetoresistive RAM (MRAM) as not only the nonvolatile, but universal, memory of choice in mobile and embedded consumer applications

The future of scalable STT-RAM as a universal embedded memory

Farhad Tabrizi of Grandis describes a new nonvolatile technology called spin-transfer torque RAM that has the potential of being a universal embedded and mobile memory technology rivaling FRAMs, Flash, DRAMs, SRAMs, PRAMs and RRAMs.

Program flash memory using parallel flash loaders and CPLDs

Flash memory chips are common, but loading them up with code or data is still a trick. This how-to article shows you how FPGA chips can accelerate flash loading.

Fundamentals of Booting for Embedded Processors

There are multiple ways to boot, multiple purposes behind booting, and multiple factors that affect the process. David Katz and Rick Gentile explore these issues in an attempt to deliver a clearer overall picture of what is entailed by the embedded booting process.

Using software flashing to secure embedded device updates

Integration of digital signature algorithms into automotive systems and wireless medical devices requires the addition of a secure software download mechanism of careful design to ensure that only the defined access is given.

Expanding the use of nonvolatile memory in data logging apps

The use of data logging in many embedded applications is pushing non-volatile memory technology in new directions with regard to speed, retention, density and reliability.

A scalable, cost-effective phase change RAM technology

Fully integrated 1-Gb device based on an 84-nm pitch demonstrates functionality and reliability.

Resistive RAM for next-generation nonvolatile memory

Hafnium-oxide-based RRAM offers a low-voltage, high-efficiency, fab-friendly option for future generation nonvolatile memory.

Advantages of SONOS memory for embedded flash technology

This article makes the case for the use of 65nm SONOS technology for embedded flash applications.

The evolution of phase-change memory

At a time when traditional electron storage memories are beginning to encounter difficulties, phase-change memory is ready for “prime time” as a next-generation nonvolatile memory. Here's why.

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 .


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.

Atmel unveils two serial EEPROM lines

The AT24MAC series provides pre-programmed MAC/EUI node identity addresses, while the AT24CS devices include factory-programmed, read-only serial numbers for easier inventory control.

Novocell expands one-time-programmable NVM IP

Three new NVM product families serve system-on-chip and fabless firms.

Ramtron launches low-energy FRAM

Nonvolatile vendor Ramtron International launched a low-energy ferroelectric random access memory chip at the DESIGN West event.

Fujitsu unveils FRAM series with 3.0 V to 5.5 V range

Tailored for the industrial and metering sectors, the components offer low power consumption and high reliability.

Ramtron energy-sipping FRAM serves low-power applications

Power-sensitive systems benefit from 16-kb serial nonvolatile memory.

Atmel delivers highest density Flash Cortex-M4 Processor-based MCU

Atmel Corporation is sampling the Atmel SAM4SD32, which the company claims to be the industry's first 2MB embedded Flash Cortex-M4 processor-based microcontroller (MCU).

News & Analysis

Renesas, TSMC tout licensable MCU platform using 40-nm eFlash

Renesas and TSMC Monday outlined joint plans to develop an embedded flash-based MCU platform licensable to other chip suppliers around the world.

Ramtron launches low-energy FRAM

Nonvolatile vendor Ramtron International launched a low-energy ferroelectric random access memory chip at the DESIGN West event.

Fujitsu shows radiation-hardened RFID using FRAM technology

Fujitsu Semiconductor America and a group of partner companies will highlight innovative RFID solutions using Fujitsu's FRAM technology at Interphex 2012 from May 1-3 in New York City.

Unity Deal Gives Rambus Leg Up in Memory Race Paid

Former Unity CEO David Eggleston (shown), now a Rambus senior vice president of nonvolatile memory storage, says Unity needed a foster parent to nurture its still-promising technology. The Rambus deal was a good fit despite ongoing legal battles between Rambus and Micron.

ARM Mulls Nonvolatile Memory IP Deal Paid

Processor and IP licensor ARM Holdings may add nonvolatile memory to its list of physical IP offerings via an acquisition, says ARM CEO Warren East.

Altis preps wafer shuttle for embedded CBRAM

Altis Semiconductor, the specialty foundry bought by French entrepreneur Yazid Sabeg from IBM and Infineon Technologies in 2010, is preparing to run a multi-project wafer in August for customers interested in using conductive bridging RAM as an embedded nonvolatile memory technology.


Tablet demand fuels NAND flash growth

NAND flash expected to boost semiconductor growth but will excess inventory kill the rally?

Rethinking embedded memory

Let's face it, conventional embedded memories have serious limitations.

Does memory need more respect?

Like offensive linemen, memory performs an essential task but (like offensive linemen) it often only attracts attention when it fails.

Phase-change memory: A rebuttal of Micron’s article

Ron Neale writes about issues of scalability for phase-change memory technology and challenges Micron to provide more details of its progress.

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