Silicon Labs tools up for low power MCU apps - Embedded.com

Silicon Labs tools up for low power MCU apps

Using the venue of the Embedded World 2013, complete with live demonstrations, Silicon Laboratories showed off its newest suite of Precision32 software and hardware development tools for power efficient 32-bit embedded MCU design.

According to Diwakar Vishakhadatta, vice president and general manager of Silicon Labs’ Embedded Systems business, the new tools include the company’s complimentary Eclipse-based IDE and AppBuilder software for Precision32 MCUs with first-of-a-kind tools that enable developers to estimate power consumption and receive configuration guidance to minimize system power.

He said the Power Estimator tool gives developers a top-level graphical view of how a Precision32 MCU uses power in active and sleep mode. The tool enables developers to adjust power usage at the onset of a project even without having development hardware. Power Estimator automatically updates the system design with configuration changes, allowing developers to optimize each mode for the lowest power.

A companion tool, Power Tips, provides software configuration guidance that helps developers minimize current consumption. Power Tips automatically appears within AppBuilder when the cursor hovers over a configurable setting. This simple ability to see power optimization tips while configuring the MCU saves considerable development time.

The new tool offering includes Silicon Labs’ new Si7005 relative humidity (RH) and temperature sensor in a SiM3L1xx MCU evaluation board environment.

The standalone, battery-powered demonstration board includes an LCD panel that shows changes in temperature and humidity readings from the Si7005 sensor. The demo includes example code that can be used to speed development of applications requiring both an ultra-low-power 32-bit MCU and humidity and temperature sensors such as smart thermostats and in-home energy monitoring systems.

The Si7005 sensor provides an accurate, low-power digital solution for measuring temperature, humidity and dew point in applications ranging from HVAC and refrigeration to asset tracking to industrial control.

Also being introduced is the low-power SiM3L1xx development board that is roughly the same size as an ID badge and contains an ultra-low-power SiM3L1xx MCU, segmented LCD, supercapacitor, LED and photodiode sensor, debug interface and USB port.

The board can display information continuously on the LCD for up to three days after a quick 90-second charge of the supercapacitor through a USB cable. Using the USB connector and debug interface, developers can connect the board to a PC and use the Precision32 IDE for software development.

The board offers a “demo mode” that shows typical power consumption for various MCU operating modes on the segmented LCD. Developers can also download an iPhone app that lets them enter text such as names and phone numbers and then send the information to the board using specialized image patterns on the iPhone’s LCD that are received by the board’s photodiode sensor.

“Providing embedded developers with a comprehensive suite of tools is just as important as the MCU itself,” said Vishakhadatta.

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