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11-11-2016 05:00 AM
You might not think about it, but, on average, you utilize hundreds of microcontrollers (MCU) in a day. Everything from your toothbrush to your car has one or more MCUs inside them. And the number of MCUs you rely on is growing with the rapid adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) movement.
So, what is this MCU inside everything? Like the name implies, a microcontroller is a small chip that controls something. It does this by processing a recipe, known as the program, which someone has written specifcally for a product and stored inside the memory of the MCU. Because it is the program inside that decides how the MCU controls a product, one microcontroller can be used in two completely different products. We will discuss the reason for this later.
Historically, users wanted MCUs because they could process data and solve problems faster than a human could. MCUs also help make products more convenient and consistent in behavior. The microcontroller speed or frequency indicates how fast data is processed and problems are solved. Speed is generally not a big problem anymore. The challenge now is that the MCU needs to be able to solve more complex problems while it is being put on a power diet.
Let’s face it. We all get a little worried and start looking for power outlets when our computer or smart phone battery gets close to zero. Imagine if all your battery-powered products required daily charging. To prevent this, we need to put our devices on a budget. They need to become energy effcient.
In this paper, we’ll discuss how to use the Silicon Labs’ 32- bit microcontroller family (EFM32 Gecko) to maximize energy effciency in your embedded applications.
What is inside embedded applications?
At a high level, all embedded applications are strikingly similar. Everything from industrial products, like water meters and security sensors, to personal items, including smart wearables, are built from a number of components. These components are connected to each other to solve specifc tasks. A typical application includes many building blocks. Here is a list of categories and some common components and functions:
Battery, regulators, energy harvesting, energy storage
Extra MCUs/co-processors, memories, external RTCs
PIR, light, HRM, IMU, GPS, rotation count, capacitive touch
Display, LED, audio, motor control
USB, UART, I2C, Ethernet, CAN, PLC
Radio/RF, Bluetooth Smart, ZigBee, Thread, Proprietary, NFC